• Whenever we analyze the probability that some hypothesis is true, we have to know two things: how likely the hypothesis is apart from the evidence, how likely the evidence is if the hypothesis is true and how likely the evidence is if the hypothesis is false. From those things we can know how likely the hypothesis is in light of all our available information. I’ve written on this before.

Knowing how likely a hypothesis is apart from the evidence is certainly possible, and even necessary. For example, suppose that I take out a dice and roll it seven times. The numbers I roll are 1 – 2 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 6 – 1. Suppose that I come up with a hypothesis to explain this sequence: there are CIA agents using high – tech methods of influencing the dice’s roll, and the CIA agents wanted me to roll exactly that sequence of outcomes (1 – 2 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 6 – 1). This hypothesis would entail the evidence we have with 100% probability, whereas the hypothesis that the dice rolls resulted from various physical factors not controlled by anyone would only predict this sequence as 1 chance in 279,936 (the chance of each number is one out of six, and since there are seven numbers the total probability of this specific sequence winds up being one out of 279,936).

When it comes to predicting the evidence, the CIA hypothesis holds all the cards. However, the probability of this hypothesis apart from the evidence it predicts is sorely lacking. For example, our general knowledge about the world makes it absurdly improbable that CIA agents would want to do anything like this, and, moreover, we have no reason to suspect the CIA agents would want the sequence 1 – 2 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 6 – 1 instead of one of the 279,935 other possible outcomes. The prior probability of the CIA agent theory is so low that its evidence-predicting advantage just doesn’t save it, or even come close to saving it.

I say all that to say this: it has been a point of great contention in debates over Jesus’ resurrection what the prior probability is of God doing a miracle, or whether that even matters in the first place. For example, in the debate with Robert Greg Cavin, Mike Licona said that “If God exists and God wanted to raise Jesus from the dead, the probability would be 100%.” Right. And if the CIA exists and if they have high tech gear and can interfere with dice rolls and also want some exact sequence to come up, then it will. So what? Obviously, the real meat of the issue is whether God exists and whether God would want to raise Jesus from the dead. In order to have a case for the resurrection, you need not prove that the combination of these two things is highly probable. Nonetheless, you must be able to say something about the prior probability. Reason being that evidence-prediction isn’t enough all by itself, as the CIA agent example demonstrates. We must take into account both prior probability and evidential probability and compare it with known alternatives.

Don’t take my word for it though. Let’s look at what Christian experts on the subject have to say on the issue. Richard Swinburne, a philosopher who uses Bayes’ theorem, understands this and even attempts to argue the probability of both assumptions is high, see his book The Resurrection of of God Incarnate as well as in an article available online. See especially Swinburne’s comment in the linked article:

“So to determine whether Jesus rose from the dead, it is not enough to investigate whether what I have called the posterior historical evidence (what St. Paul and the Gospel writers wrote…) One must also investigate whether general background evidence supports the worldview that there is a God…And we must also investigate the prior historical evidence—that is, whether the nature and circumstances of the life of Jesus were such that if there is a God, he would be likely to raise this person from the dead.”

Timothy McGrew, another Christian philosopher who seems to have quite a bit of background knowledge in mathematics, makes a bayesian argument for Jesus’ resurrection and, for the sake of argument, he allows the prior probability of Jesus’ resurrection to be as low as one in ten to the fortieth power (see The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology or the rough draft posted on Lydia McGrew’s website).

Swinburne deals with problem differently: he thinks he has demonstrated that God exists (I disagree, but that’s another story) and so estimates the prior probability of God’s existence at 50%, as a way of sort of “lowballing” the prior probability so that fewer people can take issue with it. Swinburne believes he can demonstrate that “if there was a God, he would be likely to raise Jesus” with at least 50% probability (see his arguments in his Philosophi Christi article) and so as he has it the prior probability of Jesus being raised is 25%. Swinburne’s argument for the latter isn’t too solid, and isn’t the kind of thing that would convince anyone who didn’t already believe Christianity. He argues something to the effect that ‘surely it would make sense for God to become incarnate and share in human suffering… Surely it would make sense that God would require atonement for sins… Surely it would make sense for God to raise himself from the dead to show that this atonement he made was accepted by himself…’ I’m not joking. This really is the gist of what Swinburne says. Read the linked article if you don’t believe it. My problem is that none of this seems objective at all. It’s just gut feelings of someone in the Christian religion, and the gut feelings he has. Other people have different gut feelings, and, moreover, I think that objective arguments can be made against the atonement-for-sin belief being completely wrong (see Ken Pulliam’s chapter in The End of Christianity).

VJ Torley, writing at Uncommon Descent, says the following:

“Sal Cordova points out that Cavin and Colombetti rely on a questionable assumption in their argument: they assume that if God made the laws of Nature, then those laws are immutable. Cordova offers a simple counter-example: ‘For example, I could write a computer program that spits out the number 3 every second, and then once a year it spits out 7.’ In a similar vein, the mathematician Charles Babbage… asked the reader to imagine a calculating engine that displays very predictable regularity for billions of iterations, such as a machine that counts integers. Then it suddenly jumps to another natural law, which again repeats itself with predictable regularity. If the designer of the engine had made it that way on purpose, argued Babbage, it would show even more intelligent design than a machine that merely continued counting integers forever. He concluded that miracles do not truly contravene the laws of Nature at a higher level…”

Let’s take the computer example: how would one be able to know that the computer program spit out a 7 once per year if it usually spit-out a 3? Well, if we knew the programmer and knew that he programmed it that way (or if we had some way of establishing independently of the evidence that he did). However, this analogy can’t be translated into the resurrection debate: we do not know apart from the evidence that God exists and that he programmed the laws of physics with an exception at Jesus’ death. It could be the case, but all that begs the question of how likely it is to be the case. Moreover, it would be entirely rational for someone watching the computer to predict a ‘3’ will show up next if that was all they had ever seen in the past (and, the observer would be completely correct in inferring “3” the vast majority of the time). Revising such a belief would only take place after incontrovertible evidence of a ‘7’ cropping up was obtained.

I would argue that the prior probability of the resurrection is incredibly low. The occurrence of miracles generally is not something reliably documented, whereas most people, I think, would readily admit that most occurrences in day to day life aren’t supernatural in nature. Moreover, we can be pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of miracle claims are false. And the exact nature of God seems difficult to determine a priori. After all, an agnostic on the matter would have no way of objectively saying which one of the many thousands of religious sects knows the true nature of God (or gods) assuming a God or gods exist in the first place. Any way we slice it, the prior probability of the resurrection is going to be extremely low, and therefore the evidence for it will have to be extremely good. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we don’t have it, as I have written on before.

