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Old 22-06-2008, 12:30 AM   #141
BrianS
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Unless something is known to be impossible, it remains possible
Oh, by the way - this violation of the laws of logic is so common that it was given its own name a loooong time ago. It is the fallacy 'argumentum ad ignorantiam' - ie the argument from ignorance. Put simply, it claims 'X is true because you cannot disprove X.' And it gets its name because you are appealing to ignorance - you are appealing your lack of knowledge - you are appealing to nothing - as a 'means' (as evidence) of 'proving' something.
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Old 22-06-2008, 12:35 AM   #142
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I am sorry but that is not the concept of the burden of proof. That, in fact, is its complete opposite - ie a violation of that law of logic.

So you're saying I should say everything is impossible unless I have proof it was possible?

Given that I now have evidence that life can evolve under certain conditions, is it not reasonable to explore the possibility that the process has been repeated in a place where identical conditions are met or believed to have been met?

Now we move on to probability. Probability is the mathematical confidence that a certain result will be found based on existing experience. I can't prove that something that worked five minutes ago will work again now but if all the indicators are that the same conditions exist as they did the first time, I can predict that in all probability, it'll work. In the case of hunting life in the universe, you're right we have little experience. That means our calculations of probabilty have hugely variable values in the equation. This means we can't guarantee that the result can be calculated to any degree of accuracy. But lacking some information doesn't mean we have no information. Since we are confident that conditions out there somewhere offer the possibility of life as we currently understand it, based on the knowledge of our own existence, mankind has decided to press ahead and look rather than wait for answers that might take centuries to know by other means. I believe the potential answers more than justify the potential cost of asking the question.
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Old 22-06-2008, 01:00 AM   #143
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So you're saying I should say everything is impossible unless I have proof it was possible?
Sigh. Have you actually READ my posts? I just MADE this point to you.

NO!

Here - I will repeat once again what I have posted countless times now: one cannot say an idea is possible OR impossible - true OR false - right OR wrong - without evidence.

If you have an idea and it has no evidence to support it, you do not say 'Ah, it must be possible. Nor do you say 'ah, it must be impossible'. You simply toss it out. The idea is nothing. It is a brain fart.

It has all the intellectual content of the squawking of a parrot (ie none).

Why is you you balk at the refusal to treat fantasy as reality? Why do you insist on treating arbitrary ideas as if they were reality?

--

At this point, you are still holding to the premise "Unless something is known to be impossible, it remains possible". As I have indicated, this is a gross violation of the fundamentals of logic. So long as you persist in applying this blatantly illogical principle, no rational discussion will be possible.
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Old 22-06-2008, 01:05 AM   #144
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If you have an idea and it has no evidence to support it, you do not say 'Ah, it must be possible. Nor do you say 'ah, it must be impossible'. You simply toss it out. The idea is nothing. It is a brain fart.
So how do you explain the advancement of the human race or the advancement of science as most of these advancements must have been "brain farts" according to your reasoning?

A lot of science starts with one known fact and extrapolates to further the knowlege base. In this case we can say the fact is there is life on Earth, let's extrapolate and see if life could exist elsewhere. We then start looking for evidence to support this theory (which is where we are today).
Other science starts with just "what if" or some such question within the scientist's mind and of course that may lead to nothing, but it equally it may lead to a great discovery.

I know that often I am often confronted with an IT problem for instance to which I do not know if there is a solution or not, but that doesn't stop me trying various things which have worked in the past (probability it just might work again - see DX's post), or come up with an entirely new fix. And guess what - it quite often works! That's what make human beings such great inovators.

I honestly hope that you are not limiting your life to not trying new things just because you cannot prove that they are worth trying.

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Old 22-06-2008, 01:17 AM   #145
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So how do you explain the advancement of the human race or the advancement of science...
I already explained it in my last post to CR.

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...as most of these advancements must have been "brain farts" according to your reasoning?
"Most of these advancements" have NOT been "brain farts" (ie ideas accepted without evidence). Just the opposite, actually.

