Sunday, March 20, 2011

WTF?????

I'm sorry, I couldn't think of a better title for this post.

I mean, how do you describe bullshit, complete and utter bullshit, being posted to the blog of a periodical that the general public trusts?

"Extraordinary" claims do not require extraordinary evidence, according to this writer on the Psychology Today blog.

In order to take him seriously you have to completely misunderstand what Sagan meant in the first place.

Extraordinary claims:  i.e., outside the realm of the normal or natural, i.e. supernatural

Extraordinary evidence:  pretty much the same thing

Apparently there's a brouhaha in the psychology field since the publication of an article claiming to prove precognition.  And this idiot is arguing against demanding "extraordinary" evidence in this manner:

The problem with the dictum is that there are no absolute criteria for what counts as “extraordinary claims.”  In particular, what counts as extraordinary depends entirely on what you know and believe.

Well, there's the natural world and the non-natural world.  If you want to claim that the supernatural is natural you do indeed need some damn good proof because you're not just filling in the gap in some huge field of knowledge; you'd be turning all knowledge about the world upside-down.

And apparently "science" is so trendy your a dinosaur if you don't go along with the latest gibberish:

Worse, what counts as extraordinary depends also on the scientific fads and fashion of the time.   The claims of race and sex differences in intelligence were not at all extraordinary a hundred years ago.  They are considered to be extremely extraordinary today, requiring extraordinary evidence.

 Bingo.  Just like religionists, pseudoscientists perform linguistic sleight-of-hand when it suits them:

The claims of race and sex differences in intelligence were not at all extraordinary a hundred years ago.  They are considered to be extremely extraordinary today, requiring extraordinary evidence.

So now we're speaking of "extraordinary" in the sense of unusual, not supernatural.    In Science, knowledge changes based on evidence, testing, and retesting.  That's not faddish, it's the way science is supposed to work.  It's entirely possible for an unusual phenomenon to change the way experts think.  That doesn't mean that supernatural claims shouldn't be held to a higher standard.

Further, this is a false equivalence.  There's nothing about bias in intelligence testing that's the equivalent to claiming precognition because intelligence had previously been established.  Precognition has not been established, unless this supposed study is indeed valid.  Presumably the author of the original study will accept Randi's million-dollar challenge, win, and have plenty of money to validate the earlier "evidence."

Meanwhile, only believers in precognition will believe this stuff.

The offending article is here if you have the stomach for it:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201103/do-extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence

10 comments:

Rhacodactylus said...

This guy seems to be playing semantic games with the word "extraordinary." If Sagan had said "Claims of degree N of deviation from current science require evidence of degree N in order to be accepted," the saying would be a lot less pithy, but it might keep idiots like this from quote mining him =)

dc said...

Thank you, that was exactly how I felt after reading that article.

LadyAtheist said...

The cretins who call themselves "apologists" or "theologians" or "philosophers" have been posting this kind of crap to atheist blogs, especially John Loftus' Debunking Christianity blog.

Infidel753 said...

The problem with the dictum is that there are no absolute criteria for what counts as “extraordinary claims.” In particular, what counts as extraordinary depends entirely on what you know and believe.

Bull. The distinction is self-explanatory.

If I told you I just saw a dog running down the street, you'd believe me without hesitation, because that's not an extraordinary claim -- it's a very ordinary one.

If I told you I just saw a tiger running down the street, you'd be a lot more hesitant to believe it -- because while that's possible, it's pretty unlikely.

If I told you I just saw a dinosaur running down the street, you wouldn't believe it unless I provided ironclad, indisputable proof -- because that's an extraordinary claim, just about impossible.

The claims of race and sex differences in intelligence were not at all extraordinary a hundred years ago. They are considered to be extremely extraordinary today, requiring extraordinary evidence.

The analogy fails both ways. Those ideas were considered reasonable hypotheses back then, because they fitted what was superficially observable at the time, and there were no data refuting them.

Since then, we have accumulated abundant data refuting those hypotheses. They aren't "extraordinary claims", they're debunked and disproven.

clem said...

that's incredibly dishonest. anyone writing about any science professionally should recognize that sagan's dictum is simply an obvious corollary of bayes' theorem. the less the prior probability of the hypothesis the better the evidence you need to increase it significantly.

LadyAtheist said...

Excellent points.

I think extraordinary claims should require extraordinary proof simply because the more freaky the claim the more we are intrigued... and we want to believe freaky things. They're entertaining.

krissthesexyatheist said...

And still...after all that...no one has claimed J.Randi's prize. i wonder why.

K

B.R. said...

I have nothing to say. Except that that there's a refutation I'm planning that will, in all probability, be titled, "What The Fuck?". But that's a good article. Definitely a good example of pseudo-science at work.

LadyAtheist said...

Kind of scary!

Sorceror said...

"They are considered to be extremely extraordinary today, requiring extraordinary evidence."

... if by "extraordinary" he means "completely fallacious bullshit that's been proven to be so", then yes. In that light, I have no issues believing that the existence of precognition is extraordinary.