Category: Uncategorized

### Article by: Nicholas Covington

I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.

1. kraut2 says:

The main argument against Jesus as a divine entity (aside from the question of gods existence) sent for his supposed sacrifice having existed is the fact that no two persons Adam and Eve that could have violated gods command in a garden of Eden and were the parents of all human kind ever lived. (the lowest number of early humans necessary to account for genetic diversity today was assessed as being around 12 000 beings)
This makes this supposed sacrifice rather nonsensical. If no original sin existed – no sacrifice necessary.
The whole miracle claim for jesus falls apart when the discussion is put onto the rather solid ground of evidence and falsifiable hypothesis than the shifting sands of immutable religious dogma.

2. You seem to be under the impression that we can come up with reliable, objective prior probabilities.

Gambling examples are nice because there will be little disagreement about what the prior probabilities are. But when it comes to historical events, where each event is unique to some extent, it is much more difficult to come up with a prior probability. How do you come up with reliable, objective prior probabilities for historical events?

Consider some modern day conspiracy theories. What is the prior probability of the Holocaust occurring? What is the prior probability of the official account of JFK’s assassination being correct? What is the prior probability of the moon landing being real? What is the prior probability of the official account of 9/11 being correct?

P.S. You may want to edit posts that rely on Matt McCormick’s fake numbers in regards to miracles and Lourdes. I ran this by you before.

1. ncovington89 says:

@Jayman, I recall us discussing McCormick’s argument some time ago, and I think I did agree that the numbers were somewhat sketchy / arbitrary. However, I think the Lourdes cures are unsupportive of the miraculous. For one thing, the criteria used there are basically intended to weed out false positives. While it is certainly possible that some genuine cures are missed by this process, this is little more than a possibility. Moreover, one of the examples Keener gives is terribly unconvincing:

“a woman who had been suffering from ‘advanced ankylosing spondylitis of
the spine’ was now able to pick up objects from the floor ‘without the
slightest pain or difficulty.’ Lourdes rejected this cure because X-rays
showed that her spine remained diseased, but the doctor notes that her
new ability defied scientific explanation.”

This is pretty lame for an all-powerful deity. This seems much better explained as an initial misdiagnosis or as a natural anomaly (that is, something natural which is not yet understood).

Last but not least, the Lourdes examples have been turned around to argue against the miraculous in other ways. Carl Sagan argues in “The Demon Haunted World” (p.221) that there is no statistically significant difference in cancer remissions in the general population and Lourdes visitors (only a minor negative difference for those at Lourdes). Michael Martin points out, I believe in “Case Against Christianity” that the number of ‘inexplicable cures’ seems to have gradually decreased over time, indicating the cures are not miracles but natural anomalies, that is, the cures have natural explanations which are simply not understood; as medical knowledge has increased the unexplained has decreased.

1. For one thing, the criteria used there are basically intended to weed out false positives. While it is certainly possible that some genuine cures are missed by this process, this is little more than a possibility.

It’s more than a mere possibility. More than 1200 cures accepted by the Medical Bureau after multiple examinations lack some of the requisite documentation. There are also 4000 “probable cures”.

This is pretty lame for an all-powerful deity. This seems much better explained as an initial misdiagnosis or as a natural anomaly (that is, something natural which is not yet understood).

I’m sure the woman suffering the condition didn’t think it was lame. And you’re in no position to offer a diagnosis.

Carl Sagan argues in “The Demon Haunted World” (p.221) that there is no statistically significant difference in cancer remissions in the general population and Lourdes visitors (only a minor negative difference for those at Lourdes).

That’s irrelevant. The issue is whether there are any miraculous cures at Lourdes.

Michael Martin points out, I believe in “Case Against Christianity” that the number of ‘inexplicable cures’ seems to have gradually decreased over time, indicating the cures are not miracles but natural anomalies, that is, the cures have natural explanations which are simply not understood; as medical knowledge has increased the unexplained has decreased.

That’s the kind of general counter-argument that ignores the specifics. It doesn’t hold water upon closer inspection. No healings were admitted between 1913 and 1946. Martin would conclude it was because medical knowledge increased (did it decrease after that date?). But he’d be wrong. There were 89 inexplicable cures noted between 1925 and 1946, it’s just that they were not proclaimed miracles.

2. ncovington89 says:

“How do you come up with reliable, objective prior probabilities for historical events?”

Well, thank you for giving me an idea for a good blog post! The answer to this can be fairly complicated, but, nonetheless, I think it is doable. You commented that historical events are unique (at least to some extent) and while this is true, it’s true about everything. Every dice roll / coin toss is done at a different place and different time in which there are millions of microscopic differences (i.e. Maybe I toss the dice with a little bit more force than you do, or maybe the air is denser where I live than where you live, and all of these little factors may have some conceivable effect on the outcome).

I’ll make a few comments to see if I can give you some hints on how.

First, the prior probability need not be some *exact* number. It’s perfectly acceptable for the prior to be a range (i.e. between 5 and 20 percent).

Second, there are often multiple ways to analyze a problem with Bayes’ theorem, and I think what you want to do is choose the way that is workable. Example: with the holocaust, one might try to find the prior by comparing nazi germany to other countries, in which case the prior would be extremely small (most countries certainly don’t carry out large scale attempted genocides against the Jewish people). On the other hand, you could also find the prior by comparing nazi germany to nations in which a highly anti-Jewish dictator has taken to power, which I imagine would bring the prior probability up somewhat. Or you could conditionalize the prior under the testimony given by a holocaust survivor and, via the principle that most people tell the truth most of the time, infer a prior of ninety nine percent (and generate a consequent probability by looking at other historical data). With the holocaust, making a mistake on the prior doesn’t matter too much, because you’d still wind up concluding it happened given the incredible amount of historical evidence.

However, it is an important topic of philosophical discussion concerning how we should choose a reference class, especially when the reference class might make a difference in the outcome. The problem may seem insoluable but many rules of thumb have been developed which make both logical sense and have much practical applicability, example:

1. First, the prior probability need not be some *exact* number.

The problem is that the range a prior probability falls into can be quite wide.

Second, there are often multiple ways to analyze a problem with Bayes’ theorem, and I think what you want to do is choose the way that is workable.

