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Science: Transcending Skepticism and Believerism

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posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 04:36 PM
One of the virtues of the skeptical mindset is that it's always trying to come up with an explanation. What I dislike, however, is when it does this at the cost of sincerity just to come up with any explanation.

On the opposite side of the fence, I dislike those who identify themselves as anomalists because often they're unwilling to listen to any explanation that doesn't fit their preconceived notions about the nature of the anomaly. The virtue of an anomalist is to point out things that are strange or bizarre that genuinely should be looked at more closely. To do so when an explanation does sufficiently explain most of the observation (without pointing out valid counterpoints) or to ignore possible explanations only serves to further cloud the issue.

Neither viewpoint is privileged in its ability to discern the truth. The goal should always be to enumerate the facts. Establish the certainty and unassailability of those facts. Then from those points of data list all possibilities and find the characteristics that best fit the data.

This is the beauty of science. Science isn't skepticism, nor is it unabated wonderment with no sense of practicality. Science is merely the ability to take data, form a hypothesis, and see what works best.

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 04:55 PM

Originally posted by Xtraeme

While science is as impartial as possible, no-one would argue that it is infallibly final in its assumptions.

The basis of science is totally dependent on accumulated paradigms, many of which science is likely to disprove in the future (if the past is any indication).

This way of "edging towards" true knowledge is incremental and provides no indication of progress, no "OK, we've got it now, stop here".

So Skepticism & Believerism are both likely to compete in guiding science for some time to come.
edit on 14/12/2011 by chr0naut because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 05:17 PM
reply to post by chr0naut

This way of "edging towards" true knowledge is incremental and provides no indication of progress, no "OK, we've got it now, stop here".

Absolutely. That's one of the great things about a mindset that's always looking for a better more complete answer. Arbitrarily choosing an -ism because it fits a particular world view is antithetical to the truth.

So Skepticism & Believerism are both likely to compete in guiding science for some time to come.

The only thing these two viewpoints provide are filters. Filters for how to perceive things. Skepticism is useful in that it helps weed out numerous topics which are likely to waste a persons time. However it fails in that it prevents people from seeing things that may be genuinely new and interesting.

Believerism has its virtues as well. For instance, if I didn't buy into to the idea of, say, string theory it would be impossible for me to continue to do serious research looking for ways to move the subject forward. I think most people will agree, the only thing skepticism has ever discovered is BS. It's incapable of making radical discoveries because it rarely takes anything beyond the status quo seriously.

These filters should be swapped in and out interchangeably. Usually I try to do as much research in favor of something. Then I attempt to tear it down. Whatever I'm left with afterwards is typically an honest middle ground. Though in many cases it leaves me saying in earnest, "I just don't know." I wish more people would be willing to accept that in many areas, "We just don't know."
edit on 14-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 05:56 PM
One might also consider how much your expectations regarding the reality of any give situation actually play a part in creating that reality. It could be argued that if you are too skeptical then you will close your mind off to many of the wonders of the world which are yet to be explained within the realms of current science, or perceived with the 5 senses.

It is my view that a questioning yet open-minded viewpoint works best in terms of not getting sucked into bs, yet remaining open to situations which are beyond the realms of that which you have currently experienced.

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 06:05 PM
reply to post by Xtraeme

Even Occams Razor (much beloved of the Skeptics) requires a certain believerism to assume that the saying, while somewhat logical, holds sway in all circumstances.

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 06:22 PM
reply to post by chr0naut

Another issue that I perceive is that science is reductionist by process.

This means that simple theories are easy to intuit and "prove" via science, but larger integrated chains of causality are totally beyond its probe.

It is at these confused and chaotic events that a more mystical mental approach (one that makes great and sweeping assumptions) can provide a way forward.

A science where this is most provable is "brain science". Sure we can break down the operation of the nerve and synapse, but this provides no indication of the "self" or what "consciousness" actually is, or how it arises. From the other end, Psychology can provide an overview of human mental response but there is very little progress in bringing these two end of the spectrum together in a scientific way.

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 06:58 PM
reply to post by chr0naut

I've always preferred Einstein's play on Occam's razor,

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

This is much easier to universally accept than the paraphrased version of Occam's razor,

All other things being equal the simplest explanation is probably the most likely.

In its popular usage, Occam's razor is often inappropriately treated as nearly a law of physics. It's a guide, but that's all. One common misapplication is to ignore evidence because people twist the razor to mean, "Regardless whether all things are equal the simplest explanation IS correct." This distorted and confused usage subverts the actual meaning of the razor to imply, "An easy simple sound-byte is much better than the complicated truth."