Now, if it is truly your view that irrationality and delusion - that insanity - have been responsible for the advancement of science and of the human race, I can only say: WOW.
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Old 22-06-2008, 01:20 AM   #146
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Here - I will repeat once again what I have posted countless times now: one cannot say an idea is possible OR impossible - true OR false - right OR wrong - without evidence.
Yes, one can. We do. The human race does. All the time. It's what we are.
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Old 22-06-2008, 01:48 AM   #147
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Everything is possible, however improbable, unless the evidence shows it to be impossible
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Unless something is known to be impossible, it remains possible
Let's use a new example to make clearer exactly how absurd this premise really is:

Someone has the idea: Eagle is a rapist and murderer.
Is there evidence FOR this idea?
No.
So, what do we do with that idea?
I say we toss it out without any consideration whatsoever.
Why? Because we have absolutely no basis for making the claim.

DX, however, says something else entirely.
DX says the lack of evidence for the idea is not enough to dismiss the idea. He demands we prove it is impossible for Eagle to be a rapist and murderer.
Of course, the problem with DX's demand is one can't prove a negative (which is why that pesky 'burden of proof' law of logic exists). Unfortunately for Eagle, that means one can't prove it is impossible for him to be a rapist and a murderer.
Therefore, according to DX's principle, since the idea hasn't been proven false, it must be true. Which means, according to DX's principle, it is perfectly valid to go around claiming "Eagle is a rapist and a murderer"

Because it hasn't been disproven that Eagle is a rapist and murderer, it must be true he is a rapist and murderer.
Because it hasn't been disproven that life may exist elsewhere, it must be true that life may exist elsewhere.
Because X hasn't been disproven, X must be true.

Get it yet?
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Old 22-06-2008, 02:00 AM   #148
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Oh - and to extend the example to the idea of 'evidence' which DX tries to employ: DX claims because life exists here, that is proof FOR the claim life may exist elsewhere. By that same logic, the fact that other men are murderers and rapists is proof FOR the claim Eagle is a rapist and murderer.
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Old 22-06-2008, 02:33 AM   #149
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Let's use a new example to make clearer exactly how absurd this premise really is:

Someone has the idea: Eagle is a rapist and murderer.
Is there evidence FOR this idea?
No.
So, what do we do with that idea?
I say we toss it out without any consideration whatsoever.
Why? Because we have absolutely no basis for making the claim.
Agreed. There is no basis for making the claim... but it is possible.

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DX, however, says something else entirely.
DX says the lack of evidence for the idea is not enough to dismiss the idea. He demands we prove it is impossible for Eagle to be a rapist and murderer.
But why would we arrive at this notion in the first place?

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Of course, the problem with DX's demand is one can't prove a negative (which is why that pesky 'burden of proof' law of logic exists). Unfortunately for Eagle, that means one can't prove it is impossible for him to be a rapist and a murderer.
Well, of course...

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Therefore, according to DX's principle, since the idea hasn't been proven false, it must be true.
No, just that it is POSSIBLE!

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Which means, according to DX's principle, it is perfectly valid to go around claiming "Eagle is a rapist and a murderer"
No, because that would be bordering on defamation. Claiming that it is possible that life exists elsewhere in the Universe harms nobody. It is possible says Hawking. It is possible says Sagan. It is possible says Einstein. It IS possible. That, it is possible is a fact™.

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Because it hasn't been disproven that Eagle is a rapist and murderer, it must be true he is a rapist and murderer.
^ A ridiculous proposition.

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Because it hasn't been disproven that life may exist elsewhere, it must be true that life may exist elsewhere.
No, just that it is POSSIBLE! Are you trying to wind us all up?

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Get it yet?
No, Brian, we don't! And we won't either. Sorry but you're not making any sense at all.

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Originally Posted by BrianS View Post
Oh - and to extend the example to the idea of 'evidence' which DX tries to employ: DX claims because life exists here, that is proof FOR the claim life may exist elsewhere. By that same logic, the fact that other men are murderers and rapists is proof FOR the claim Eagle is a rapist and murderer.
No, just that it is possible.

