Comments

  1. Narf says

    Cool, good pairing. I need to catch up on the backlog of episodes, so I can get to this one when the .mp3 is posted, later tonight or tomorrow.

  2. corwyn says

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
    could be more precisely phrased as
    “Evidence must be sufficient to offset the high prior improbability.”
    This would get around the apparently problematic word. But even with that interpretation, it is correct, in that a picture of a dog is sufficient to accept the existence of a dog, but a picture of a flying saucer is not sufficient. The hypothesis of a photoshopped picture is more likely than the hypothesis of flying saucers.

  3. corwyn says

    Amazing Grace was written by the Captain of a slave trading ship, so I am willing to concede that he was wretched. That all it took to redeem him was accepting Jesus, is a bit harder to accept.

  4. Narf says

    @3 – corwyn
    Particularly since the guy sure as hell didn’t get any kind of anti-slave-trading message from anything Jesus said in the Bible … or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter.

  5. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @corwyn #3:

    Amazing Grace was written by the Captain of a slave trading ship […] That all it took to redeem him was accepting Jesus, is a bit harder to accept.

    Ha! I hadn’t heard that one.
     
    Article: Snopes – Amazing Grace

    A violent storm at sea brought about his commitment to Christianity, but it was escaping with his own life that inspired him to get religion, not guilt over enslaving others. (Though this event is often pointed to as “the” conversion, it really was only the first of many such pacts with the Almighty struck by Newton, each one brought about by his close shaves with death.)
    […]
    Newton began to express regrets about his part in the slave trade only in 1780, thirty-two years after his conversion, and eight years after he wrote ‘Amazing Grace.’ In 1785 he began to fight against slavery by speaking out against it, and he continued to do so until his death in 1807.
    […]
    Newton’s storm-driven adoption of Christianity didn’t change him all that much; he continued to make his living from the slave trade for many years afterwards and only left the trade when his wife insisted upon their living a settled life in England. (Indeed, less than a year after his storm-driven conversion, Newton was back in Africa, brokering the purchase of newly-captured blacks and taking yet another “African wife” while there. […])

  6. favog says

    “Amazing Grace” was written by the captain of a slave ship … with that info, I’d say the lyric is begging for a very sarcastic rewrite.

  7. Robert, not Bob says

    Yeah, I’m sure that in terms of “Amazing Grace” you’re not a wretch because you’ve done wretched things, but just because you exist.

  8. Patrick67 says

    Was it just me, or did anyone else find that the first caller, Joe from LA, seemed to sound familiar? For some reason, the longer he spoke, the more I had this feeling he was going to say a particular phrase or word. I couldn’t get the word “humble” out of my mind. Sure enough, about half way through his disjointed discussion, he mentioned “humble.” It was then that I remembered the phrase that was used in an earlier episode of Atheist Experience. It was “I humbled myself.”

    I think that Joe was Bobby from LA who called in to Episode #758 with Jen and Martin. It was another very disjointed discussion and Bobby kept using the phrase “I humbled myself” as in “I humbled myself before God in order to gain understanding.” He used this term several times in the earlier episode.

    In both episodes I noticed that he started out in one voice which began to change to what I would refer to as a more Hispanic accent as he went along. I think it was because the more he was asked to explain, the more nervous he became. I may be mistaken, but I just was curious if anyone else found Joe familiar?

  9. Athywren, Social Justice Weretribble says

    @Patrick67, 8

    Nicely positioned comment…
    I did have a slight feeling of recognition toward Joe, but I had a very strong one of trooooooooll throughout the call. I don’t generally like to make that accusation, but I don’t understand why there’d be such an unwillingness to actually answer the questions otherwise? (And I’m pretty sure a few of those coughs were disguising laughter… although that might be me being overly suspicious.) I’ll definitely take the excuse to listen to #758 again though.

  10. pwuk says

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    How about

    “Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence.”

  11. Narf says

    @10 – MS
    He’s bringing up the fact that usually, these extraordinary claims come with absolutely nothing that counts as any real evidence of any kind.

    Think of William Lane Craig’s argument for the empty tomb.  At no point in the miles-long, repetitive list of bullshit does he present anything that would have any impact upon someone with the slightest skepticism.  He doesn’t even quote a single thing outside of the Bible, I don’t think.

    I won’t pick on the plurality issues in pwuk’s rephrasing.  😀

  12. corwyn says

    @9 pwuk:

    That isn’t sufficient. Let’s consider a piece of evidence, a hypothetical picture of two people.

    I claim it is a picture of me and my sister. Most people would be willing to accept that even without seeing the picture.
    I claim it is a picture of me and Neil deGrasse Tyson, most people would accept that, but only after seeing the picture.
    I claim it is a picture of me and an unclothed Selma Hayek [apologies to Selma], most people would be wary of accepting that even after seeing the picture. ‘shopped, would be the reaction.
    I claim it is a picture of me and Julius Caesar, most people would not even need to see the picture to think that it was false.

    So the same piece of evidence with the same likelihood ratio, is enough to convince for certain prior probabilities, but insufficient for more unlikely prior probabilities.

  13. Narf says

    @12 – corwyn
    He wasn’t trying to set up an actual standard.  He was mocking the religious nuts for not even reaching the threshold at which we need to start considering modifiers to what sort of evidence we require … because they bring no evidence.

  14. corwyn says

    I thought of another way of looking at it.

    Let’s say I show you a coin, it has a heads and tails side. I begin flipping it, and it keeps coming up tails. How many tails, in a row, would it take to convince you that a god is controlling the coin?

    How many tails, in a row, would it take to convince you that I had palmed the original coin and was now flipping a two-tailed coin.

    If you first number was greater than your second, then the evidence of consecutive coins flips coming up tails will NEVER be sufficient to prove existence of a god. A rigged coin will always be a more likely hypothesis. The evidence will never be extraordinary enough to meet the extraordinary claim. No matter how much of it there is.

  15. corwyn says

    @13 Narf:

    Ah. Nevermind.

    Though, to be fair, there is *some* evidence for gods. It is just weak compared to the enormous prior improbability.

  16. Narf says

    @corwyn

    Let’s say I show you a coin, it has a heads and tails side. I begin flipping it, and it keeps coming up tails. How many tails, in a row, would it take to convince you that a god is controlling the coin?

    If you first number was greater than your second, then the evidence of consecutive coins flips coming up tails will NEVER be sufficient to prove existence of a god.

    That’s why that wouldn’t be evidence.  If you can’t even start to demonstrate a causal link, it isn’t evidence for the proposition under examination.

    Working with a tighter definition of ‘evidence’, all of the steaming crap that Christians bring us isn’t evidence.

    Though, to be fair, there is *some* evidence for gods. It is just weak compared to the enormous prior improbability.

    Some of them will bring us pathetic attempts at evidence, but it’s nothing that would hold up to any kind of scientific scrutiny.  Most don’t even bring that much, though, and I think those ones were pwuk’s primary target with his comment.

  17. gshelley says

    The first caller was frustrating to say the least. He seemed totally unable to grasp the concept of evidence, or even to understand the questions he was being asked.
    I think the hosts could have suggested he listened to his call again, and asked him to try and understand why it wasn’t going anywhere, plus to suggest that if he wanted to call back, he should think of a couple of things.
    1) What would a world without a god look like? – Is there some specific features of that world, or of this one,m what we can use to say “this world must have a god”?
    2) How has god revealed himself to the caller? – not what has happened in his life that could have happened if a god existed, not how does he feel about there being a god, not what does the bible claim, but what specifically has he experienced that is best explained by the god hypothesis.

  18. BillBo says

    The more I listen to the callers to this show the more I think everyone should be subjected to psychedelic drug therapy in school. People apparently need to be taught that experience is just chemical reactions in the brain. “I hallucinated something pleasant/moving, therefore god.” No!

  19. favog says

    I think the one fellow had some weird ideas about evidence. Photographs are ordinary evidence? Any photograph under any circumstance is equal as evidence to any other photograph? I’m fairly sure that some photographs are better evidence, not to mention more or less ordinary, than some others. (And of course, some of them have circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining what each one is.)