Even in it's pure untainted form the razor is founded on precarious logic. This can be demonstrated somewhat simply. Imagine, for instance, a person phones a little mom-and-pop shop to ask for the address. The attendant picks up the phone, turns down the volume on the TV where the newscaster is describing the local traffic, and rattles off the directions including a tip to take a little used back-street. Now, 20 minutes later the person gets to the store and walks to counter to pick up a purchase. The attendant recognizes the voice of the caller from earlier and says, "Hi, you got here quick, I guess my directions worked out for you." The customer then responds, "Actually I got completely turned around. I took the wrong exit, but luckily I was on my motorcycle. So I was able to cut through the traffic, but I had to zig-zag through the neighborhood to find the cross-street."

The attendant had in his mind that "all other things being equal" (since he knew the traffic report, had information about where the person was, and he knew the route and the time it took) that the simplest explanation for the quick travel time was that he had given effective, optimal directions. However the idea of "all other things being equal" was actually him begging a series of assumptions. Even if he had known in advance that the customer drove a motorcycle, what would be the simpler of the two explanations? That he got there quickly because the direction were efficacious or that it was because of the bike? There is no simpler explanation, just different scenarios.
edit on 14-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 07:39 PM
reply to post by Xtraeme

I'll just say that Sagan used that argument for decades to deny every thing about UFOs despite good data to the contrary. You skeptics want to argue about the rules of logic that Science follows. Balderdash!. The situation is not about logic. It never was.

Sagan was excellent in convincing some people with his argument of denying the existence of UFOs here and now, but to do that he had to ignore the actual reality of tons of direct human experience, air force reports,photos, radar returns, etc.

It literally makes no sense to cite logic as a reason to exclude and ignore what could be proven in a court of law where evidence is the key and logic is the sole rebuttal, nothing but a safe haven for those that cannot accept what the common man sees. Every skeptic knows that you cannot prove a negative so they resort to strawman arguments that relie upon nothing more than the rules by which Science is supposed to operate. "A new phenomenea unknown to Science? It cannot be, We won't allow it!" How often have the public been told that down from the ivory towers over the centuries? (The story of how meteorites were discovered to be falling to earth is an excellent example of the arrogance of Scientific thought.)

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 07:48 PM
reply to post by Aliensun

Sagan never denied the existence of UFOs. In fact he endorsed the empirical study of the phenomenon. However, what he didn't support was the ET hypothesis. Too many people automatically believe that UFO=ET without any empirical evidence to the fact. It is my opinion that the ET hypothesis was the worst thing to happen to ufology and if the field had actually followed Sagan's recommendation for empirical research we might actually have some legitimate answers regarding the phenomenon today.

posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 09:19 PM
reply to post by Aliensun

Imagine a person lives on a planet with a single monolithic supercontinent (like Pangaea). This planet is so large that to get to the ocean takes nearly a full life-time. Now imagine one person travels with his family by camel, horse, and foot to see how far he can go. By the time he's 70 he reaches the end of the land and finds this massive body of water. The ocean. He's the first person to ever lay eyes on the ocean. He realizes based on his age that he won't be able to make it back to his people to tell them what he saw. So he writes everything he sees down. Then he travels as far as he can. He has his sons who traveled much of the distance with him make a pledge to return to the village to inform the people of the ocean. The sons arduously make the trek back. Once at the village the people question the findings. The scientific researchers in the village say, "No such thing as a body of water all the way to the horizon has ever been observed by anyone else. Therefore it is difficult to believe. Perhaps it's more likely you were suffering from some form of hallucination?" Even if the sons were to insist, "Come with us we'll show you." These people too could certainly make the trip, but they'd never manage to make it back in a single lifetime. So, again, all that the people of the village would have is written accounts. It wouldn't be till much later when the society advanced enough to the point where they could build rockets or bullet trains that authentication of this vast body of water would be something any person could corroborate. So how do we as humans deal with this type of scenario?

Reflecting on this for a little over a year now and I've come to the conclusion that there are three types of confirmation:

  • Internal Confirmation (seeing something strange, belief-logic, faith)
  • Appeal to authority / external confirmation (trustworthy sources - including family members / friends, whistleblowers, current authority figures)
  • Scientific verification (repeatable tests that any scientist can authenticate along /w peer-review)

    Unless I have at a minimum two of the above criteria I'm willing to doubt the truthfulness of an observation. It's only when all three are satisfied that I'm willing to say something is 100% objectively true, but even then though I have to admit my understanding of the observation is very likely inaccurate if not wholly incomplete.