The problem is that there may be multiple, workable ways to approach the topic that yield differing results. Moreover, being workable is not the same as being correct.

Or you could conditionalize the prior under the testimony given by a holocaust survivor and, via the principle that most people tell the truth most of the time, infer a prior of ninety nine percent (and generate a consequent probability by looking at other historical data).

Isn’t considering the the testimony of a Holocaust survivor something that needs to be left out when determining the prior probability? And, while I agree that testimony is a generally reliable form of evidence, your example would make it possible for the Christian to state that the resurrection had a 99 percent prior probability of happening.

However, it is an important topic of philosophical discussion concerning how we should choose a reference class, especially when the reference class might make a difference in the outcome.

It might make a huge difference in the case of Jesus’ resurrection. Suppose we assign a prior probability to the resurrection of 1/100,000,000,000 on the assumption that there has been 1 alleged resurrection for the 100 billion people who have ever lived. But if the reference class were changed to include just the estimated 50 billion males who have lived we’ve doubled the odds in favor of the resurrection. We could better the odds further by using Jews or messianic claimants as the reference class.

The problem may seem insoluable but many rules of thumb have been developed which make both logical sense

In the post you wrote: “Whenever we analyze the probability that some hypothesis is true, we have to know two things: how likely the hypothesis is apart from the evidence, how likely the evidence is if the hypothesis is true and how likely the evidence is if the hypothesis is false.” If the problem is insoluble, as I think it probably is, then Bayes’ theorem doesn’t help us out much in analyzing hypotheses.

1. ncovington89 says:

“The problem is that there may be multiple, workable ways to approach the topic that yield differing results. Moreover, being workable is not the same as being correct.”

True and true, though I think that if we follow the rule of using a reference class narrow enough not to include any examples with relevant differences but wide enough to include a fair number of other examples, we’d tend to get approximately the same result no matter how we analyzed the problem. This is especially the case in extremely well-evidenced matters.

“Isn’t considering the the testimony of a Holocaust survivor something that needs to be left out when determining the prior probability?”

Oh no. As I understand it, you’re quite free to place a piece of knowledge, such as a testimony, into your background.

“And, while I agree that testimony is a generally reliable form of evidence, your example would make it possible for the Christian to state that the resurrection had a 99 percent prior probability of happening.”

I disagree. We need to choose a reference class narrow enough such that other examples have no relevant differences. Miracle stories do not fall into the same reference class as ordinary testimony, and this is because there is a strong tendency for miracle claims to be false, as we know from thousands of examples. So, if we conditionalize the prior under the fact that “Early Christians claimed a miracle” the prior turns out to be very low indeed.

“We could better the odds further by using Jews or messianic claimants as the reference class.”

I would argue that the proper reference class is “miracle claims,” (in which case the prior is low, along the lines of 1 in 1,000) or something similar, i.e. the reference class of all existing religions / worldviews (if Christianity is true that entails Jesus’ resurrection, so finding the probability of the former dictates the probability of the latter). Since I use the principle of indifference in probability, the chances of some particular religion being right would be along the lines of 1 in 1,000.

1. . . . we’d tend to get approximately the same result no matter how we analyzed the problem. This is especially the case in extremely well-evidenced matters.

Coming up with reliable, objective posterior probabilities is also dicey. For example, perhaps I think 500 witnesses to Christ’s resurrection makes it well-evidenced, while you don’t.

Oh no. As I understand it, you’re quite free to place a piece of knowledge, such as a testimony, into your background.

My understanding is that background knowledge includes everything not related to the case in question. The general reliability of testimony could be included in your background knowledge. The testimony of an actual witness to the event would not be included in your background knowledge. If such a distinction is not made then I’m not sure what the difference is between the prior and posterior probabilities.

Miracle stories do not fall into the same reference class as ordinary testimony, and this is because there is a strong tendency for miracle claims to be false, as we know from thousands of examples.

First, we need to distinguish between what the witness witnessed and how he interpreted the event he witnessed. Suppose I witness a lightning bolt strike the earth and claim it is a miracle from Zeus. My testimony is accurate in relating that I observed a lightning bolt strike the earth but is inaccurate in ascribing the strike to Zeus.

Second, I’m not sure witnessing a miracle is different than witnessing other historical events.

Third, using McCormick’s methodology, which was allegedly good enough when thought to support atheism, the testimony of those at Lourdes was decent. So it is not clear that miracle claims have a strong tendency to be false.

Since I use the principle of indifference in probability, the chances of some particular religion being right would be along the lines of 1 in 1,000.

That would entail the prior probability of atheism is also 1 in 1,000. Seeing as most atheists are loathe to provide evidence for their beliefs we have little reason to consider it a major contender. And, if the probabilities from the McGrews are at all accurate, we have very good reason to believe Christianity is the true religion.

2. ncovington89 says:

“Seeing as most atheists are loathe to provide evidence for their beliefs we have little reason to consider it a major contender.”

I’m an evidentialist atheist: I think there is good evidence for atheism, and I’ve compiled a list here:

http://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2013/04/02/proving-the-negative-a-list-of-arguments-for-atheism/

“And, if the probabilities from the McGrews are at all accurate, we have
very good reason to believe Christianity is the true religion.”

I wrote a megablog post on them a while back:

http://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2012/09/16/critique-of-argument-from-miracles/

Suffice it to say I don’t think their case even comes *close* to holding up.

3. Ann says:

I think that the discussion about low-probability events is immaterial to a discussion of miracles.

Even if some event has only once chance in a billion of happening to a certain person on any one day, it will still happen seven times a day.

I think that the discussion should be about “miracles” — the suspension of the laws of nature.

Once would be enough. Speaking as a life-long atheist, the indisputable occurrence of even a single miracle would naturally compel me to re-evaluate my understanding of the supernatural.

The occurrence of a low-probability event is no miracle.
Escaping injury in a car crash is unlikely and nice — but no miracle.
Making the sun stand still (even if generously interpreted to mean “Making the earth stand still”) … that would be a miracle.

One obvious problem is that the “miracle” would have to have no other conceivable explanation —

> not “the happenstance of a low-probability event” (a spontaneous remission of cancer)

> not “my delusional condition” (seeing a ghost)

> not “your tricky illusion” (an elephant disappears from the stage)

> and not even “a technological achievement by vastly advanced space aliens with capabilities we don’t understand” (a heap of gold appears on my lawn)

The classical miracle is “healing an amputee.”