  20. Narf says

    @18 – BillBo
    Sadly, I don’t think it would help.  There are plenty of new-age nuts who think that psychedelics are just breaking down the walls that we construct around ourselves to prevent us from experiencing the REAL reality.

  21. corwyn says

    @16 Narf:

    That’s why that wouldn’t be evidence. If you can’t even start to demonstrate a causal link, it isn’t evidence for the proposition under examination.

    Evidence is merely that which is more likely on the proposed hypothesis than for other hypotheses. Evidence does not need a conjectured causal link to be evidence. Otherwise we would never discover anything new.

  22. Narf says

    @17 – gshelley

    1) What would a world without a god look like? – Is there some specific features of that world, or of this one,m what we can use to say “this world must have a god”?
    2) How has god revealed himself to the caller? – not what has happened in his life that could have happened if a god existed, not how does he feel about there being a god, not what does the bible claim, but what specifically has he experienced that is best explained by the god hypothesis.

    You have to narrow it down a bit further than that.  You have to get them to consider why we should expect the universe to be a certain way, in either a god-run or godless universe.  Many theists can load criteria, 3 or 4 steps deep into an experiment.

    “Well, without my god, matter would not have clumped together into planets and stars, and life could not have started, since my god is life.  And we look around the world and we find life, so that’s 100% proof that my god exists!  Checkmate, atheists!”

    Just asking scientifically-ignorant theists what the universe would be like without their god isn’t going to get you very far.

  23. corwyn says

    @22 Narf:

    You have to narrow it down a bit further than that.

    Apparently not. None of them seem able to answer even that simple question. At least I have never heard one do so on AXP.

  24. Narf says

    @21 – corwyn

    Evidence is merely that which is more likely on the proposed hypothesis than for other hypotheses. Evidence does not need a conjectured causal link to be evidence. Otherwise we would never discover anything new.

    In the case of Christianity, I think they do, to a certain degree.  They aren’t merely asserting a correlation, in most cases.  Science usually just concludes correlation, until we have a good mechanism sorted out.

    Christians almost always tell us why things happen a certain way … even when the base correlation can’t be justified, never mind the cause.  And when the correlation doesn’t show up in a statistical analysis, Satan did it.

    I’m not even asking for a mechanism, just a causal link.  If they can’t come up with anything plausible, that’s at least a red flag.

    The base problem with all of the supposed evidence that Christians always trot out is that it’s more clearly and more thoroughly explained by naturalistic explanations.  And hell, most of the evidence is stuff pulled from a book of fairy tales, like with the empty-tomb crap.

  25. Narf says

    @23 – corwyn
    There’s a vast gap between “they need to” and “they have the ability to.”  😀

  26. Narf says

    @corwyn
    You should go kick XSCD again, over in the thread for episode #924, by the way.  He’s been saying even more insane shit.  See if you can get him to say anything more coherent.

  27. Conversion Tube says

    Regarding

    “”Though, to be fair, there is *some* evidence for gods. It is just weak compared to the enormous prior improbability.””

    And

    “””Evidence is merely that which is more likely on the proposed hypothesis than for other hypotheses. Evidence does not need a conjectured causal link to be evidence. Otherwise we would never discover anything new.”””‘

    But if a specific fact is not true the details that appear to be evidence for something isn’t actually evidence at all, it’s just coincidence.

    If my wife is murdered and all the evidence points to me as the murdered but the fact is I didn’t actually kill her then that “Evidence” isn’t actually evidence.

    There cannot be evidence of things that are not true, right?

    Only things that appear to be evidence.

    More here

    http://goddoesnt.blogspot.ca/2014/06/a-problem-with-evidence.html

    and quoting the post

    “Mirroring the definition of knowledge as justified true belief, which requires that the belief be true to qualify, I will make a case that we should only use the word “evidence” for information that points to something true. That is, I will argue that there is no evidence for anything false.””

  28. frankgturner says

    @ Patrick67 #8
    Not only did Joe sound familiar, I got one of 2 distinct impressions when he spoke. Either English is not his first language, hence it takes him a tad longer to process both what he or others are saying and his own slowness of speech, or he (not to be insulting) has a mental disability which results in the same symptoms. He probably relates ideas together in an implicit way that makes sense to him but which he cannot state outright to make said ideas obvious to others.
    .
    Alternately he might just be a troll. Either way he sounded not too bright, maybe it was intentional.

  29. frankgturner says

    P.S.: the phrase, “as sharp as a circle” came to mind as I listened to Joe.

  30. corwyn says

    @28 Tube:

    There cannot be evidence of things that are not true, right?

    Incorrect. Evidence either supports or undermines a hypothesis. Since we will NEVER have enough evidence to be 100% sure what is right, we would never have the qualification to evaluate that we have any evidence at all. The whole thing is circular.

    We determine the probability of our hypothesis, as compared to all other hypotheses, by counting the evidence for, and against, that hypothesis (as compared to all other hypotheses). We never will determine that our hypothesis is true.

  31. Conversion Tube says

    But I’m referring to EVIDENCE for Facts that are not actually true. Someone accused of murder who didn’t actually commit the crime actually is certain he/she did not commit the crime.

    So in that case there can’t actually ever be Evidence that he/she did it. Because he/she did not actually do it. Only what appears to be evidence.

    Reviewing anything about anything, there is an actual FACT about that specific Thing whether it is true or not.

    Regardless of what we understand of the facts or believe of the facts the actual FACT remains regardless about a certain subject right?

    So if we are building a case to prove/believe/understand a certain thing or (Fact)

    If the actual Fact is A but all evidence points to B then that is not actually Evidence at all because B is not true. (or is true depending )

    I feel this is an important point to clarify. Especially with regards to supernatural claims.

    I really enjoyed that link I provided about. It was a good read for me and informed me on better or new ways to think skeptically and understand evidence.

  32. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Quoting corwyn:

    Let’s say I show you a coin, it has a heads and tails side. I begin flipping it, and it keeps coming up tails. How many tails, in a row, would it take to convince you that a god is controlling the coin?

    How many tails, in a row, would it take to convince you that I had palmed the original coin and was now flipping a two-tailed coin.

    If you first number was greater than your second, then the evidence of consecutive coins flips coming up tails will NEVER be sufficient to prove existence of a god. A rigged coin will always be a more likely hypothesis. The evidence will never be extraordinary enough to meet the extraordinary claim. No matter how much of it there is.

    Quoting Narf:

    That’s why that wouldn’t be evidence. If you can’t even start to demonstrate a causal link, it isn’t evidence for the proposition under examination.

    I think I agree and disagree. I’m not sure.

    I agree with Narf that on this evidence alone, it’s woefully premature to conclude that the Christian god exists and did it. However, I disagree with a technical point which I think is being communicated regarding causation. I think Narf is partially rejecting the standard Humian idea of causation, constant conjunction. What we do in science (or what we should do in science) is to examine all competing hypotheses (using heuristics to narrow down the field of hypotheses), and start assigning estimates based on the available data. The coin example on its own is insufficient to conclude “thus a wizard did it the Christian god exists and is doing it”. However, it is proper to conclude that something is causing the coin to come up tails, but it’s improper to conclude that the something is the Christian god.

    However again, I still think that a wide breadth of data in a similar vein should be at the very least interesting, and perhaps even compelling. For example, what if all of the following were true? Christian pastors are bulletproof. Christian prayer is effective at curing cancer and other diseases. Destroying a Christian bible except in a particular authorized way results in the painful death. Christian churches are fireproof but other buildings of the same materials are not fireproof. And so on. Eventually, at the very least it’s going to be highly suggestive. Perhaps alternative explanations like “aliens are doing it” might be equally plausible, but at the very least the alternative explanations will be just as ridiculous as the Christian god explanation. Further, IMHO, I don’t see an important difference between the Christian god hypothesis and the “aliens did it” hypothesis at this early point in the discussion – in both cases there is a powerful force that is acting according to Christian doctrine, and the differences are not terribly germane at this point in the discussion.

    Tangent: Still, if the Christian god did exist, and there wasn’t some asspull excuse to prevent it, that god would just come down to New York Times Square weekly to give a demonstration of its powers with full access to the best scientists and best magicians on the planet, and to correct and update its teachings. I hope that would be sufficient to convince any rational person. I do find it interesting to imagine where the threshold of evidence lies.