    A proven observation can be entirely subjective. If I see and interact with something it's then proven beyond a doubt that what I had come in contact with is true. This can be thought of as being subjectively-objective. Had I the ability to share these direct thoughts with others it could then be seen as objective by those who hadn't the privilege of the direct experience. Unfortunately we lack this talent so the only way to go about showing this subjectively-objective reality to others is to come up with a case that's repeatedly testable or to simply have the good fortune of having others present reinforcing the strength of the original observation.

    Meaning for something to be externally-objective it requires at a minimum one external confirmation. For it to be scientifically-objective requires repeated confirmation. So there can be three overarching types of objectiveness:

  • subjective objectivity (lone observation)
  • external objectivity (more than one individual or device)
  • scientific objectivity (infinitely observable)

    Usually when people discuss objective versus subjective we simplify. If we hear "subjective" we immediately assume the person has no real basis other than belief guiding that principle. This is frequently a poor assumption because in many cases there's actually something tangible that the person encountered that made it subjectively objective, not simply wishful thinking.

    Likewise something can be scientifically objective, but that doesn't mean we understand the observation. However since it's scientifically objective many people accept initial explanations if only because the observation has proven through repeated tests to be valid. This is even worse than being dismissive of poorly quantified observations because now the person is accepting an explanation for an observation because of the type of objectivity used to verify the observation.

    These types of biases and poor understanding often lead to a scenario similar to the one described in "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe.
    edit on 14-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

  • posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 09:35 PM
    reply to post by Xtraeme

    There is a fourth criterion for judging the veracity of a claim; its consistency with what is known of the claimant’s psychology, politics and personal reputation.

    The more closely the claim harmonizes with these factors, the more sceptically it is to be treated.

    posted on Dec, 14 2011 @ 11:24 PM
    reply to post by Astyanax

    I would classify this as a subcategory of verifying "external confirmation." It's an attempt to perform a type of social calculus due to imperfect information. It's also derivative of a skeptical mindset which assumes, "If a person has a goal they want to reach, they may do something questionable to attain it." Applying this in a multilateral manner is basically the definition of cynicism. Unilaterally it's a type of bias.

    The question is, is there a circumstance where it can be perceived to be universally objective? I'm not sure that's possible. The only time it would be universally true is in a scenario where there's a testable hypothesis. In which case the data can be scientifically verified. So the external confirmation is tertiary.

    However you're right in that we all apply a "trust-index" to every other human-being based on their perceived "consistency." This applies to family members, friends, and even to people who we've never met before. So, for example, I may have a brother who I love dearly. However if I know he's a compulsive liar. I wouldn't be able to trust him. Then another person, who's a good friend, might be the most noble person in the world. A person who I know has never lied. However if he had dropped out of highschool, was unemployed, and had a black mark on his record for being falsely imprisoned at a WTO protest. Well others aren't going to have a very high opinion of him. This is why people vouch for friends and acquaintances. They attempt to use their own perceived respect to elevate (or denigrate) others.

    I think, personally, the stick used to measure credibility of human testimony should be directly tied to the amount of supporting evidence (additional testimony would count as long as the other witnesses can be confirmed as having no connection to the source) in conjunction with how much the person has to lose.[1]

    posted on Dec, 15 2011 @ 02:50 AM
    The observation that I was really trying to make with this thread can probably best be summed up with a couple of graphics:

    A skeptical mindset wants to make identifications as quickly as possible and is sometimes willing to do so somewhat haphazardly (potentially resulting in a misidentified IFO),

    Whereas anomalists want things to be true unknowns (because hey who doesn't like a good mystery?); or they want the identification to be something new and interesting (particularly if it fits their pet theory). This can be somewhat misguided because in many cases the observation isn't of the set of "remaining unknown phenomena" (a misidentified TRUFO),

    What I want is to make sure things that we see that actually ARE true unknowns and are genuinely new phenomena are properly cataloged (like Hanny's Voorwerp). So we can turn them into identifications in the shortest time period possible (cf. "UFOs: Lets cut the crap already")

    Basically the idea of an "official escalation of explanation" loop is the only process I can conceive of to ensure the things we catalog as TRUFOs are actually of "the remaining unknown phenomena." Meaning skepticism is good to keep things out of the "TRUFO" category. Whereas believerism is useful to force experts to consider data which otherwise might go unexamined. So the focus of "believerism" should be on falsifying skeptical "misidentified identifications" and improving the pipeline for how "anomalous" cases get directed to the scientific establishment.
    edit on 15-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 15 2011 @ 04:47 PM
    As a continuation of the last post ...


