Hans Georg Lundahl
Here are some battles between me and Voice of Principle [on] A and B on basic concept of knowledge by authority.
A I cannot verify it - this or that historical event, Resurrection of Christ or battle of Waterloo - but the original witnesses could.
====> The total body of evidence allows you to verify a great deal of it. The evidence of the witnesses is not a proclamation to be unconditionally accepted (they may be liars), but additional factual data to be integrated with thephysical and consequential evidence. <====
======> A person can be completely honest and as accurate in reporting as his world view permits, and still give a completely false account of the actual events. Imagine a nomad wandering in the Sinai 3000 years ago. He sees a bright object fall out of the sky and impact the earth, throwing up a great deal of matter and flame. Curiosity overcoming fear, he advances to investigate. As he approaches, he sees figures in strange garb moving about. Drawing nearer, he is shocked to see that they are wearing flexible metal garments with large glass headcoverings. Through the glass he sees that their skin is greenish in color and they have what look like horns on their heads. One of them turns toward him and he is blinded by an intense light that shines out from the creature's belt. He flees in terror. When he returns to his village he tells his friends and neighbors of the Hand of God casting out demons and banishing them from heaven. He tells of the horror of their visage and the great power of their hideous evil eye, which can rob a man of his sight. His observations are recorded in a holy book. Millenia later, in a more skeptical age, his account is used to describe the dangers of dehydration in desert environments. Had our wanderer given a scientific account, describing exactly what he had seen, without the religious overlay, his story might be interpreted as a possible first contact between human and extraterrestrial intelligence. A fable? Farfetched?
Consider: When Cortez lead a Spanish force in the exploration/conquest of Mexico, he brought about the collapse of the Aztec Empire. How could a few hundred Spaniards accomplish such a feat? The Aztecs psychologically defeated themselves. Terrifying accounts of the power of the newcomers were relayed to the Aztec king Montezuma. He was told that the visitors/invaders could destroy the tops of great mountains; kill thousands of warriors at a distance by means of great sorcery, etc. In the end, these tales unmanned Montezuma and he surrendered without a fight: because his "authorities" reported what they had seen as honestly as they could, but colored by their world view, which unfortunately for them contained no knowledge of explosives or gunpowder. The result: no more Aztec Empire. <======
B So is believing a scientist about an experiment I cannot verify for myself:
====> The point is that scientific data can be verified and it is accepted on that basis: its verifiability. It is never to be accepted based solely on the position, stature, or reputation of the scientist. <====
======> To repeat, the evidence is accepted:
A) because it is subject to verification,
and B) because it has been verified so many, many times by a veritable army of researchers, scholars, and scientists (experiments are conducted repeatedly precisely to build this level of confidence, eliminating any reasonable probability of misinterpretation, error, or deliberate deceit).
For it to be in error given this degree of confirmation would imply a conspiracy so gigantic as to strain human imagination. It is emphatically not accepted because Professor Exalted proclaimed it to be true. To summarize, a factual claim is accepted to be true if it is either self-evidently true, or the preponderance of the evidence suggests (to a very high probability) that it is true. In the latter case, it is not accepted on anyone's authority, but on many sources of evidence, including repeated experiments performed by many different individuals and groups. It is the variety of data, the repetition of the experiments, and the independence (even rivalry) of the experimenters, and not an assertion based on authority, that create the foundation for believing the truth of a particular hypothesis has been confirmed. <======
Hans Georg Lundahl
C And in precisely this category I place ALSO (D, E, F, et c):
======> Something is either true or it is not. Truth must be demonstrated, not defined. The fact that you might want something to be true does not make it so.<======
====> You have just switched from scientific evidence which is subject to complete and repeated verification to religious dogma for which no verification is possible. You are not so much comparing apples and oranges as you are apples and orangutans. Moreover...In our time, whenever a particularly sensationly murder or series of murders occur, the police brace themselves for a deluge of pseudo confessors: people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime, but who nonetheless proclaim their own guilt. Such testimony, without further tangible proof linking these selfadmitted culprits to the crime is considered worthless, as it should be here. A group of individuals declaring that they all saw a certain man in a certain town on a certain day provides a tentative degree of evidence to establish that such and such a person was there. It in no sense provides any degree of evidence for supernatural events operating in violation of the known physical laws of nature.<====
======> Such testimony is credible only with additional objective evidence confirming that the events described actually occurred. All of these claims are presented to us by a small number of individuals who (assuming they did in fact exist and are not merely characters in a fable) were hardly disinterested observers given their claim to have been participants in a series of extraordinary, indeed, supernatural events. <======
====> There is to my knowledge no evidence of miracles, divine or diabolical, which would pass even a minimal test of plausibility, much less the far more rigorous proof any reasonable human being would insist on to validate such truly extraordinary claims. <====
======> You ask rhetorically: "what do you, an agnostic, know about plausibility", by which I asssume you mean that as an agnostic I am less gullible than others. Your assertion that although something is implausible, it is more implausible to deny it is bizarre. One denies the implausible precisely because it is implausible: it is folly to assert that something is highly unlikely to have occurred and then conclude it must have occurred. <======
====> No independent evidence of any supernatural event, just an interesting story, not unlike The Lord of Rings, in which all of the central "witnesses" are in fact characters in the story. <====
======> If the men and supernatural beings you describe are nothing more than characters in a fable, what then? <======
====> These are assumptions, not evidence. <====
======> You have offered many assumptions, but no evidence (and hence I have not slurred on it). If I missed the evidence do itemize it here. <======
i ====> Assumptions built on assumptions, but no actual evidence. <====
======> Tolkien wrote fiction based on Christian religious concepts (you consider them to be true, I consider them to be a mix of non-supernatural fact and fiction). Other authors have written fiction based on Tolkien's mythology. Should I therefore now consider Tolkien's work to be a true account of actual events? <======
ii ======> Actually, not so much assumptions as free roaming mysticism: the sort that proclaims a mystical truth: that is, an imaginary "truth" that is defined to be true by virtue of its initial assertion ("I declare this to be true,therefore it is true, therefore I can declare it to be true"). <======
====> The existence of God is an assumption. Offering it as proof of other assumptions is like building a skyscraper on a foundation of sand. <====
======> Very cute, but you do have to assume His existence in order to assume His testimony is in fact His. You cannot offer testimony from someone whose very existence is problematical: if your conjectural being does not in fact exist, then what is the source of His purported testimony? <======