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Friday, August 29, 2014

How We Evaluate Claims

I wrote this some time ago and never published it. It's pretty simple but I hope that it helps to get the point across.

How We Evaluate Claims

When we are presented with a particular claim, regardless of the content, we go through a process to determine whether or not the claim is true.

If we can find nothing with which to justify the claim, we can simply stop there. There is no need to accept a claim which has not been positively justified.

We certainly can go on to search for disconfirming evidence, something which would show that the claim is not true; however by this point it isn’t necessary to do so in order to reject the claim’s truthfulness.

However, time and time again, we see and hear people making the argument that ‘you can’t prove that it’s NOT true’. We don’t have to. It is never reasonable to accept a claim based on the non-existence of disconfirming evidence alone. Bertrand Russell demonstrates why this is so with his teapot analogy.

For example, it may be that ‘String Theory’ is a true and accurate model by which to view reality. ‘String Theory’ has not yet been justified as true, therefore it is only reasonable to withhold belief in ‘String Theory’ being true.

It may be that, in the future, we will find evidence which disconfirms, or disproves, ‘String Theory’. However, even if that does not happen, there is not sufficient reason to believe that it is true, until it has been justified.

It may be that, in the future, we will find evidence which confirms ‘String Theory’. However, even if that happens, it does not justify belief in ‘String Theory’ now.

By the same token, even if we were suddenly presented good evidence that a ‘God’ exists, it would not retroactively justify the people who believe that a ‘God’ exists now.

Make sense?

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