  • unknown-unknowns map to "Remaining unknown phenomena"
  • known-unknowns map to TRUFOs
  • known-known maps to "individual human knowledge ‒ current known phenomena"

    All three of these charts are necessary because an anomalist who has seen or observed something paranormal behaves in a way where they think they have a TRUFO (based on the human knowledge chart), because they know whatever they saw wasn't of the set of "individual human knowledge ‒ current known phenomena." So that leaves either a misidentification or remaining unknown phenomena. This means to the person it's a known-unknown. The person (if an anomalist) is likely to have the attitude though that it's unlikely a misidentification because of the high-strangeness.

    My point here is that the picture of "misidentification" over a TRUFO is somewhat wrong.

    You can't misidentify something you don't know and that nobody else knows either. Well, you can be wrong about what you think it is, but that's a wrong hypothesis. However a hypothesis can become an identification. So really it's more a matter of where the thing is in the process. So then I can have a "bad hypothesis" (or invalid hypothesis) which is almost the same as a misidentification. This is interesting. It means on the "human knowledge chart" that "misidentification" and "invalid hypothesis" are very similar.

    What's fascinating with the model I'm proposing (cf. Beeblebrox) is that you can guarantee a known-unknown isn't a misidentification. This ensures that it's of the "remaining unknown phenomena" even if we don't yet have a valid hypothesis. So the fact that TRUFOs can map to known-unknowns is important because "known-unknowns" have two potentialities. Misidentifications of things we do already know OR things that are remaining unknowns (even if the hypothesis is wrong). This is why so many believers get stuck in the trap of thinking they have something fascinating.
    edit on 15-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

  • posted on Dec, 15 2011 @ 08:24 PM
    So in conclusion, a "TRUFO" even using the process outlined in the Fig. 1 diagram can still result in a misidentification. However the chances of it being a misidentification are vanishingly small since all experts the world-over would have the opportunity to provide their thoughts. Meaning without a way to exhaustively rule out all possible knowns. TRUFOs, as a category, will inevitably be composed of,

    Using the Beeblebrox process we can eventually rule out all misidentifications guaranteeing that whatever is in the TRUFO category is of the "remaining unknown phenomena" even if we don't yet have a valid hypothesis.

    edit on 15-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 02:28 AM

    Originally posted by Xtraeme
    You can't misidentify something you don't know and that nobody else knows either. Well, you can be wrong about what you think it is, but that's a wrong hypothesis. However a hypothesis can become an identification. So really it's more a matter of where the thing is in the process. So then I can have a "bad hypothesis" (or an invalid hypothesis) which is almost the same as a misidentification. This is interesting. It means on the "human knowledge chart" that "misidentification" and "invalid hypothesis" are very similar.

    A good question to think about is, "How can we distinguish an 'invalid hypothesis' (assuming a new unknown) from a 'misidentification' (assuming a known)?" So far, the only way I can think to do this is to rule out all possible knowns. Are there conceivably other ways?

    It's seems in the scenario of accepting "appeal to authority / external confirmation" we take a person's reported observations at face value. Ignoring the fact that it could possibly be a misidentification or even an invalid hypothesis. I suppose this makes sense though in that if a person says that they saw "a craft" and they encountered "a nonhuman being" and it left "physical marks on them." Presuming that the person isn't perpetrating a hoax, and the person has said marks, then it's somewhat reasonable to conclude the person encountered something not of this earth (even though we haven't ruled out all other possibilities). An example of the "personal escalation of explanation loop" and how it works in practice can be seen here.

    Obviously the whole "appeal to authority / external confirmation" boils down to an issue of trust. So I can see how a "husband-wife" or "parent-child" testimony could persuade one or the other. Though it's unlikely such a story would ever persuade the world at large. Otherwise it would have already happened.

    So I guess a secondary way of having something become a "valid hypothesis" or a "known-known" without ruling out all possible misidentifications is to simply have enough people all encounter the same thing. Then at some tipping point, the sheer number people agreeing over a particular description of an observed phenomenon would be enough. Though this is of course dangerous, because if it happens prematurely and people accept it due to social convention we get people believing in "aliens" or, say, "Jesus" simply because it's conventional wisdom.

    Unfortunately this little thought experiment doesn't reveal how we can get inside the "misidentifications" versus "invalid hypotheses." It just shows how "external / confirmation" works, and how we can skip the explicit "hypothesis formation" and "ruling out misidentification" stages and jump straight to a conclusion.
    edit on 16-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 04:41 PM
    reply to post by Xtraeme

    Some thoughts ...