Do you actually have a dictionary?

//// I'm off to bed before I suffer an aneurism... which is entirely possible...
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Old 22-06-2008, 03:18 AM   #150
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Yes, go and behave yourself before you get in trouble.
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Old 22-06-2008, 03:38 AM   #151
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Agreed. There is no basis for making the claim... but it is possible.
In the context of logic (ie that which you are presumably trying to apply here) 'possible' identifies a given range of evidence FOR a claim. As such, saying there is no evidence for a claim but insisting the claim is still 'possible' is a blatant contradiction.

The rest of your post is predicated on that contradiction.

Since the idea of 'possible' as an indicator of evidence for an idea seems to be a foreign one here, I'll do a quick Logic 101 summary for you:

--
Man's ideas must correspond to reality for him to consider them valid (as opposed to delusions). It is this correspondence which distinguishes rationality from insanity.

Correspondence of ideas with reality is identified as truth.
Contradiction of ideas with reality is identified as falsehood
No connection of ideas with reality is identified as arbitrary

Now, the identification of an idea's correspondence to reality is made by reference to specific facts of reality - otherwise known as proof or evidence. And when it comes to evidence, there is a whole continuum which ranges around three central positions:

Possible, probable, and certain.

Possible means a given position on this scale of evidence. It means you possess some evidence - some specific facts - in favor of the idea you hold.

As the evidence increases, at a given point, the preponderance of the evidence - its weight - its overall thrust - points in a particular direction. At that point, you can say the idea is not only 'possible', but 'probable'.

Then, of course, if the totality of the evidence - without exception - points to a particular conclusion and nothing points in any other direction - then you are entitled to say the idea is certain - ie true.

-
Now this essentialized summary should give you an idea of the meaning of 'possible' here. And it should hopefully show that your insistence that something is possible ABSENT evidence is (literally) meaningless (because it contradicts the definition of the term you are using).

Last edited by BrianS; 22-06-2008 at 06:52 AM. Reason: corrected a misleading misspelling
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Old 22-06-2008, 03:47 AM   #152
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Because it hasn't been disproven that life may exist elsewhere, it must be true that life may exist elsewhere.
No, just that it is POSSIBLE! Are you trying to wind us all up?
I guess you missed the "may" in that statement - 'may' being a term which indicates 'possibility'. Or are you just trying to wind thing up?

Your premise here (and that of DX and others) is:

Because the claim 'life possibly exist elsewhere' has not been disproven, the claim 'life possibly exists elsewhere' MUST be true (as you explicitly put it - it is "a fact") In other words, because x has not been disproven, x must be true.

Now, as I previously posted, that is a very specific and very well known fallacy - the argument from ignorance. So - is it your position that this fallacy is not a fallacy at all and the science of logic has it all wrong on that count? If so, I will be very interested in reading your 'correction' of this fundamental 'mistake' of logicians.

Or could it simply be that you all have accepted an illogical principle?

My money (not to mention the Law of Identity) is on the latter.

Last edited by BrianS; 22-06-2008 at 04:17 AM.
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Old 22-06-2008, 01:28 PM   #153
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The answer is 1. Answer 2 is exactly the same situation as CR put forth about flying. It presumes absolutely no evidence exists despite knowledge to the contrary. THAT is illogical.

Go back to his example. It would have been illogical for cavemen to believe they could fly. They had no knowledge of anything about the world whatsoever. As such, if one of them had claimed man might fly, that would have been an arbitrary assertion and would rationally have simply been dismissed. Now, jump ahead a few thousand years to Leonardo da Vinci. In his scientific investigations into birds and aerodynamics and the like, he learned certain things about reality which led him to conclude the fact that man was not born with wings did not mean he could not fly if he applied some of these principles he had learned about reality. At that point, it is NOT an arbitrary assertion to claim it is possible for man to fly. One has evidence in reality to support that claim. Jump ahead again to last century. Man did fly. The evidence based conclusion became certain rather than just possible.

