This post, as I envision it, will be a ramble about a number of topics not even related, but hopefully that generate interest and comments over the weekend. But first, I want to highlight a comment from yesterday, as I recall, on the Carl Sagan post:
Yeah, agreed on Sagan, and his successor in scientific fraud, Neal DeGrasse Tyson. I did not want this post to be a forum on Sagan, as he did say some useful things, as in “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
As long as I am leading with my chin, I will lead with that, but the reason I want to highlight the comment is that in the history of this little blog, it is number 50,000. I did at one time eliminate a large number of posts as part of a general cleanup, and when a post is discarded all comments underneath it go too, but officially, that it #50K.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
I thought that quote by Carl Sagan was pithy and correct. But it has created a back and forth that I want to highlight. Here is a comment by Tim Groves that addresses the topic. I will only quote the first part of it, as the second part is an abstract from a 2016 paper on the subject, worth reading. Just click on the link above to see it.
Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?
David Deming of the University of Oklahoma discussed this question in 2016. he examined the confusion regarding what is meant by an “extraordinary claim”. And he concluded that “Ideas, theories, or observations that are merely novel are not “extraordinary,” nor do they require an “extraordinary” amount of evidence for corroboration. Science does not contemplate two types of evidence. The misuse of ECREE to suppress innovation and maintain orthodoxy should be avoided as it must inevitably retard the progress of science in establishing comprehensive and systematic bodies of reliable knowledge.”
Well said. Gaia in the comment below that of Mr. Groves goes on to examine an extraordinary claim, that humans landed on the moon, and finds that not only is it NOT supported by extraordinary evidence, but is indeed debunked by very simple evidence. It is one of the 2 +2 = 5 parts of public propaganda, that we must believe it to be so or be subjected to ridicule. Public officials, and people with a high public profile like Sagan had are forced to get their minds right on a topic like this. To re-phrase Sagan, “Extraordinary claims which are put forth by powerful forces must be believed, evidence or not.”
I cannot prove a negative
I have used this recently, and was accused of merely using it as an out to avoid researching a topic I did not want to research. While that may be so, still, I cannot prove a negative. I cannot prove that viruses do not exist or that colds and flu are not contagious. I cannot prove that Covid 19 is not a real disease or that the PCR test is not a real test offering up useful results. I cannot prove that vaccines are not effective, that HIV does not exist, or that Climate Change is not real. I cannot prove that school shootings and serial killers are fake or that Obama is not a juris doctor and Trump not a billionaire.
With all of this stuff, one can only take the debunking so far before one hits a wall, the inability to prove the non-existence of something. What we have with all of these matters is what we had with extraordinary claims made with out evidence – the power of propaganda.
It is an amazing world we live in. Everything around us on some level is fake. In the movie The Truman Show, as I recall, Truman Burbank is first alerted that he is living in a TV reality show when a light fixture falls from the sky, him slowly coming to realize that the sky is not real. What would it take for any of us or anyone we know to have a similar revelation … a light fixture fall in our driveway? Someone who faked his death, say John Lennon, making a public appearance?
Still, the point stands – we can and do offer counter intelligence and evidence that all of the above are fake, but we cannot offer proof.
The Precautionary Principle
Here’s Michael Crichton from his book State of Fear:
The “precautionary principle,” properly applied, forbids the precautionary principle. It is self-contradictory. The precautionary principle therefore cannot be spoken of in terms that are too harsh.
I am not sure I understand it as he states it, but as I see it, we humans have our hands full already with things that really do threaten us. We, my wife and I, must be concerned about wildfires, living as we do in the forest interface. People living in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins must continually worry about flooding. Something far down the road that may or may not happen is too much to worry about. Somehow, we will fix it.
Here’s an example, something I foolishly bought into years ago, “Peak Oil.” A man, M. King Hubbert, had done some research in 1956 that predicted that between 1965 and 1971 we would reach a peak on oil production, and that thereafter it would fall, so that we had better be thinking about alternatives. He was warning us that we be aware that the end of oil was on the horizon.
The problem was that we had not peaked. We were not even close. The US led a fracking revolution, and our country was thereafter a net exporter of oil. I do not know where we stand now, as environmentalists and liberals** have led a movement to ban fracking. But the point is that Peak Oil was, while not a hoax, a huge mistake.
Prudence dictates precautions in certain activities, such as buying homeowners’ insurance and keeping it up to date. Earlier this year the towns of Superior, Louisville and Broomfield, Colorado (all in Boulder County) were devastated by the worst wildfire in Colorado history, the Marshall Fire.*** Later we would learn that 70% of those homes were underinsured. This might be true in other places too – building costs have shot up during Covid. Homeowners’ insurance is not based on market value, but rather on replacement cost. This is the trap that the victims of the Marshall Fire were caught in.
For us, I was fortunate to have received a phone call from a State Farm agent, merely wanting to bid on our insurance package. I told him to go ahead and bid, and he called back a few days later saying that he could indeed underbid our then-carrier, Safeco, but that we were severely underinsured. This was based on cost to rebuild from an official index that the insurance industry uses everywhere, based on local market conditions. Denver has seen severely escalating costs. I told him to bid on adequate coverage, and he did, and still came in under Safeco! We were getting reamed.
The precautionary principle as applied to things like Climate Change and oil production is not wise or useful. But do check your homeowners’ insurance.
The Null Hypothesis
Unfortunately, while enrolled in statistics classes in college, I was simultaneously in a state of mild insanity called “infatuation.” I could not focus, and so passed through that time absorbing very little of the subject matter at hand. I would get better, she would move along and live her own life, and I would be a statistical dunce forever due to her.
Basically, as I interpret it, the null hypothesis merely says that chance rules, and that there is nothing happening in a statistical population that need be explained by anything unusual. The null hypothesis stands unless overcome by superior evidence. It needs no extraordinary effort of proof.
Of course, I say that regarding our climate, everything going on around us can be explained as a natural occurrence, even events like the Montana and Yellowstone National Park floods last May. Climate Change idiots want everything to be something extraordinary so that they can shut down fossil fuels and make our lives miserable. I think they hate us.
Natural occurrence explains almost everything in life, other than those things brought about by outside interference as listed above under “I cannot prove a negative.” When an unnatural occurrence takes place, such as the rise to stardom of an ordinary and not-terribly-talented person like Madonna Louise Ciccone, I know there is outside interference. I am going to revisit this subject maybe later this week, as current readers may not know that we determined several years back that Madonna starred in the movie Evita even as more talented singers/actors were available because Evita, or Eva Peron, who faked her death at age 33 in 1952, was her mother.
** I paraphrase John Stuart Mill: “Liberals are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are liberals.”
*** As to the cause of that fire, one possibility is that there is coal in that area that is actively burning underground. (Such fires, called “in situ”, are common throughout the world.) I was told by the man who installed our satellite Internet and who lives in Thornton that this is known to be true, but that Boulder County will not, under any circumstances, admit it to be the case. That’s my source. I tried to call my barber about it, but I went straight to voice mail, which was full. In desperation, I consulted Wikipedia, and that source acknowledges the possibility. There ya go. The liability claims would bankrupt the county. (Foreknowledge, as I see it, would be key.) Precaution dictates that they remain deafeningly silent on the matter.