    I agree that corwyn’s hypothetical will never be sufficient proof for any god. However, with full access and enough time (e.g. roll up your sleeves, and keep your hands out from your body, and let me get Pen and Teller to watch you, etc.), I think I could fairly quickly discount the “rigged coin” explanation.

    Further, what if every Christian pastor always flipped heads while in a Christian church? What if the evidence of this was so overwhelming that it was just accepted as a fact of life by basically everyone on the planet? The “rigged coin” explanation is not plausible. At the very least, you’re going to need an explanation that involves a conspiracy on the scale of The Truman Show, or equivalently “brains in vats”. Still, I agree with the point that this scenario alone is not sufficient evidence for the existence of the Christian god. But again, a dozen different kinds of evidence like this would at the very least be suggestive that the Christian god exists, and perhaps even compelling – as discussed above.

    The more I listen to the callers to this show the more I think everyone should be subjected to psychedelic drug therapy in school. People apparently need to be taught that experience is just chemical reactions in the brain. “I hallucinated something pleasant/moving, therefore god.” No!

    Fascinating idea.

  33. Hippycow says

    I wish they would have asked Joe how he knows what god wants. He said the Catholic church is wrong about what god wants be he knows better. He also says he’s humble. A tad ironical there, but nevertheless what source of information does he have that the Catholic Church does not, which allows him to correctly divine gods desires?

    “It says in the Bible that god gives us free will to do what we want.”
    1. Why should we believe anything in the Bible is relevant? What about what the Qur’an says? What about the Odyssey? What about Mother Goose?
    2. Where does it say this in the Bible?
    3. What does it mean? If god didn’t give us free will to do whatever we want, then how would life be different than it is now?
    4. What is free will? If there is a threatened punishment of eternal imprisonment with torture for doing or not doing some particular things (like, say, believing in god or not), is that free will? Once you are in hell, do you still have “free will” or has god taken it away? Are you free to go to heaven? If you are born with some congenital birth defect and cannot walk, has god given you the free will to win the Olympic decathlon? If you are born transgender, has god given you the free will to be a “normal” heterosexual?

    Anyway, thank you Tracie for trying to keep the conversation on track. That poor guy cannot think straight at all.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    “It says in the Bible that god gives us free will to do what we want.”

    Except when it doesn’t, such as when the Christian god is purported to have hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

  35. Hippycow says

    Oh yeah, that’s a good one EL. That’s one of my favorite stupid bible stories. God playing both sides of the rigged game like some kind of sadistic control freak. (I never understand why god in the OT takes sides in human affairs in the first place, unless he was just a tribal god in those days that the later cultists morphed into a “god of everyone” — that’s Christian evolution for you).

    Christians also like to say god doesn’t reveal himself because it would violate our free will by “forcing” us to believe, yet there are many examples in the Bible of god appearing before people, in his box that they carry around, on the mountain for Moses, in burning bushes, etc.

    Though I guess it isn’t clear if Moses only got to see god’s hind quarters (whatever the point of that would be).

    Ex 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

    Ex 33:23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

    Kind of funny that god doesn’t have the power to make it such that Moses could simply see him and not die. Or just resurrect him afterward. I guess god can’t do that. Hmm… I bet Q could.

  36. corwyn says

    @32 Tube:

    So in that case there can’t actually ever be Evidence that he/she did it.

    Sure there can. Evidence isn’t some magical thing which knows everything.
    Let’s say there is blood on the scene that matches hers. That is evidence. It will get bagged up in a police evidence bag, and kept in the police evidence locker, and given an evidence tag for her trial. Furthermore, it is more likely on the hypothesis that she committed the murder, than not. So it is even evidence in favor of that hypothesis. Are there other hypotheses for which is *also* evidence? Of course. The hypothesis that someone is trying to frame her, for example.

    What we mean when we talk about evidence is anything which affects the confidence we have in a hypothesis. That is the definition.

    A simple hypothesis might be, “this coin is weighted to flip more heads than tails”. Is it true, well, starting flipping, every head that comes up is evidence in favor. Of course, every tail is evidence against. After enough flips we will develop confidence either in favor of the hypothesis or against it. But if we decide we are 99.9999% sure that the coin is fixed to flip head 60% of the time, that doesn’t all of a sudden make all those tails flipped become not evidence any longer. If it did that, we would need to conclude that the coin flips heads 100% of the time, which is false.

  37. JD and Co. says

    With Joe’s call, I could swear I heard muffled laughter. And then that remark about God being on acid…definitely a troll. Even so, he was like every Christian I’ve ever had a serious conversation with. If you keep dodging the question long enough, you can keep the conversation going indefinitely.

    And the guy who had the “spiritual awakening”? And no drugs? Could be a stroke. I hope he gets it checked out.

  38. Patrick67 says

    @ fgt #29

    This reply doesn’t really apply to anything on this show, but I thought some might find it interesting. I saw on the internet this morning where Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty is at it again. He gave another interview and rant and this time it was about atheists not really existing. It was done during a promo for a new Christian film, Faith of Our Fathers, that was recently released.

    I’m not going to even try to explain it anymore here. Let me just say that the interview was very “OK.”

    I will attempt to leave a link to the article just in case any one is brave enough to want to listen to it. Just as a cautionary warning I would mention that while listening to the interview you may be very tempted to appeal to a deity, as in “Oh my fucking god.” Please don’t blame me or yourself. I think any true atheist will forgive you.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/07/si-robertson-atheists_n_7741006.html

  39. frankgturner says

    @ Patrick67 #40
    That may have just appeared in the Huffington Post but it is nothing new. A similar interview occurred some months ago and was posted on one of the blogs here.
    .
    I find that happening with my own blog as I post tidbits, they often relate to each other so there is a lot of back referencing. (Feel free to read it at http://www.lsned.info and you will see what I am talking about).
    .
    Thanks though. I guess that while great minds may think alike, so do not so great minds.

  40. Conversion Tube says

    @ 38, you are not fully thinking about it. You are thinking of it as an investigator only. I’m talking about the Fact of a matter. We can look around and try to determine the facts using (and I’ll quote) “Evidence” and that is completely correct to do so. I agree with you that is the absolute best way to come to a conclusion about a topic. But the actual Fact remain regardless of what we correctly determined was evidence or misconstrued as evidence

    Think about collecting “evidence” about something and concluding A but the Fact was actually B. What really was that “stuff” you were collecting if B was actually true? Because it was not actually evidence, it’s coincidence. It can’t be evidence of A because A isn’t actually true.

    If someone is wrongly accuses of something what can we say about that mountain of “evidence”? When the DNA shows it wasn’t him and the camera recording from across the country during the time frame proves it wasn’t him,

    then what is all that other stuff we called evidence?

    There is such thing as evidence of a true thing that in actual FACT is false, and vis versa. Only was we misconstrued as evidence. It looks like evidence but it simply cannot be.

  41. Conversion Tube says

    @38, Regarding the flip, each flip alone is not evidence because we know a normal coin would be tails about 50% anyway. It’s only when we take the whole body of multiple flips together as a group that we can then say there is evidence.

    Which was explained in that post I provided.

    Quoting the link again and i agree with it.

    “””My preliminary proposal is pretty straightforward, and it sort of blends two of the understandings that philosophers use and tries to keep to the scientific understanding of evidence, which is actually useful and not misleading. Further, I think it reflects the everyday “folk” use of the word in many applications.
    A body of observations O is evidence for a hypothesis H if, and only if, it is a consistent part of a larger body of observations called evidential closure of O, comprised of all observations bearing significantly upon H, such that the probability that H is true givenO (plus its evidential closure) is sufficiently great to warrant justified belief that H is true. In this case, we could call an observation A in O an evidential observation.
    To summarize this definition in plainer language, I’m saying that an observation should only be considered “evidence” (more carefully, an evidential observation) for a hypothesis if it is a consistent part of a large number of observations that taken together, along with all other observations that have relevance, constitute support that justifies belief in the hypothesis. In short, we only have evidence if all of the relevant information we have, taken together, justifies accepting the hypothesis at a given level of confidence, and then the specific body of observations that provide inferential or direct support for the hypothesis is the evidence.