In fact, the non-occurrence of this event is what gives rise to the saying “God hates amputees.”

I got into an on-line discussion one time about “What would force you to believe in God?” and the answers were all “indisputable miracles.”

I suggested to the religious fundamentalist who posted the question that I would be satisfied with:

— ten billion tax-free dollars in my name in an off-shore bank account

— the return and restitution in perfect condition of every person, place, or thing I have ever lost

The religious guy gave me a response that I found highly unsatisfactory. He said, “That’s ridiculous.”

Well — after all, it is supposed to be a MIRACLE — not just something unlikely but nice.

1. I think that the discussion should be about “miracles” — the suspension of the laws of nature.

Nicholas is saying that it is only rational to believe in a miracle if the weight of the evidence for the miracle outweighs the unlikelihood of the miracle occurring. On his view, a miracle is a subset of low probability events.

One obvious problem is that the “miracle” would have to have no other conceivable explanation

Nearly anything is conceivable. Later, you state that \$10 billion in your bank account would be a miracle. But it’s conceivable that there was a banking error. It seems you’ve left yourself with an out. Regardless of the evidence for a given miracle you can always come up with a conceivable explanation no matter how strained.

not “my delusional condition” (seeing a ghost)

Here’s an example that makes my point. It’s conceivable that the witness was delusional, therefore he didn’t see a ghost. Any specific evidence for the existence of the ghost is just waved away.

The classical miracle is “healing an amputee.” In fact, the non-occurrence of this event is what gives rise to the saying “God hates amputees.”

You do know there are accounts of body parts growing back (and diseased parts disappearing), don’t you? So, how do you weigh the evidence for such events?

1. Ann says:

Hi, Jayman ~

You are perfectly correct in all your remarks, and (I’m not sure you realized this), your remarks are in perfect agreement with the ones I posted.

For example. we both instanced “seeing a ghost” as an example of an event with a non-miraculous explanation.

I would demur somewhat to the statement that “body parts growing back” is the same as “healing an amputee.” The regeneration of regenerative tissue (such as the tonsils) is too well-known to be even remarked on.

I’m looking for an event that has no conceivable explanation (such as an amputated leg sprouting anew).

And about the money in a Swiss bank;
~ Well of course that was meant to be a joke (we were supposed to post only ONE thing that would change our minds)
~ But in any case, the deal is that those events would have to be real ones, not a delusion that my Grandmother has been restored to perfect health and life, but that she REALLY was so restored.
And the money has to be mine. MINE! ALL MINE! Hahaha! Oh, wait — sorry. (ahem) To continue …

And of course I still acknowledge that it might be damned hard for me to tell if that money (or even the grandmother) were in fact real.
But the CONCEPT is
– Disallow the problems (delusion, illusion, space aliens, etc)
– Here’s a real thing that I would accept as proof (more than evidence) of a miracle:
The ACTUALl restoration in perfect condition of everything (person, place, thing) I have ever lost.

Except all those ball point pens.
I don’t want them any more.

1. For example. we both instanced “seeing a ghost” as an example of an event with a non-miraculous explanation.

I might say a ghost is not a miracle because it is not a special act of God. However, I don’t write off accounts of seeing ghosts as delusions (unless there is actual positive evidence for delusion). My point was that you just jumped to the conclusion that ghosts don’t exist and the witness is delusional. That’s not an open investigation of the evidence. If a leg were to grow back you could just as easily explain away the evidence as delusion or something similar.

But in any case, the deal is that those events would have to be real ones, not a delusion that my Grandmother has been restored to perfect health and life, but that she REALLY was so restored.

Everyone agrees that the event has to have actually occurred. The issue is when is it rational to believe that the event is real. If one person witnesses a leg regrow is that a real event? If 10 people witness a leg regrow is that a real event?

And of course I still acknowledge that it might be damned hard for me to tell if that money (or even the grandmother) were in fact real.

True, but that’s why the evidence needs to be weighed. Relying on mere conceivability to determine matters doesn’t help.

But the CONCEPT is: Disallow the problems (delusion, illusion, space aliens, etc)

That’s an unreasonable demand since it is always conceivable that delusion, illusion, or space aliens are to blame. And this isn’t a problem just for miracles. It’s conceivable that 9/11 was caused by space aliens. However, the fact that it’s conceivable does not make it a good hypothesis. Likewise, the fact that it is conceivable that some miracle has an unknown natural explanation does not mean the supernatural explanation is not to be preferred. While I’m skeptical of Nicholas’ ability to provide reliable, objective probabilities for events, he is correct in thinking evidence comes in degrees.

Here’s a real thing that I would accept as proof (more than evidence) of a miracle: The ACTUALl restoration in perfect condition of everything (person, place, thing) I have ever lost.

But how would you know it’s not an illusion? It will always be conceivable that it is an illusion.

1. Ann says:

Jayman, you write the BEST posts!!

You have made a nice statement of the difficulty of being sure that what one believes is in fact what is real.

The online conversation I have been referencing allowed for “theoretical” conditions — “Let us agree that if XYZ occurred in reality, I would consider that a miracle.”

The difficulty has always been “How do you know it has ‘occurred in reality’?”

As a joke one time, I said to one of my friends, “Well, how do I know that I’m NOT really crazy?”
He said, “If you did go crazy, people would start telling you so. All kinds of people would say (and do things that mean..) “You’re crazy.”

So I thought for a while that the money and the grandmother could be considered real if everyone else acted like I had them too… if shop owners took the money and swapped it for goods, for example or if folks said “Good morning” to my Grandmother …

But I don’t know why I couldn’t also just be delusional about that reaction from others.

Except for one thing: That’s not what delusions are like. I can THINK I have \$800 million dollars, but I don’t ALSO think I am living in a Paris penthouse. I can THINK I am the long-lost princess of Tibet, but when the staff tells me it’s my turn to sweep the ward floor, I do it. There’s even a term (which I currently forget) for this kind of “double entry” system of beliefs among the delusional.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The other thing is that there is no use in allowing for the possibility that ghosts are real. If that is allowed, the thought experiment is unnecessary, since opening the door for the supernatural even once, in a little teeny way, opens the door to the WHOLE range of supernatural claims.

If you once admit that ghosts are actual things, then you have to admit that werewolves and God and magic potions are (or could possibly be) actual too.

Of course, I am not referring to “that old black magic,” which is conceded by all that I possess in abundance.
Maybe.
At least, I think they concede it.

LOL!