    1. An "invalid hypothesis" is neither of the true "known phenomena" or the "remaining unknown phenomena." However it can describe both the false "current known phenomena" and the "remaining unknown phenomena." Meaning a "misidentification" is an "invalid hypothesis" of a "current known phenomena." Thus a pure "invalid hypothesis" (falsity) isn't a "misidentified known phenomena" and is not only invalid for a specific "unknown phenomena" but to all "remaining unknown phenomena." So, as odd as this might sound, in a way an "invalid hypothesis" is the one time when both the "known phenomena" and the "unknown phenomena" intersect because both categories contain false things.

    2. If a thing is forgotten not just by an individual, but by a whole species it returns to the "remaining unknown phenomena."

    3. Another idea worth considering is if there was only one person in the world (lets say everyone else died off) would there ever be such a thing as a misidentification? It's fairly clear that there would be such a thing as an invalid hypothesis. However the idea of a misidentification usually requires someone else to provide a correction. If we were to consider that there were such a thing as a misidentification with only individual in existence. Then it would mean the person was perceiving something they do know incorrectly. Like seeing a light in the sky that the person might usually know to be Venus, but perhaps the person wakes up in a disoriented daze causing them to think it's something else. So it's a misidentification even with just a single person because the person does know what Venus is, but they were simply in error this one time around (an "invalid hypothesis" of a "current known phenomena").
    edit on 16-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 09:22 PM
    reply to post by Xtraeme

    Interestingly enough misidentifications are both positive and negative. They're positive in that they represent a true phenomena that we already know. However they're negative or false in that a misidentification is something that a person has mistakenly thought was something else.

    I'm pretty sure there's a type of algebra that can be performed on this once I can map out all the characteristics.

    For instance (based off the "human knowledge diagram" going from top to bottom),

    negative/positive.... misidentification (misidentified known = -k)
    positive ................ individual human knowledge/current known phenomena (k)
    negative ............... invalid hypothesis (neither of the "known" or "unknown" phenomena)
    positive ................ valid hypotheses (unknowns = u)
    negative/positive.... remaining unknown phenomena (-u)

    Which can be thought of as,

    -k+-u = -u++k (false unless k=0, meaning "once we rule out all knowns" we have something of the "remaining unknown (-u)")

    Another simple identity,

    +k+-k = 0 (individual human knowledge plus a misidentification is an invalid hypothesis or an unknown)


    +u+-u = 0 (implies "valid hypothesis" plus a "remaining unknown phenomena." This is something of a contradiction potentially meaning that it would actually be an "invalid" statement as 0. However if the "valid hypothesis" is for something of the "remaining unknown phenomena" then it's a known (as either +k or -k).)

    Whereas "known-unknowns" are composed of (from top to bottom):

    negative/positive.... misidentifications (known = k, misidentified known = -k)
    negative ............... invalid hypothesis (neither known or unknown)
    positive ................ valid hypotheses (unknowns = u)

    -k-+u = -k+-u (true, meaning "misidentified knowns minus valid hypotheses" equal "misidentified knowns and remaining unknown phenomena")


    +k-+u = +k+-u = -u--k = -u++k (true, meaning "current known phenomena" minus "valid hypotheses" are the same as ["current known phenomena and remaining unknown phenomena", "remaining unknown phenomena minus misidentified known phenomena," "remaining unknown phenomena and known phenomena"])

    Basically we can take each of the 2^4 unique,

    To find all the possible equal meanings. For people who are interested in the technical research surrounding this concept. They may want to read, "Zero as a seven-fold truth-table mapped to a spherical formal system." I'll probably try to write up a little paper to develop the concept into a proper formal system.
    edit on 16-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 17 2011 @ 12:39 AM
    Just for the heck of it because I find it interesting ...

    +k-+u = +u-+k (false, unless +u=+k, meaning ... "A known phenomena minus a hypothesis to explain it is the same as a valid hypothesis minus the known phenomena, when the hypothesis correctly identifies or is equal to the phenomena." Basically this was like how we discovered black holes. John Michell speculated in 1783,

    If the semi-diameter of a sphere of the same density as the Sun were to exceed that of the Sun in the proportion of 500 to 1, a body falling from an infinite height towards it would have acquired at its surface greater velocity than that of light, and consequently supposing light to be attracted by the same force in proportion to its vis inertiae, with other bodies, all light emitted from such a body would be made to return towards it by its own proper gravity.

    GR helped us to realize that such a thing might be true. So we started looking. We've since located several candidates including V404 Cygni and Cygnus X-1.

    Conversely if we had discovered black holes first but had no explanation for them. Then we would have had a legitimate phenomena without a valid hypothesis.
    edit on 17-12-2011 by Xtraeme because: (no reason given)

    posted on Dec, 19 2011 @ 10:16 AM

    edit on 19-12-2011 by Kandinsky because: (no reason given)

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