    The body of observations that collectively justify acceptance of the hypothesis, not any observation individually, is what we should consider to be evidence, and we could call an observation in that body an “evidential observation” if we wanted to. The key here is that something should only constitute evidence for a hypothesis if that hypothesis has, on the whole, strong enough reasons to be believed to be taken as provisionally true.

    Thinking of evidence as a body of observations, instead of thinking of individual observations themselves as being evidence, comports fairly well, but imperfectly, with the way lay people, scientists, and lawyers use the word, so it is not a radical overhaul to suggest that it be treated specifically as such.””””

  42. corwyn says

    @42 Tube:

    It appears that you are merely using a different definition of ‘evidence’ than I (or my dictionary). I contend that your definition is not much use since we can never know that we can use your word. Can you use your word in a sentence both in a positive manner, and not hypothetically?

    I will continue to use ‘evidence’ as something which affects our confidence in a hypothesis, because 1) I have no other word that fits as well. 2) I have no use for your definition of the word (that is I will never say it in normal conversation).

  43. corwyn says

    @43 Tube:

    each flip alone is not evidence because we know a normal coin would be tails about 50% anyway. It’s only when we take the whole body of multiple flips together as a group that we can then say there is evidence.

    Each flip can be put into Bayes’ equation and an update of the relevant probability can be computed. If it took a group, what is the minimum size of that group, and what is the magic that occurs at the boundary?

    The key here is that something should only constitute evidence for a hypothesis if that hypothesis has, on the whole, strong enough reasons to be believed to be taken as provisionally true.

    You do realize that this directly contradicts your claim above, do you not? I thought you claimed that it is only evidence if it is *actually* true.

    And it is wrong. One of the features of Bayes’ theorem is that taking a set of information and updating probabilities through the equation will get you exactly the same result as taking each member of the set, and updating them individually.

    And it would cause massive confusion. Let say Detective Carter has information just shy of convincing, that some suspect is guilty, and Detective Beckett has different information also just shy of convincing.
    DC: Do you have any evidence?
    DB: Nope, what about you?
    DC: Nope. Guess he goes free.

  44. Conversion Tube says

    “””The key here is that something should only constitute evidence for a hypothesis if that hypothesis has, on the whole, strong enough reasons to be believed to be taken as provisionally true.””
    You do realize that this directly contradicts your claim above, do you not? I thought you claimed that it is only evidence if it is *actually* true.

    The author was speaking in two parts, one “of investigation”and in that regard you are right. But there is the actual fact an Actual Truth. You still have not discussed the ACTUAL FACT. When we look at things from multiple perspectives we can get a better nuanced understanding of things.

    You don’t seem to want to take that leap.

    I’m agreeing with you in regards to everything you have said. As a detective, as a Baysian theorist (did I speell that right).

    I’m simply stating I find it interesting when we think about the ACTUAL FACT, when we are wrong about a fact. Those things that we thought constituted EVIDENCE could not, can not and NEVER actually was EVIDENCE. Because the Actual Fact was A and not B.

    Lets look at the two detectives.
    There is an actual fact right.
    He did do it or he didn’t.

    Lets say he did do it.

    The cops have come to opposite conclusions.

    Why is the cop who thinks he didn’t do it wrong?
    How could he be wrong? He has evidence right?
    He used a process to determine his conclusion and still came to the wrong conclusion.
    He did that because what he thought was evidence of innocence was not evidence at all.

  45. corwyn says

    @46:

    1) The information we have can NEVER be sufficient to know *actual fact*. 100% certainty requires infinite knowledge (a simple consequence of Bayes theorem).
    2) The only way we have for attempting to ascertain actual fact is information.
    3) Therefore we will NEVER be able to call that information ‘evidence’ by your definition.
    4) Therefore the word will ONLY ever be used in the negative. (e.g. “We don’t have any evidence that the sun will rise tomorrow.”)
    5) Therefore I prefer a more useful definition. If you continue to insist that I use your definition, I will not be able to have intelligent conversations with you.

  46. corwyn says

    @46:

    How could he be wrong? He has evidence right?

    Now you are defining ‘evidence’ as a binary thing? Or implying that I do? Any amount of evidence yields a correct conclusion? That’s just nuts.

    He used a process to determine his conclusion and still came to the wrong conclusion.

    Then he used an incorrect process. Simple as that.
    Either his priors were wrong, his threshold for conclusion was too low, or he performed his update incorrectly.
    What happened when he argued his case with his fellow cop? Did they compare priors? If those match, and they both have the same evidence (having exchanged it), then they MUST both come to the same probability estimate. If they still differ in conclusion, then one of them has their threshold of probability for conclusion too low.

  47. Bruce Smith says

    @37 Hippycow:

    Christians also like to say god doesn’t reveal himself because it would violate our free will by “forcing” us to believe

    Which brings up the following thoughts. Some people stick to their beliefs no matter what evidence is presented to them, so I don’t think literally everyone would believe even if a god revealed himself.

    Also, since no god has revealed himself, I don’t have the free will to believe. I have no choice but to fail to believe in any gods. So a god NOT revealing himself, takes away my free will. I am forced not to believe.

  48. Conversion Tube says

    “””Then he used an incorrect process. Simple as that.
    Either his priors were wrong, his threshold for conclusion was too low, or he performed his update incorrectly.
    What happened when he argued his case with his fellow cop? Did they compare priors? If those match, and they both have the same evidence (having exchanged it), then they MUST both come to the same probability estimate. If they still differ in conclusion, then one of them has their threshold of probability for conclusion too low.”””

    Excellent, then we agree. There is no evidence of the truth of something that is false. It’s error in calculation that leads someone to think they have a thing called evidence to justify their belief when in fact they do not.

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Let me try to help clear this up. I’m decently sure corwyn knows what’s going on. I think Conversation Tube is still lost. This is a confusion because of differing usages of the word “evidence”.

    I’m decently sure I use the word “evidence” in a manner consistent with corwyn’s usage.

    I have two distinct meanings of the word. I think a concise description of the difference is “evidence regarding” and “evidence for”. I think these two meanings capture most of the common usage.

    The first definition of “evidence” relates to the phrase “evidence regarding”. This is a looser definition. A piece of data is evidence if it has some bearing or relevance on the hypothesis. Under this definition, we often have evidence regarding a hypothesis which in actual fact is false.

    The second definition of “evidence” relates to the phrase “evidence for”. A piece of data is evidence for a hypothesis if it forces us to increase our estimation of the likelihood of the truth of the hypothesis. Under this definition, we often have evidence for a hypothesis which in actual fact is false.

    Conversation Tube is advocating an IMHO peculiar and unusual definition of evidence. As best as I can determine, his definition is thus: a piece of data is evidence for a hypothesis iff [1- the piece of evidence forces us to increase our estimation of the likelihood of the truth of the hypothesis and 2- the hypothesis is true]. That second italicized condition seems highly unnatural and unusual, and IMHO does not represent common usage.

  50. corwyn says

    @49 Tube:

    Excellent, then we agree. There is no evidence of the truth of something that is false.

    No, we don’t. What those two cops differ on, was their conclusion. After exchanging information they both had exactly the same evidence. That they came to different conclusions means that either, one of they made a process error, OR they have differing threshold for making conclusions from the probability. Neither of them (nor either of us) *knows* the *truth*.

    @50 EL:

    Agreed, thanks for trying to clear it up. Tube’s definition of evidence is unusual and is going to get him into a lot of arguments.

  51. Cimmerius says

    I suspect that the first caller was fake. It sounded to me like he was doing that clearing of the throat thing to stifle laughter.

  52. xscd says

    @everyone

    This has nothing to do with the latest episode of The Atheist Experience, because I’m still waiting for it to appear on YouTube. But I wanted to mention it in case others might be interested.

    As I have mentioned before, I was raised in an insular Christian missionary community in the Amazon rainforest. Some of the missionaries that lived in or passed through the community were Bible translators whose “mission” was to find and live with native tribes long enough to learn their language and thd translate the Bible or the New Testament into their language.