2. Ann, thank you for saying I write the best posts, although other commenters would disagree with you. 🙂

The “use” in allowing for the possibility of ghosts, or anything else for that matter, whether natural or supernatural, is that, if they exist, my epistemology gives me a chance to discover that they exist. The alternative is to not be open to evidence changing your mind. To be a truth-seeker is to be open to all possibilities.

As to the dilemma of determining what is real, I would suggest starting with simple rules of thumb. Believe your own senses unless you have reasons not to do so. So, if you think you’ve seen a miracle and have no reason to believe otherwise, then it is reasonable to accept you’ve seen a miracle. Testimony from others is also evidence. Its weight might vary on circumstances but, all else being equal, testimony that a miracle occurred is evidence for the miracle. Don’t think you can obtain absolute certainty but still follow the evidence to form rational beliefs.

3. Ann says:

One of the virtues of science (one of the virtues that makes Bill Nye the Science Guy call it “the best idea we ever had”) — is that it is the only way humans have ever developed to distinguish between “fraud and self-delusion” on the one hand – vs – “actual facts about the cosmos” on the other hand.

Millions of people believe their eyes, or identify men in line-ups to death, and otherwise claim that they have witnessed impossible things.

That’s why the advice “believe your senses” isn’t strong enough. The senses have to be used in controlled conditions — scientific conditions — experiments.

Of course, we believe our senses when we perceive the results of a proper experiment. I think Buddhist assertions of maya can just be dismissed, so to that extent I agree with you.

But I think that “unless you have reason to believe otherwise” doesn’t go far enough. Science assertively seeks out reasons not to believe one’s senses, and addresses them one at a time. If that works, we conclude we are observing a verified fact about reality.

It’s on that basis that I say that the restoration of everything I have ever lost would be a miracle — if it met the tests for its objective reality.

4. Science is impossible without observation and testimony. You need to observe your own experiments and you learn about other experiments through the testimony of others. Unless you accept these forms of evidence as foundational you will be stuck with an infinite regress of support for your beliefs.

To merely point out that sometimes people are wrong no more refutes the miraculous than the fact that sometimes scientific claims are overturned refutes science. You are searching for an ideal, absolute certainty, that doesn’t exist in any domain of knowledge. Even in attempting to show that our senses are inaccurate depends on accepting our senses as reliable in another context. Science cannot absolutely rule out delusion or illusion.

The fact is you believe your senses and the testimony of others when reaching historical conclusions all the time. To suddenly say these forms of evidence are not allowed when examining a miracle account is special pleading. But, if the atheist accepts the senses and testimony as evidence, some miracle accounts look probable.

5. Ann says:

But that is the POINT of science — the source of its power.

Science is the only method human beings have ever developed that allows us to RULE OUT fraud and delusion (or illusion).

Its demand for absolute transparency (Researchers sometimes report not just the brand name of the whingdhing they used in the experiment, but its serial number as well!) combined with its requirement for “reproducibility on demand” means that it uses the “shared consensus reality” to check its perceptions against.

A scientific assertion can be accepted as a fact only when any normally-constituted person can get the identical result from doing the identical experiment.

And even then, the fact claim is limited to saying “XYZ will result if you do this.”

It is the accumulation of these facts that compose the body of scientific information — free of fraud, illusion, delusion.

Such mistakes cannot survive the vetting process.

(I am not trying to claim that scientific experiments are infallible or never contain errors — but that happens when the tests are not reproduced. The “cold fusion” claims are a good example of (apparently) an experimental error, which was quickly discovered when everyone else ran the same experiment and didn’t get the same result.

Of course we believe our senses all the time.
But some things are not believable unless and until they are tested under laboratory conditions.
A good example is “Every single claim ever made of supernatural processes, events, or powers.”
These are snowballs in hell in the face of the simplest careful scrutiny.

That’s what science DOES — it allows us to differentiate between “fraud and delusion” on the one hand -vs- “accurate statements of fact about the physical universe” on the other.

6. Science is the only method human beings have ever developed that allows us to RULE OUT fraud and delusion (or illusion).

It does no such thing. All of what we consider reality could be an illusion and science has no method to tell us otherwise.

Its demand for absolute transparency (Researchers sometimes report not just the brand name of the whingdhing they used in the experiment, but its serial number as well!) combined with its requirement for “reproducibility on demand” means that it uses the “shared consensus reality” to check its perceptions against.

This is only true of certain hard sciences. The softer the science the less these statements hold true. To believe that there is a shared consensus reality is to assume that the testimony of others is not a delusion. You might tell me you confirmed my experiment but you might also be a figment of my imagination.

A scientific assertion can be accepted as a fact only when any normally-constituted person can get the identical result from doing the identical experiment.

Again, that’s only true in the hard sciences. Sciences of an historical nature, for example, are not reproducible in the same sense that a chemical reaction, say, is reproducible.

Of course we believe our senses all the time. But some things are not believable unless and until they are tested under laboratory conditions.

Why?

A good example is “Every single claim ever made of supernatural processes, events, or powers.” These are snowballs in hell in the face of the simplest careful scrutiny.

Except for the fact that the Medical Bureau at Lourdes has put thousands of allegedly miraculous cures under scrutiny and come to the conclusion that there is no natural explanation for them. A consistent epistemology regarding such matters suggests it is rational to accept that miracles sometimes do happen. It is only with ad hoc rules, like we need to test X under laboratory conditions, that this conclusion can be avoided.

7. Ann says:

Let me tell you a joke.
A guy faked a devastating injury in a fall. He won his case when he had himself dramatically carried into the courtroom laid flat on a stretcher.
The insurance company knew that he was faking, and their lawyer said to him, “You have won millions of dollars, but we are going to make sure you never enjoy a penny of it. We will be filming you day and night, and the SECOND you get up from that stretcher, you will be arrested! Ha ha.”

The guy said, “When I leave this courthouse, I am going by ambulance to the airport, There I will get on a plane to France, and from there I will be taken to Lourdes — where I will experience a complete and total miraculous recovery! So ha ha right back atcha!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“All of what we consider reality could be an illusion and science has no method to tell us otherwise.”

I have already made the assertion that gibberish of this nature is dismissed. Please don’t ask me to elaborate unless you really care, because I just did a little while ago for a different thread,
~ ~ ~ ~

” that’s only true in the hard sciences. Sciences of an historical
nature, for example, are not reproducible in the same sense that a
chemical reaction, say, is reproducible.”