As I KEEP trying to point out, arbitrary - like possible and probable, etc - reference the evidence (or lack thereof) one possesses to support an assertion about reality. In other words, it identifies the RELATIONSHIP of one's ideas TO reality.

So - if one has no evidence for x, then one has no basis to claim that x is true about reality. One hasn't made ANY reference to reality whatsoever. Even if later one stumbles across evidence for one's original arbitrary assertion, and that evidence ends up definitively proving that x is true, that doesn't change the fact that the original assertion was arbitrary - that it had absolutely NO relation to reality whatsoever, and thus had no business being considered.

Facts are what justify thinking up an idea. An idea by itself is not what justifies searching for facts. The reason for this is simple: existence is primary, consciousness is secondary. One's mind doesn't create existence. One's mind has to conform to existence. Any attempt to reverse that order is an attempt to blank out one's mind and existence. If one does that, one simply and ultimately removes one's self from existence.
Ok, I see, I think that helps a bit. Let's see if we can move forward.

It seems from your answer that you don't actually need to see humans walk on Mars to say it is "possible". It seems you need enough "evidence" to support that claim. Once you have enough evidence, it's fine to say it's "possible".

So then we need to move on to the evidence for life beyond Earth. It seems for most of us here, there is enough evidence. We've found other solar systems, other worlds with at least water ice (Europa), etc....but it seems from your arguments that this is not enough evidence.

So the next question is: What evidence would have to come to light for you to say life beyond Earth is possible? What's the tipping point?

In other words, if we confirm there is an ocean of liquid water under the surface of Europa, is that enough? Or, if it's confirmed that not only is there a liquid ocean, but also thermal vents on the sea floor. Is that enough?

You obviously have a process for this, so I am genuinely interested in your criteria for life beyond Earth.
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Old 22-06-2008, 03:23 PM   #154
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Therefore, according to DX's principle, since the idea hasn't been proven false, it must be true
Eagle already covered this but I'll say it too. I'm not saying it must be true if there's no evidence to say it's false. I'm only saying it's still possible.

Burden of proof in law suggests that something has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. In the case of finding life elsewhere in the universe, we have no hard evidence because we haven't actually been out there but, like a policeman starting to look into Eagle's rape case allegation, he will first hypothesise if the claim could be true. A jury can return a verdict along the lines of "case not proven". This suggests the evidence for the crime is strong i.e. possible if not probable but not certain enough to declare 100% positively guilty. Do we think there's life elsewhere in the universe? Analysis of what scant knowledge about potential life evolving in the universe we have can not be ruled out as a possibility anymore than it can be claimed that O.J. Simpson categorically didn't kill those people in reality. Unlike the law case against O.J., we aren't obliged to return a not guilty verdict just because the case can't be proved in the same way we can't dismiss the possibility of life just because we can't prove it.
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Old 22-06-2008, 03:40 PM   #155
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it must be true that life may exist elsewhere.
No, it may be true that life may exists elsewhere.

My personal argument is that our current scant knowledge suggests the probabilty of life existing elsewhere in the universe is so astronimically likely, it's a beyond reasonable doubt scenario from a speculation point of view. That's not a finite. It's an educated evaluation. If you doubt it's worth as a concept, then take it up with ESA and NASA who consider it worthy enough to spend several billion dollars on exploring or perhaps the collective wisdom of these people are wrong? Doesn't your argument rather suggests they're all idiots incapable of grasping the concepts of arbitrary?

Anyway, Eagle was playing pool with me all night so he couldn't have done it.

Last edited by DX-SFX; 22-06-2008 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 22-06-2008, 04:06 PM   #156
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I'm locking this now as I feel that everyone has had their say. Judging by the posts to date, it'll go on forever anyway between the right and the wrong side of the argument.

Besides which, I'm still seriously pissed at the rape analogy...

////
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