    Just today I discovered ond of these translators who lived with a tribe not thay far from where I grew up. But this particular Christian missionary, Daniel Everett, as a redult of his interactions with the Pirahs indigenous people of northwestern Brazil, actually lost his faith and is now an atheist. For those interested who have not yet heard about Daniel Everett, a brief summary of his deconversion is available on YouTube– former missionary recounts how he lost his faith to amazonian tribe

    *

  53. frankgturner says

    @ xscd
    Go to
    http://www.atheist-experience.com/archive/
    Mp3’s of the show are available to listen to if you like.
    .
    Also the story that you are telling is not uncommon. Many of the hosts of the show lost their faith by, … Reading the Bible.
    .
    Also
    @ everyone
    Didn’t we talk about the hardness of Pharoah’s heart on here once before?
    .
    I remember someone mentioning a Vicker’s scale and I brought up Calcium Carbonate concentration and viscosity measurements or something. Got a nice giggle out of that.

  54. frankgturner says

    @ Conversion Tube
    I think that I kind of get where you are coming from in that I have heard (more in common speech) the word “evidence” used that way before. I don’t think it works for this venue but I can see where you are coming from.
    .
    I try to be fluid with my communication and I recognize that some are not. Too much fluidity can lead to errors in understanding but unfortunately language is a dynamic thing. Standardization occurs within certain realms to enhance comprehensibility but that only operates as far as individuals are willing to adhere to those standards.
    .
    The standard here seems to indicate a limitation of usage.

  55. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @frankgturner
    For the record, I try to be very accommodating when other people use words differently than myself. I did not mean to imply that Conversation Tube is wrong in that usage, merely that Tube’s usage is unusual. But my major point was to hopefully explain to Tube the point of confusion.

  56. frankgturner says

    @ EL
    And I did not mean to imply that you did either. I was merely indicating that I am familiar with that usage.

  57. greenjelly01 says

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
    The problem with the phrase is that the word “extraordinary” appears twice, but is used with entirely different meanings.
    In “Extraordinary claims”, “extraordinary” refers to the outlandishness or uniqueness of the claim, or the profoundness of its impact.
    In “extraordinary evidence”, “extraordinary” refers to how convincing and clear that evidence is.

    So while it is a catchy phrase, it is easy to misunderstand its intent. Russell summed it up nicely as a “platitude”.

  58. Esquilax says

    Now that I’m listening to the show, for all those who think Joe sounded familiar, that’s because he’s also “Ray from Denver” circa several years back: he called in then about biblical prophecies, and to my ear the voices are downright identical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdMTMxiIf7g

    Given the name change, if I’m right then I’m inclined to say troll.

  59. xscd says

    The last caller asked whether Tracie was taught that animals, such as dogs, would also go to Heaven.

    It was American humorist Will Rogers who said the often quoted: “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

  60. corwyn says

    @60 Jelly:

    In “Extraordinary claims”, “extraordinary” refers to the outlandishness or uniqueness of the claim, or the profoundness of its impact. In “extraordinary evidence”, “extraordinary” refers to how convincing and clear that evidence is.

    Both instances of ‘extraordinary’ refer to the likelihood. An extraordinary claim is one that is very unlikely; extraordinary evidence is also very unlikely (on any other hypothesis). Which is pretty close to the colloquial meaning.

  61. Bugmaster says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal et al:

    Regarding the coin toss example, I think you guys are making it too complicated. I would put it like this:

    We have several possible explanations for the coin repeatedly coming up tails. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

    * Trick coin
    * Coin thrower is using sleight-of-hand
    * CIA mind control gas
    * Aliens
    * Gods

    These are all unlikely, but not equally unlikely. Trick coins and tricky magicians are not exactly common, but not exactly extraordinary, either (especially in Vegas). The CIA does engage in mind control of the time, but the gas sounds a little over the top. Aliens are natural, but no one’s ever seen one; and gods are supernatural, so no one could ever see a god by definition.

    You can’t figure out which hypothesis is correct just by repeatedly tossing the coin, because all of them predict that it will keep coming up tails, so the evidence is equally compatible with all of them. What you need to do is come up with some other kind of evidence which would be compatible with one hypothesis but not the others. For example, if you replaced the coin-tossing human with a custom robot, that could eliminate the “sleight-of-hand” hypothesis. If you wore a gas mask to the experiment, that could eliminate the “CIA gas” hypothesis. If you just looked at the coin carefully, that could eliminate the “trick coin” hypothesis.

    So, you don’t just need more evidence; you need different kinds of evidence. And the more vague your hypothesis is, the more evidence you’ll need.

    For example, if you examined the coin and found it to be perfectly normal, this tells you nothing about the CIA mind-control gas, because you still could be hallucinating the entire thing. If you wear a gas mask and the coin keeps coming up tails, this does not eliminate technologically advanced aliens, because they could be using their forcefields to mess with the coin regardless — in fact, I’m not sure what you could even do to eliminate aliens as the hypothesis, since they’re practically omnipotent.

    Many gods, of course, are literally omnipotent. This makes it impossible to ever eliminate that hypothesis… which makes the hypothesis worthless, since it explains absolutely everything at all times, and therefore does not give you any useful information.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What you need to do is come up with some other kind of evidence which would be compatible with one hypothesis but not the others.

    I believe that was the central thrust of my argument. I am in agreement.

  63. says

    No officer I am perfectly sane, I was just “shot up into the cosmos and embraced by whatever.” WTG last caller, that was solid spiritual woo!

  64. xscd says

    Caller Steven and his “spiritual awakening” reminded me of my own near death experience. Tracie said she had had a similar experience while under thd influence of the drug dilaudid in the hospital, which I have also experienced. In my opinion there is no comparison between the two, but listening to the exchange made me realize the futility of trying to communicate such a personal, private experience, however strongly it has impressed oneself. Some things are just better left personal and private for the most part, or in most circumstances, it seems.

  65. corwyn says

    @67 xscd:

    Some things are just better left personal and private for the most part, or in most circumstances, it seems.

    How can we convince you, that you are deluded, if you don’t tell us about your delusion?

  66. xscd says

    @corwyn

    How can we convince you, that you are deluded, if you don’t tell us about your delusion?

    Perhaps it’s just something that needs to be worked out in one’s own psyche, in one’s own way, in one’s own time. Maybe some things are too personal, and too difficult to effectively communicate, to be able to be resolved in any other way. The futility of interaction might be from both directions, from private to public and from public to private.

  67. frankgturner says

    @ xscd #68
    That’s funny because I have had both as well and the comparison makes sense to me. It is not exactly the same but there are similarities.
    .
    I am ok with your idea of it as you may be closer to your experience than I am to mine. Mine was 21 years ago. As you get further away it gets easier to look at it in a more fluid sense.

  68. corwyn says

    @71 xscd:

    Well you have said that this delusion is long lasting ,and you fully expect it to last the rest of your life, so clearly *you* don’t expect to be able to work it out by yourself. And you came here to discuss it, indicating that at least on some level, you hoped to be talked out of it, or (far more remotely) in to it.

    Do you understand now that the evidence you have *contradicts* the claim you have for it? That would be a great start, and doesn’t require either you or us to fully comprehend the other’s brain states.

  69. xscd says

    @corwyn

    Well you have said that this delusion is long lasting

    I never said it was a delusion, or that I thought it might be a delusion. That is instead how you characterize my experience, though you know very little about it, and though I now feel it is probably impossible and perhaps futile to adequately describe. It might be better just kept to myself, while concentrating on other subjects with which I find myself in agreement with the general atheist community.

  70. Monocle Smile says

    It might be better just kept to myself, while concentrating on other subjects with which I find myself in agreement with the general atheist community

    Confirmed: you don’t get the point of this blog.

  71. frankgturner says

    @ Esquilax #61
    It does sound like the same guy, having a similar slowness of speech that makes him sound none too bright.
    .
    @ greenjelly #60
    The point is that claims require evidence. The bigger and less likely the claim the more needed to make it credible.
    .
    @ xscd
    When you are ready to talk you will be ready. I was and with time I found that what happened to me was most likely just in my mind. It is important and it has meaning, but I don’t think it really happened. Like you I stopped living my life like it had happened long before it stopped feeling like it had actually happened to me. It stopped feeling like it had happened before I even started posting on here a few years ago.
    .
    Maybe I will tell you and the others on here about it someday.