Naturally the only sciences I am referring to are the hard sciences. The hard sciences are the only sciences there are.

Those other “sciences” (snicker) are not reproducible, and that is why they ARE NOT SCIENCES.

Mostly they’re academic hustles.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You asked “Why” some things are not believable unless and until they are tested under laboratory conditions.

Because people are vulnerable to fraud and self-delusion at all times. That’s why they believe stupid stuff such as “any claim ever made for some supernatural event, power, process.”

They’re not all morons, but at least they are all dupes. Except for the ones who are pulling the swindles.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yasss, the good old Medical Bureau at Lourdes.

A dirty disgrace and a shameless vehicle for the promotion of tourism.

Alleged “miracle cures” are referred to a BISHOP who decides if a cure is miraculous, after consulting with the VATICAN.

What’s really a miracle is that the governments of every civilized nation in the entire world go on paying for medical care like a pack of fools, when it would be much cheaper to just ship the sickies off to Lourdes, and wait for the BISHOP to pronounce them cured.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Your touching child-like faith in this horseshit is a perfect example of how people are hoodwinked all the time.

Except, of course, for the miraculous restoration of amputated limbs. Those are real.

.

8. I have already made the assertion that gibberish of this nature is dismissed. Please don’t ask me to elaborate unless you really care, because I just did a little while ago for a different thread

An assertion is not a demonstration that there is a scientific method to identify an illusion. Feel free to copy and paste your argument from the other thread. I hold that it’s an epistemological question, not a scientific one.

Because people are vulnerable to fraud and self-delusion at all times.

I don’t find that answer sufficient. This would be a reason to require all beliefs to be tested under laboratory conditions. Yet you only want certain beliefs to be tested under laboratory conditions.

Alleged “miracle cures” are the case is referred to a BISHOP who decides if a cure is miraculous, after consulting with the VATICAN.

That’s not the complete process.

What’s really a miracle is that the governments of every civilized nation in the entire world go on paying for medical care like a pack of fools, when it would be much cheaper to just ship the sickies off to Lourdes, and wait for the BISHOP to pronounce them cured.

This line is based on the false belief that Lourdes is said to cure a high percentage of the pilgrims. That is not what people claim. The claim is that some cures there defy natural explanation.

Your touching child-like faith in this horseshit is a perfect example of how people are hoodwinked all the time.

You’re the one who doesn’t appear to understand Lourdes. Skeptics get hoodwinked too.

9. Ann says:

You wrote: “An assertion is not a demonstration that there is a scientific method to identify an illusion.”

But my assertion is that this claim (“It’s all maya. Om.”) and similar claims should be just DISMISSED.

Since it is hopeless that I would ever find my original post, here it the reason again why this claim must be dismissed.
1) It is beyond the possibility of testing. There is no conceivable way the claim can be demonstrated to be right or wrong, no way to put it to the test (it is not falsifiable) — not even in principle. It is hopelessly marooned in the zone of word play.

2) In addition, even if it could be demonstrated to be true in some way (whatever “true” would mean), it would not ever make the slightest difference to anything. No matter if it is true or false (whatever that would mean), nothing could ever change in the slightest.

Claims with those 2 properties are dismissed as word games, not meaningful remarks about the universe.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“All” beliefs don’t have to be tested under scientific conditions, and that was not my claim.
I aver that fact claims about the physical universe must be
1) Testable
2) Tested
before they can be trusted to be true.
Most “beliefs” aren’t even in that category, and of the majority of the ones that are, no one cares enough to test them.
“I believe that my Redeemer liveth” is a belief in a non-testable claim.
“I believe this lake is more than 50 feet deep in the center” is a belief that no one cares enough about to test.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You said: “Skeptics get hoodwinked too.”

Of course they do. That’s why these absurd claims are tested by strict scientific standards, whereupon they dissolve into the carnival fairway hustle that they always were — just another way to fleece the rubes.

Carl Sagan took apart the Lourdes baloney when he debunked it in “The Demon-Haunted World.”
Preaching to the choir, I suspect, since only the terminally gullible would have believed it in the first place — and they’re not going to read “The Demon-Haunted World,” did you.

10. To state that the claim that everything is an illusion should simply be dismissed is to concede the point. As you now admit, science cannot test such a claim. Your earlier claim, that science is the only method that allows us to rule out fraud, delusion, and illusion, is false.

Furthermore, the fact that something cannot be tested does not make it a word game. A movie like the Matrix demonstrates that we can easily conceive of a world where everything we think is real is an illusion.

I realize you did not claim that all beliefs need to be tested under scientific conditions. You claimed that beliefs about miracles do. My objection is that you have not given a reason for why an exception should be made for miracles.

You and Sagan are attacking a straw man position regarding Lourdes. One example from my earlier link notes that 40 doctors confirmed the cure of a quadriplegic postencephalitic idiot. These are the strict scientific standards that you tell us would surely debunk such claims, but instead they confirm the claim.

11. Ann says:

Yes, you are right. I should have realized that we were not operating from the same “givens” (limiting remarks to science) when you referred to the false sciences.
But all claims like “Om! Maya, all maya” and “We are in the matrix WOOoooOOO” need to be dismissed instantly.

But I will retract my jeering scorn for these caca de vaca meadow cow pies the second anyone comes up with a single reason to think they are true.

Otherwise, what a moronic waste of irreplaceable time to even think about them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Before even more people are made into fools, miracle claims need to be tested under scientific conditions, just like all the other consumer swindles and confidence tricks (palm reading, fortune telling, faith healing). Or at least they need to be so tested before anyone smart would believe them, and I recommend that you too do not insult your own intelligence, which is far too superior to buy into this kind of nonsense.

I myself would just slap these criminals into the nearest jail, and let the Bishop come up with the proof … proof that they need to be let out to roam the world along with his packs of child molesters.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
40 doctors! Imagine that!
And not a single one from Johns Hopkins or the Mass General!
What a not surprise.

In most parts of the world, you could throw a stone and hit 40 doctors who believe in — AND PRACTICE — magic. One of my students was a doctor from China (no US MD was ever granted) who deeply believed that foxes (the actual animal, you understand) regularly turned into people. She’d vote for these miracles all right. One of my students from Venezuela was referred by his GP to a native exorcist. In Dahomey, the doctor (the MD!) floats to the moon to consult with the ancestors, who are snake worshipers. My friend’s husband said about his emergency room doctor, “I think he was outside my curtain doing a magic dance to cure me.”
I think he was too.