  72. xscd says

    @monocle smile
    I merely plan to focus my comments as you and many regulars do, or do you and they “not understand the point of this blog” either? 🙂

    There are many subjects I can discuss without dragging some of my personal experience into the discusion. I need to give certain personal things more thought anyway (thank you for guessing that, frankgturner).

  73. Monocle Smile says

    I merely plan to focus my comments as you and many regulars do, or do you and they “not understand the point of this blog” either?

    I see you haven’t been following the blog very long. The past 20 or so open threads have involved disagreements among the regulars and non-regulars and we typically hack it out until we get to the heart of that matter. The point of this blog is to discuss everything; nothing is sacred or exempt from examination. Posting something you don’t want discussed is disingenuous and acting defensive afterward makes it worse.

  74. xscd says

    @monocle smile

    The point of this blog is to discuss everything; nothing is sacred or exempt from examination.

    Thank you. I plan to contribute to the discussion in ways I feel interesting, useful or comfortable with, perhaps not often or only sporadically, because I tend to like atheists and secular humanists and their views and dislike those of fundamentalist or evangelical religious people.

  75. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @xscd et al
    Meh. If xscd doesn’t want to engage, he doesn’t have to engage. If he wants to maintain that belief, there’s not much we can do about it, besides what we already have done (question it).

    Of course, I will be annoyed if xscd repeatedly shows up here and just drops his beliefs without explaining nor defending them.

    IMHO, no one has the duty to engage, but IMHO if someone decides to engage by continuing to post on a particular topic, then they do have a duty to explain themselves and engage honestly and constructively while discussing that topic.

  76. xscd says

    @enlightenmentliberal

    Of course, I will be annoyed if xscd repeatedly shows up here and just drops his beliefs without explaining nor defending them.

    I think I would feel the same way.

    Hopefully I have become disinclined to do that over the course of these last two show blogs, the previous one of which I found particularly stressful.

  77. corwyn says

    @74 xscd:

    That is instead how you characterize my experience, though you know very little about it,

    No one describes their own delusions as such. They wouldn’t *be* delusions then.

    Of course I know very little about it, because you are unwilling or unable to even answer questions related to it, or answer questions about rational methodology in the same room with your claims. You have continually tried to put this outside of question (not just the personal parts). The only reason for doing that is that you know at some deep level that it wouldn’t survive such scrutiny. You won’t even acknowledge or try to rebut my contention that your ‘evidence’ disproves your own claim.

  78. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @xscd #82:

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #81:

    Of course, I will be annoyed if xscd repeatedly shows up here and just drops his beliefs without explaining nor defending them.

    I think I would feel the same way.
     
    Hopefully I have become disinclined to do that over the course of these last two show blogs, the previous one of which I found particularly stressful.

    Excellent. You recognize there is a problem.
     
    Reflect, study, discuss, argue both sides with yourself.
    Familiarity dispels fear.
     
    (Sidenote: Every challenging conversation you ever had, you have survived.)
     
    Article/Podcast: Savvy Psychologist – 66 Toxic Habits: Avoidance (7:08)
     
     
    @xscd Ep924 #158 (link):

    With respect to physical reality, my current views […] do not conflict with what is known, but merely are in addition to them and do not affect my practical reality or interaction with it.

    The way you go about loudly coddling your ‘benign’ views is a source of stress.

  79. frankgturner says

    @ All, particularly xscd
    I don’t know for sure but on some level it appears that xscd knows that his “benign” beliefs are not so benign and that unless he wants them subject to scrutiny (which I think on some level he does and just does not know how to deal with the emotional side effects) not to mention them on here. On some level maybe he has realized that this is the point of this blog and just does not want to acknowledge it.
    .
    We are not here to manipulate you out of your beliefs in the same way that evangelicals do xscd and indoctrinate you into atheism the way that missionaries tried to indoctrinate you into Xtianity. I get that You need time to see this though and that is ok. I have seen atheists engage in false dichotomies thinking, all or nothing types of mentalities, and other such types of barriers to rational thought too so being as cautious of us as you are of evangelists makes sense.
    .
    I warn you though, breaking free of your beliefs is going to very likely be stressful. That cannot be completely avoided.

  80. Doug Hayden says

    On ‘extraordinary claims’, how about

    “Extraordinary claims require evidence that you’d accept if you DIDN’T want to believe it.”

    Comments?

  81. JD and Co. says

    To me, “extraordinary evidence” for an “extraordinary claim” would be lots & lots of evidence. If you claimed you saw a dog in your yard and pointed to the dog poop, okay, I’d go with that. If you claimed a UFO landed on your lawn, I would want pictures, news media, and independent verification of several prominent scientists in various fields. Then I *may* accept the claim but no guarantees.

  82. xscd says

    @frankgturner

    I warn you though, breaking free of your beliefs is going to very likely be stressful.

    Divesting myself of my Christian religious beliefs from my early indoctrination was easy, because they didn’t make much sense when I thought about them and I had no evidence for them.

    Abandoning some of my other beliefs would be or will be harder, because I have some personal evidence for them. For example, during certain periods of my life I have occasionally dreamed of events that later happened in my waking life, usually about 2-10 days afterward. In the dream, these events, like tiny movie snippets, were very realistic and vivid, causing me to remember them immediately when I awoke and occasionally thereafter, and often included people, locations or circumstances that were unfamiliar to me. When these events later occurred to me in my real life, exactly or almost exactly as in the dream, they seemed natural in the regular flow of my life and usually rather mundane, although in the dream, in isolation and disjointed from before-and-after context, they sometimes seemed a little unusual.

    I’m guessing that most regular posters here would not believe this to be possible, or would seek some explanation other than precognition, and those persons would require much more evidence or more concrete evidence. Yet because it happened to me, it would be much harder for me to merely discount the experience.

  83. Monocle Smile says

    Yet because it happened to me, it would be much harder for me to merely discount the experience

    And this is why we feel you’re not sufficiently skeptical. If you have an experience and you can’t verify it with any actual evidence nor show it to anyone else, then you have to consider that it didn’t actually happen. I mean, c’mon, dude…we KNOW how easy it is to fuck with our brains. Why do you assume that this “precognition” is what you think it is? Do you not understand that deja vu is a studied phenomenon with several explanations? It’s like you haven’t even begun to examine your experiences with cursory research and merely latched onto your uninformed gut feeling.

  84. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @xscd #87:

    I have occasionally dreamed of events that later happened […] When these events later occurred to me in my real life, exactly or almost exactly as in the dream, they seemed natural in the regular flow of my life and usually rather mundane

    You dreamed about mundane events. Sometimes very similar mundane events happened, given over a week to look for matches.
     
    And any dream that didn’t have a match, was apparently not prophetic and so, not worth mentioning. Moreover, you retroactively narrow the time-frame to “certain periods of your life” to enrich the hit-to-miss ratio.
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

  85. corwyn says

    @87 xscd:

    I’m guessing that most regular posters here would not believe this to be possible

    On the contrary, the same thing happens to me all the time. What confuses me is why you think that this is unverifiable.

    Start a dream diary, write down everything you dream, immediately upon waking up. Once you are fully awake go over the diary and write down how likely you think those things you dreamed are to happen in reality in the next two weeks (say). You can divide into individual details if that is the way you tend to notice these things, each one getting a likelihood.

    Then when you have one of these experiences, go back to your dream diary and see how correct the dream actually was. That is a hit, and you get to increase your confidence according to Bayes theorem. When two weeks have past, go back and any dream which did not hit, is a miss, and you decrease your confidence according to Bayes theorem. Additionally, any time you have the experience, and there is no corresponding entry in the dream diary, that counts as a miss as well, and again affects your confidence.

    For convincing *us*, just publish your dream diary every day, and include any waking experiences (with any available evidence). After you have done this for a while, I will tell you what I discovered about my own similar experience.

  86. xscd says

    @monocle smile
    None of us have concrete physical evidence for much of what we experience, athough we have our experience and our memory, which we often trust to a greater or lesser degree.

    @sky captain
    I agree about the probability of mundane dream experiences later happening in real life, but some of the dream snippets I had included people, places or circumstances I was unfamiliar with until the experience happened in my waking life.

    @corwyn
    I have at times kept a dream diary or at least a notation of some of the more vivid of the dream events. Most of the contents of my dreams never happened in my real life, and couldn’t have done so because of their fantastical or very-different-than-my-waking-life nature. It was only a certain type of dream snippet, that seemed to occur just before I awoke and was particularly vivid and lifelike, that later happened in my waking life.

    @everyone
    I think it may be entirely possible for a rational, scientific answer to exist for this phenomenon, perhaps having to do with time and space folding in on themselves as Einstein and modern cosmologists theorize. I certainly don’t know.

  87. frankgturner says

    @ xscd
    Have you ever considered false association? A type of false memory.
    .
    I used to have very vivid dreams like what you are describing and I kept a dream journal. Then I started keeping a very detailed journal about my daily life and I saw something start to happen as I got more and more detailed about my daily journal. I realized that I was so incredibly detailed about my daily life that there became a strong likelihood that I would associate something about my day with my dreams.
    .
    I realized that it was not really precognition, just that if you think hard enough you can associate ANYTHING that happens that day with your dreams. Sort of like those Muslims who will claim that Mohammed made precognitive claims about swine flu by claiming that pig was unclean meat in the Koran (to extend the metaphor) or some other nonsense.
    .
    I talked for a long time with a Mormon woman who claimed that John Smith predicted the Civil War. I did some reading and it was nothing any journalist of the 1800s could not have figured out given the mood and progress of the time. With the broadness of the brush she was using, loads of people predicted it. Have you ever thought That when you see a place in real life That you could not have been familiar with it That maybe you heard about it? John Smith most certainly heard about the stress between the north and the south in the US in his time if he had been listening, even if he had only been listening passively.
    .
    That is not what I shoot for when I am thinking of precognition. I would be impressed if it were exact dates, addresses, and people whose full names began coming out. A few places that I have never been too before is nothing, I could have heard about them and just not processed the information until I got there.
    .
    That certainly makes rational sense that you could have heard about where you were going before hand and began to paint a picture of it subconciously which appeared in a dream. Passive listening is a big part of something that the brain does. Using Occam’s razor, wouldn’t that make more sense than “precognition”?

  88. xscd says

    @frankgturner
    Thank you very much for your comments. They do include some important considerations that I should probably take into account.

  89. corwyn says

    @92 xscd:

    None of us have concrete physical evidence for much of what we experience

    Nonsense. Most of what I experience IS concrete physical evidence. Bandwidth of my sense is HUGE, and problems with it (experiences which don’t match concrete physical evidence) are extremely rare. Once per day would be a very conservative estimate.

    It was only a certain type of dream snippet, that seemed to occur just before I awoke and was particularly vivid and lifelike, that later happened in my waking life.

    So only put *those* in your diary. You should realize that all this back-filling, makes your claim look much weaker (to yourself). A rationalist would rejoice at being told a way to test their hypothesis. That you immediately make excuses instead says a lot about you.

  90. corwyn says

    @92:

    I think it may be entirely possible for a rational, scientific answer to exist for this phenomenon, perhaps having to do with time and space folding in on themselves as Einstein and modern cosmologists theorize. I certainly don’t know.

    Only if you sleep near a black hole!

    No, the rational answer is that it is all occurring only in your head.

    And although you don’t know, you are happy to invent an explanation, and believe it? And let that change your life?

  91. frankgturner says

    There is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that xscd got me thinking about that applies to the situation. If you have not seen it, you should. “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy,” it is a good episode. I can’t guarantee that everyone would get the same point out of it that I am trying to make but it gives the idea of how imagination can run away with us and how it can be mistakenly interpreted as reality.
    .
    I am sure we have all been victim to an individual who had a conversation with us in their head that did not actually happen out loud.

  92. Scott says

    This is in regard to the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” discussion.

    If you had lived next door for over ten years or so to a man named Gary Ridgway, an unremarkable factory worker, and were told, before his arrest, that he was the Green River Killer, the infamous and prolific serial murderer who had eluded the police for more than a decade, that would have been, presumably, an “extraordinary claim,” “extraordinary” because Ridgway seemed “ordinary,” even dull, and not especially bright; he certainly did not strike anyone as a criminal mastermind who could possibly get away with something like this for so long a period of time. The “evidence” that caught him was not, in my opinion, especially “extraordinary”; his DNA profile was finally and definitively matched to early victims, and he then confessed to most if not all of his other murders. DNA profiling had reached its maturity by the time it caught Ridgway, which is why I would not consider it, in this case, “extraordinary”; it had become, rather, an “ordinary” way of catching criminals, “ordinary” as in “accepted” routinely by courts of law. Ridgway himself–no genius–was familiar enough with DNA evidence by this time to know that his reign of terror was over, and so he admitted his guilt rather than go to trial.

    Another way to illustrate the problematic nature of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is to exchange “extraordinary” with a different adjective. For example, do “sad claims require sad evidence”? Do “happy claims require happy evidence? Do “difficult claims require difficult evidence”?

    A claim requires evidence commensurate to the claim.

  93. Narf says

    @Scott
    The problem is that the other adjectives you listed are not matters of degree.  They’re different kinds of adjectives, and so they don’t apply to the construction.  You can make any statement look silly by running it through a game of Mad Libs.

    Try using something more appropriate, like “Common claims require common evidence,” and the problem goes away.

    The final sentence in your comment means the exact same thing as the statement under discussion.  Your sentence is a more global statement, and the statement under discussion is a narrower scope within it.

    Your entire argument about serial killers is a bit off, too.  We know that the vast majority of serial killers have not been raving psychos who frightened everyone around them.  They’re often quiet, unassuming types that no one would ever expect, except for a few specific, tell-tale quirks, which people around them probably never see.  It would be shocking, sure, if the quiet, unassuming guy turned out to be a closet-sociopath who had murdered a bunch of people, but it would fit the pattern.

  94. corwyn says

    @98 & 99:

    ‘Extraordinary’ in the context of the quote is about *likelihood*. And is the same in both instances.

    presumably, an “extraordinary claim,” “extraordinary” because Ridgway seemed “ordinary,” even dull, and not especially bright;

    Not really. Someone being a serial killer is an extraordinary claim (if it is) simply because the prior probability is so low. There just aren’t that many of them. If we start with reference class of just serial killers, they *all* seem to be the quiet ordinary type. One could even say that being a quiet ordinary type is evidence that they *are* serial killers.[1]

    The trouble with using ‘ordinary’ evidence for extraordinary claims, is that mostly, ordinary evidence will have hypothesis which are 1) more likely on that evidence, 2) more probable than the extraordinary claim. Take crop circles, they are evidence that aliens visited us, and crushed our wheat fields, they are also evidence that kids got into the wheat field and pulled a prank. The latter is obviously more likely, so crop circles are always going to favor the hypothesis of prank more than the hypothesis of aliens. In order to favor aliens, the evidence must be more extraordinary, that is, something not easily done as a prank by bored kids.

    As an aside, if you don’t think DNA analysis is extraordinary (in the sense of not ordinary), you have lost so much of the wonder of the universe. We are talking about differences in individual atoms, in molecules with hundreds of billions of atoms, identifying certain individuals out of billions.

    [1] This evidence may be overstated in the media. Do actual analysis before you update based on it.

  95. Scott says

    I absolutely do think that the analysis of DNA evidence is “extraordinary.” Its application, however, in the criminal justice system, has now become commonplace. This is an illustration of the problem I was trying to discuss. There is a true sense in which DNA evidence (i.e., the immense science behind it) is absolutely extraordinary, brilliant, complex, mind-bending. But there is another true sense in which DNA evidence (i.e., its common application in criminal cases) is now a fact of modern life that has been widely popularized in both true and fictional crime television programs.

  96. Narf says

    @Scott
    In that way, extraordinary is a context-dependent term … as are almost all descriptors.  After the aliens show up and are hanging out in every space port, the extraordinary nature of the claim of the existence of aliens changes, as well.

    Martymer is doing a rather good series, ripping apart an article from some nut-job proponent of psychics, alternative medicine, and miracles, who claims that any skeptics who don’t accept these things are not real skeptics but only pseudo-skeptics: The Woo of Wu – Pwning debunkingskeptics.com.