12. Ann, the current head of the Lourdes Medical Bureau is Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis. According to Wikipedia he has a Masters degree in epidemiology from Harvard. Also according to Wikipedia, the International Medical Committee of Lourdes (not to be confused with the Lourdes Medical Bureau) is presided over by Francois-Bernard Michel, the president of the Academie Nationale de Medecine. Michel also chaired the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology and was vice president of the International Association of Allergology and Clinical Immunology. To assume the doctors who investigate these cases are something like primitive witch doctors is completely unwarranted.

13. Ann says:

Claims that people were actually CURED (not “felt better”) by supernatural means — whether at Lourdes or on a stage in the Philippines — are unconscionable lies and deliberate frauds.

There is absolutely NO valid evidence that such a thing has ever taken place. In fact, I can demonstrate by logic that such a thing CANNOT take place (as well as “DOES NOT.”)

It’s a shameful disgrace that these vicious people are glutting themselves — fattening themselves, gorging themselves — off the misery and credulity — the sickness and suffering — of the dumber part of our species, battening on the mentally defective, the desperate, and the disadvantaged.

They aught to be ashamed. And if there were a hell, they’d go there — which is just even more evidence that they don’t even believe their own foul religion.
The dirty skunks.

14. There is absolutely NO valid evidence that such a thing has ever taken place.

The medical documentation for the claims at Lourdes are just as valid as the medical documentation for non-miraculous cures from other locations. It’s special pleading to claim otherwise.

In fact, I can demonstrate by logic that such a thing CANNOT take place (as well as “DOES NOT.”)

And where is this demonstration?

15. Ann says:

Well, non-miraculous cures involve things like “counting the number of cancerous leukocytes per unit of blood” or “putting the gall bladder and the gall stones in a basin.”

I don’t know what you mean by “medical documentation,” but the veracity of real cures doesn’t depend on “medical documentation.” It depends on physical evidence (blood, gall bladders, etc.)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Did I ever get around to re-writing my logical demonstration that supernatural phenomena cannot exist in the “natural” world? (sigh) Please tell me I did.

16. Medical documentation documents the physical evidence.

17. Ann says:

Let’s just see the evidence.

The Holy Allergists can keep their documentation.
Let them save it for the child molestation cover-ups.

18. Ann says:

What the hell are these allergists playing at investigating cancer cures?

Or are they just in charge of the spontaneous, miraculous “Cure of the Runny Nose” — these miracle cures coming in strongly following visits to Lourdes around November, I understand.

Jayman, if you get so much as a splinter, don’t let these people mess with you.

19. Ann says:

Hi, Jayman ~

I didn’t address one of your points when I responded to your post the first time, so I’d like to circle back and do that now.

I want to say that science absolutely does not rely on “testimony” – whatever that means. The credibility of an experiment can never – absolutely never – rely on someone’s word. In fact, offering testimony instead of evidence is the salient characteristic of consumer fraud, scams, hustles of all descriptions. It’s how to sell Carter’s Little Liver Pills, or Buddhism, or psychotherapy, or any other of the myriad swindles and nonsense abroad in the land.

The best I could make of your idea about “testimony” is this trivial instance: In spite of the fact that any scientific experiment must be reproducible by anyone who cares to repeat it, it may be that I personally do not want to bother to repeat it. In that case, I am willing to accept that the original experiment did occur, with the result that was reported, and that this acceptance is justified by all the others who DID bother to repeat it.

But if the testimony is someone’s sworn statement that they feel better now, or that they can inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, or that doing so conferred some magic benefits – this “testimony” is worthless. It is not evidence of any sort. Instead, it is likely to be the very fraud or delusion that science eliminates.

So, no, you don’t learn about the experiments of others by listening to their testimony. You learn about the experiments of others by doing the experiments yourself – or your grad students do them as an exercise, or engineers use the results to solve a design problem, or your rival in love, business, Academia, or national prestige sets out to prove you wrong …

20. Ann, perhaps it would help if you state what allegedly scientific fields you think are truly scientific (e.g., anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, medicine, physics, etc.). My reading between the lines suggests you could reject portions of almost every scientific field.

The credibility of an experiment can never – absolutely never – rely on someone’s word. In fact, offering testimony instead of evidence is the salient characteristic of consumer fraud, scams, hustles of all descriptions.

Be careful of viewing the issue in an either/or light instead of a both/and light. Non-testimonial evidence is often transmitted through testimony. This fact is often omitted when someone explains the evidence for a given claim.

The best I could make of your idea about “testimony” is this trivial instance: In spite of the fact that any scientific experiment must be reproducible by anyone who cares to repeat it, it may be that I personally do not want to bother to repeat it. In that case, I am willing to accept that the original experiment did occur, with the result that was reported, and that this acceptance is justified by all the others who DID bother to repeat it.

That’s true but it goes further. No single person can perform every experiment ever conducted even if he wanted to. He simply does not have the time, energy, or expertise to do so. Scientists accept the testimony of other scientists to create hypotheses, theories, and new ideas for experiments. By the time these established theories reach us laymen we are believing things based on a web of testimony.

Also, keep in mind that an experiment is an historical event. To believe that an experiment was performed is not merely to form a scientific belief but also an historical belief. You are then put in the difficult position of explaining why accepting historical claims, like miracles, on the basis of testimony cannot be allowed while it’s acceptable when it comes to scientific claims.

But if the testimony is someone’s sworn statement that they feel better now, or that they can inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, or that doing so conferred some magic benefits – this “testimony” is worthless. It is not evidence of any sort.

Presumably medicine and psychology are pseudo-sciences then, correct? The fact that one person or a million people claim that Advil made them feel better is not evidence of any sort.

So, no, you don’t learn about the experiments of others by listening to their testimony. You learn about the experiments of others by doing the experiments yourself

So we wasted all that money on the Large Hadron Collider then? How many people can perform such experiments? 99.99+% of the population would have to accept those experiments on the basis of the testimony of the few. Presumably scientific projects like this are one of the myriad swindles and nonsense in the land. Few of us can conduct experiments in space either, so we should shut down the space program. For all we know it’s just a means by which adrenaline junkies get their fix at the taxpayers’ expense.

21. Ann says:

The actual sciences are the “exact sciences.”
And I also include most of Bio (a “descriptive science”) since I hold an advanced degree in invertebrate biology.