    In that series, Martymer gives a rather good definition of extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence, when the woo-apologist challenges that it’s a sliding scale.  I can’t remember exactly where in the series it occurs, but the whole series is very much worth watching.  I think I’ll go through it again, and I’ll update with the quote and the time-stamp, when I encounter it.

  97. Narf says

    “A claim is extraordinary if and only if accepting it requires a significant alteration of one’s current understanding of reality. That is, the claim is incompatible with the beliefs currently held. The more evidence supports these existing beliefs, the more extraordinary the claim.

    “Evidence supporting an extraordinary claim is extraordinary if and only if, faced with this evidence, the claim being false becomes more extraordinary than the claim being true.”

    From The Woo of Wu – Part 2 – Arguments 1 & 2 – 4:05

    Seems fairly straightforward.

  98. Scott says

    That makes sense to me, though I maintain that it is less easy for even reasonable people to consistently agree on what is an “extraordinary claim” than is commonly supposed precisely because of the contextual variables to which you previously alluded, as well as the varying shades of meaning conveyed in the denotation and connotations of the word “extraordinary.” Many if not most parents, for example, have a hard time accepting that their son or daughter is in fact a criminal. For them, the charges against their son or daughter may well seem to be “extraordinary claims,” but for the judge, jury, and prosecutor, these same claims, supported by the evidence, appear to be obvious, even banal, and, at the very least, proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

  99. Narf says

    @Scott
    Let’s look at your preferred statement:  “A claim requires evidence commensurate to the claim.”

    You’re going to run into the same problem here.  What kind of evidence will your hypothetical parents demand to demonstrate the preposterous claim that their sweet little baby could have committed a crime?  The evidence that outside observers would consider commensurate to the perfectly reasonable claim that that obnoxious little punk committed a crime is much less than the parents would consider commensurate to the preposterous claim about their angelic baby.

    You’re addressing the issue of objectivity, not a problem with the statement.  You’re not going to come up with a better statement by swapping out adjectives or by removing them entirely, and Sagan’s classic phrasing of it is far more pithy.

  100. Scott says

    Narf

    Which of the two sentences in quotes below would you find more condescending? In which sentence am I trying to smuggle in an unproved assertion?

    1) “I will now respond to your claim that my preferred phrasing is no improvement on Sagan’s.”

    2) “I will now respond to your extraordinary claim that my preferred phrasing is no improvement on Sagan’s.”

    By the way, I too think that Sagan’s phrase is a classic. It is pithy. It is certainly memorable. It is often, perhaps usually, true. My claim is that it is not always true.

  101. Narf says

    What does condescension have to do with anything?  The fact that someone’s religious claims are extraordinary isn’t something you lead with.  It’s a response, as is almost every other atheist argument.  You bring it up when Christians ask why the warm, fuzzy feeling they get in church isn’t proof that Jesus loves us.

    And we’re not trying to smuggle in anything.  You’re horribly misrepresenting the statement.  Phrasing is important.

    Plus, you should follow it up with an explanation of why  it’s an extraordinary claim.  It should be used as a pivot point in a conversation, not as something that you just drop on the floor like a dead fish, for everyone to stare at.  It should be the beginning of a conversation about standards of evidence, not a conversation ender.

    My claim is that it is not always true.

    Can you give me an example in which it isn’t?

  102. Narf says

    More to the point, can you give me an example in which Sagan’s phrase isn’t true, but your statement about evidence being commensurate to the claim is?

  103. Scott says

    Extraordinary claim: The New York Jets will win the Super Bowl in the coming year.
    Ordinary evidence: The Jets win enough games in the 2015 regular season to make the playoffs. They advance to the Super Bowl in early 2016 and win it, witnessed by millions.

    Extraordinary claim: I have won a major state lottery, not once, but twice.
    Ordinary evidence: I provide links to my story covered by major news outlets and prove, using ordinary evidence, that I am the person featured in the story.

  104. corwyn says

    @109:

    You are still not understanding what we mean by extraordinary evidence. News stories are extraordinary if they *describe* something which is extraordinarily unlikely. It isn’t the normal-ness of a news story, it is the non-normal-ness of what the story SAYS.

    Put another way, what is the likelihood that I should set (in advance) to finding true news stories about someone winning the lottery twice? Since the likelihood of there BEING a news story to that effect, given that someone DID win the lottery twice is near 100%, we can deduce that the likelihood of there being a news story to that effect is the same as the likelihood of someone actually winning the lottery twice. So if the claim is extraordinary, so is the evidence. QED.

  105. corwyn says

    @110:

    I should probably reiterate, there is a point at which a new story describes something SO extraordinary, that we should not accept it as evidence, since it is far more likely that the story is made up, than that it describes reality, thus some even MORE extraordinary evidence would be required. (see any Weekly World News for examples.)

  106. Narf says

    I was just getting to this stuff, corwyn.  I was just addressing the Catholic, over in the other post, since he’s more fun.  😀

    Your examples completely fail, Scott.

    The first one is absolutely incoherent. You’re claiming that the New York Jets will win the Superbowl, and as evidence, you’re presenting the record of the New York Jets, after the season is over, and the record of the Superbowl game that they won, after it has happened.

    If you want to claim that the Jets won the Superbowl, after it’s already happened, then you don’t have an extraordinary claim.  If you want to claim that you know the Jets are going to win the Superbowl, at the beginning of the season, and you go on to demonstrate it by showing us the time machine that you used to travel forward to see the future and take us forward in time to see it ourselves, then you have extraordinary evidence.

    Extraordinary claim: I have won a major state lottery, not once, but twice.
    Ordinary evidence: I provide links to my story covered by major news outlets and prove, using ordinary evidence, that I am the person featured in the story.

    Quoting Martymer, again:

    “A claim is extraordinary if and only if accepting it requires a significant alteration of one’s current understanding of reality. That is, the claim is incompatible with the beliefs currently held. The more evidence supports these existing beliefs, the more extraordinary the claim.”

    That would be a pretty freakish probability, but it isn’t an extraordinary claim. Check this out:

    Joan Ginther tops many multiple winners in lottery history

    Your scenario has happened … multiple times.  That’s a very poor example.  Would you like to try again?

  107. corwyn says

    @107 Narf:

    I expect that given a proper definition of ‘extraordinary claim’ every religious person would agree that their claim of the existence of a god is an extraordinary claim. They WANT the claim to be extraordinary. Their god is not only omniscient, but ALSO omnipresent, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent as well. Some just seem to want a fuzzy warm feeling, or a brain misfire, to be proof of that.

  108. corwyn says

    @113:

    I just noticed that omnipresent gains nothing other than making their claim MORE extraordinary. Is there anything, an omniscient, omnipotent but NOT omnipresent being couldn’t do, that one who is omnipresent could? I don’t see any. So the whole POINT of adding that claim is to make the total package more extraordinary.

  109. Narf says

    @113&114 – corwyn
    Hmm, honestly, I think they probably want it both ways.  Jesus did this wonderful, extraordinary thing for us, but the existence of their god is perfectly in keeping with what we understand of reality … because the Euthyphro Dilemma is invalid, because free-will.

    There’s an equivocation in there, you might have noticed, between the first and second half of that sentence.  The way I used extraordinary isn’t the same as what we’re talking about.  I bet that a Christian would do something similar, if presented with the subject.

  110. Narf says

    @Scott
    Another thought about your lottery example.

    Say you told me that you won $100 or even $1,000 playing the lottery?  I wouldn’t need evidence.  It’s a perfectly mundane claim.  I’m willing to take you at your word.

    … except that if you said it right now, after me prompting you, I would think you were probably just fucking with me, because that’s the way people work when they’re joking around.

    If you told me that you had won the multi-million dollar jackpot, I would be a bit skeptical, but I’d be willing to go along with it and wait for the news coverage to mention you or for you to start living it up as if you had just won a few million dollars.  I’d probably accept your claim provisionally, with the expectation of evidence to come, particularly if you seemed appropriately ecstatic and shocked.

    If you claimed to have won multiple million-dollar lotteries, and you weren’t living in a manner consistent with someone worth several million dollars … were still working your $12/hour job and didn’t seem to be spending much more than $20,000 a year …
    Yeah, then I wouldn’t believe you, and I would need evidence before even entertaining the idea.

    So, any way you look at it … no, not an extraordinary claim, in any way.