Math and medicine are not sciences and do not pretend to be.
The “soft sciences” are not sciences, no matter what they pretend.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Routine narrative eporting on an event is hardly within the ordinary definition of the word “testimony.”
I think it’s a silly quibble for you to go there.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Obviously no single person repeats every experiment (nor would that suffice.) But it isn’t “testimony” that convinces him — it’s the ongoing and everlasting opportunity of repeatability by this person and all other persons ever.

In actual practice, within the hard sciences, experimental results tend to be repeated endlessly by other workers in the same field, since they all need the same results to progress. So once something is published, it solves a problem that had been holding people up. At that point, they incorporate the procedure into their own flow charts, and so the “experimental finding” is confirmed again and again without anyone even thinking about it in that way. They just say, “Oh, good. That Witherton fellow over at Oxford solved this roadblock, so now we can use his findings to get on with our own work without this delay.”

All throughout February of 2014, the stem cell research world rejoiced:
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-25917270
But before May of 2014
http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/05/misconduct-verdict-stand-for-japanese-stem-cell-researcher.html

This esoteric research didn’t survive a month before questions and reports of problems started to pour in to the journal that published the paper.

This isn’t some goofy field like psychology, where people apparently get academic credit by publishing their “findings” (hahaha) that, for example, women dress more provocatively when they are ovulating.

Only people who have been programmed to think in such sloppy terms would give any credence in the first place to crap like this. (Among other problems, what is “more provocative” among the array of items in a woman’s wardrobe? Who gets to say which ones are “more provocative”?)

To make it worse, the “experiment” is probably never replicated — and even WORSE worse, fails to produce the same results if it is.

“The project, PsychFileDrawer, http://www.psychfiledrawer.org/view_article_list.php dedicated to replication of published articles in experimental psychology, shows a replication rate 3 out of 9 (33%) so far.”

These soft “scientists” need to go to jail with their even-more-bottom-feeding brothers like palm readers and Lourdes faith healers.

Continued…

(What a windbag I am! Sorry!)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

22. Ann says:

You wrote: “Presumably medicine and psychology are pseudo-sciences then, correct?”
Almost correct.
Medicine is not a science any more than auto repair is.
You don’t think your surgeon is EXPERIMENTING on you, do you.
Medicine is not a science and does not pretend to be.

Psychology is a pseudoscience
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You wrote: “The fact that one person or a million people claim that Advil made them
feel better is not evidence of any sort [?]”
A clinical trial for the effectiveness of a new drug is not medicine. You don’t think they’re trying to treat their patients, do you?

It is science — but rather poor science actually, since it is so tainted with not just the profit motive, but the many unknown experimental inputs involved in research on complicated systems like humans and other large animals.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s silly to think that the concept “experiments must be reproducible” is undone by the fact that only a few people are in a position to do so.
If nothing else, the demand for “peer-reviewed” publishing is a strong effort to sustain this demand.
> First, the work must be published or it counts for nothing
> Second, it must be examined by fellow professionals who are in a position to know if the work is sound.

And I assure you that every single scientist in the entire world who has a professional interest in the LHC has witnessed experiments there himself, or been engaged in whatever ways are open to them.

~ ~ ~ ~
I acknowledge that the abstract purity of these ideas has been compromised by such harmful developments as “journals with low or no peer-reviewed standards (or inadequate expertise),” “failure to replicate,” ” failure to get the result a second time,” and other problems.

But those are difficulties of PRACTICE, not problems with CONCEPT.

23. The actual sciences are the “exact sciences.”

I’d consider physics and chemistry to be the only truly exact sciences. Biology is a tweener.

And I also include most of Bio (a “descriptive science”) since I hold an advanced degree in invertebrate biology.

Presumably, the theory of evolution can be tossed as unscientific since it is, in part, an historical science.

Routine narrative reporting on an event is hardly within the ordinary definition of the word “testimony.” I think it’s a silly quibble for you to go there.

By testimony I’m basically referring to any spoken or written assertion.

But it isn’t “testimony” that convinces him — it’s the ongoing and everlasting opportunity of repeatability by this person and all other persons ever.

No, it’s in part because a number of scientists testify that they have reproduced the same experiment. From my layman perspective I find it improbable that they are all completely wrong or lying. If I lacked sufficient testimony that agreed on the matter I wouldn’t care about the mere opportunity for someone to repeat the experiment.

These soft “scientists” need to go to jail with their even-more-bottom-feeding brothers like palm readers and Lourdes faith healers.

I’m sure the opponents of gay marriage would like that. How dare they rely on social pseudo-science to tell us whether gay parents are competent or not.

It is science — but rather poor science actually, since it is so tainted with not just the profit motive, but the many unknown experimental inputs involved in research on complicated systems like humans and other large animals.

That means a clinical trial is science and it relies on the testimony of the subjects. Even with your restricted definition of science it seems I’m correct.

It’s silly to think that the concept “experiments must be reproducible” is undone by the fact that only a few people are in a position to do so.

The fact that an experiment is not reproduced by many different people might be a problem if we don’t accept the testimony of those who did perform said experiment.

And I assure you that every single scientist in the entire world who has a professional interest in the LHC has witnessed experiments there himself, or been engaged in whatever ways are open to them.

Were they all there when the LHC was built too? They have to witness the building of the instruments to make sure they work properly. They can’t accept that on the testimony of others.

24. Ann says:

Re: Darwin’s Theory — What on earth do you mean by an “historical science”?
~~~~~~~~~
Clinical trials do not necessarily depend on the self-reports (“testimony” I guess) of the subjects. For one thing, a lot of the subjects are mice, and everyone knows what little liars they are.
Whenever possible, researchers want measurable, quantifiable, demonstrable results — not the subjects’ say-so.

The reason for that is that their “testimony” is shoddy evidence — the kind that fuels frauds like psychology.
In fact, we see strange effects when there is no evidence except self-reports — such as a drop-off in the effectiveness of the remedy over time (an entirely predictable phenomenon. The joke is that the doctors say, “We better prescribe this new drug before it stops working!”)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s not common that a belief in the outcome of an experiment I didn’t do myself depends on someone’s “testimony.” It is seldom the case that a scientist comes to the door, shouts out “Yes, it worked all right!” and closes the door.
Instead, they want to SHOW us the chickens that did and didn’t die of cholera, for example, or the obliteration of Bikini Atoll.
~ ~ ~ ~
Jayman, can you accept a word of caution from a friend?
Please don’t let your posts become unbearably trivial, dull, or trollish.