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Thread: A defense of ECREE

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    Quote Originally Posted by GioD View Post
    If I'm not mistaken the concept (although not the term) dates at least as far back as Hume.
    If not even farther back than that. However, I much prefer Truzzi's application.

    Source: Marcello Truzzi

    In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis --saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact--he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.

    © Copyright Original Source



    Unlike Sagan, Truzzi was far more willing to keep an open mind on the question of non-natural phenomena.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Outis View Post
    Oh, so you are every bit as ignorant of the origin of ECREE as most internet skeptics. So when you debate them, there are _two_ people in the debate who can't reason their way out of a wet paper bag.

    Now your argument becomes clear. You don't HAVE an argument.
    I can reason my way out of a wet paper bag just fine, thank you very much. It's the plastic ones that give me trouble.

    Anyway, like I said, I was arguing against how most skeptics understand ECREE and, in fact, how the OP uses it. I just assumed that was the working definition for the purposes of this thread. It's also true that Carl Sagan introduced it as a tool to wield against supernatural claims even if he didn't necessarily originate the concept.

    But I also see similar problems in Truzzi's rendition. For one thing, he seems to contradict himself when he says, "...the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved." It seems to me that a truly agnostic position would simply see a claim as either proven or unproven rather than unfairly biasing the investigator with labels like "extraordinary" and then arbitrarily raising the bar for the burden of proof, so I don't see how Truzzi's variation is any better, practically speaking, than the "wet paper bag" variation promoted by Sagan and many other skeptics.
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


    From "Fools Gold" by Petra

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    I'm sorry, what? I am debating the original. Carl Sagan introduced ECREE as a tool for rejecting the supernatural on the basis that such claims are "extraordinary" and should be held to higher standard. If you think differently then we're no longer debating ECREE but something else entirely, though I'm honestly not sure what that is.
    You're debating the original that's not quite the original and trying to hold us to RationalWiki while doing it. I can't actually tell that Sagan thought they need held to a higher standard, since the standard is the same for all things. The difference is that 'extraordinary' happens to point to something outside commonly understood phenomenon. Therefore, as with any new theory, there should be rigorous testing of the explanations to sift out truth from fiction. That's not required for ordinary claims because that legwork has already been done.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    I can reason my way out of a wet paper bag just fine, thank you very much. It's the plastic ones that give me trouble.

    Anyway, like I said, I was arguing against how most skeptics understand ECREE and, in fact, how the OP uses it. I just assumed that was the working definition for the purposes of this thread. It's also true that Carl Sagan introduced it as a tool to wield against supernatural claims even if he didn't necessarily originate the concept.

    But I also see similar problems in Truzzi's rendition. For one thing, he seems to contradict himself when he says, "...the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved." It seems to me that a truly agnostic position would simply see a claim as either proven or unproven rather than unfairly biasing the investigator with labels like "extraordinary" and then arbitrarily raising the bar for the burden of proof, so I don't see how Truzzi's variation is any better, practically speaking, than the "wet paper bag" variation promoted by Sagan and many other skeptics.
    The difference, as noted, is that current information is already considered sufficient for so-called ordinary claims. That is not the case with extraordinary ones. Therefore, a 'heavier burden of proof' is demanded of anyone making claims outside the norm. It's the difference between filling a bathtub that's 90% full and filling one that is virtually empty. The goal is the same, but the latter will be significantly more work (heavier burden).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    I can reason my way out of a wet paper bag just fine, thank you very much. It's the plastic ones that give me trouble.
    There is a sense of humor in there. Well and good, Mountain Man. I underestimated you.

    Anyway, like I said, I was arguing against how most skeptics understand ECREE and, in fact, how the OP uses it. I just assumed that was the working definition for the purposes of this thread. It's also true that Carl Sagan introduced it as a tool to wield against supernatural claims even if he didn't necessarily originate the concept.
    True enough. It's why if I'm going to look to a skeptic for guidelines in appropriate skepticism, I tend towards Truzzi's position. I don't agree with him on everything, but his position is far more nuanced, and at least leaves the door open, rather than closing the door to the possibility before the discussion even starts.

    But I also see similar problems in Truzzi's rendition. For one thing, he seems to contradict himself when he says, "...the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved." It seems to me that a truly agnostic position would simply see a claim as either proven or unproven rather than unfairly biasing the investigator with labels like "extraordinary" and then arbitrarily raising the bar for the burden of proof, so I don't see how Truzzi's variation is any better, practically speaking, than the "wet paper bag" variation promoted by Sagan and many other skeptics.
    Hmmm. Mountain Man, I think the problem is that you're reading Truzzi through the filter of Sagan.

    Sagan was interested in winning the debate--a debate where he had already decided what the truth was. Truzzi was undecided, and wanted to find out what the truth was. I find myself far more in the "undecided" camp than I do the "my mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts" camp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carrikature View Post
    You're debating the original that's not quite the original and trying to hold us to RationalWiki while doing it. I can't actually tell that Sagan thought they need held to a higher standard, since the standard is the same for all things. The difference is that 'extraordinary' happens to point to something outside commonly understood phenomenon. Therefore, as with any new theory, there should be rigorous testing of the explanations to sift out truth from fiction. That's not required for ordinary claims because that legwork has already been done.


    The difference, as noted, is that current information is already considered sufficient for so-called ordinary claims. That is not the case with extraordinary ones. Therefore, a 'heavier burden of proof' is demanded of anyone making claims outside the norm. It's the difference between filling a bathtub that's 90% full and filling one that is virtually empty. The goal is the same, but the latter will be significantly more work (heavier burden).
    It's more like trying to fill a bathtub while somebody else keeps pulling the plug and then engages in a rigorous debate about whether or not they should put it back in.

    The problem with invoking ECREE, however you wish define it, is that it shifts the debate from a dispassionate examination of the evidence to trying to convince somebody that they should give the evidence a fair hearing when their presuppositions render them inherently opposed to the idea.

    For instance, the resurrection of Jesus is supported by at least the same quality and quantity of evidence that you accept as sufficient to prove other historical claims, but you would no doubt insist on further proofs -- that is to say you're unwilling to give the existing body of evidence a fair hearing -- because of the supposedly "extraordinary" nature of the claim. Where does the debate go from there?
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


    From "Fools Gold" by Petra

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    It's more like trying to fill a bathtub while somebody else keeps pulling the plug and then engages in a rigorous debate about whether or not they should put it back in.

    The problem with invoking ECREE, however you wish define it, is that it shifts the debate from a dispassionate examination of the evidence to trying to convince somebody that they should give the evidence a fair hearing when their presuppositions render them inherently opposed to the idea.
    I think both of these statements show the difference between proper use and misuse. We're in agreement that people use ECREE to shift the examination of the evidence. That doesn't necessarily invalidate the concept.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    For instance, the resurrection of Jesus is supported by at least the same quality and quantity of evidence that you accept as sufficient to prove other historical claims, but you would no doubt insist on further proofs -- that is to say you're unwilling to give the existing body of evidence a fair hearing -- because of the supposedly "extraordinary" nature of the claim. Where does the debate go from there?
    For clarity's sake, I'd like to establish a couple of things. First, I'm unsure of the actual historical support for Jesus' resurrection. It's not something I've spent any time investigating. My rejection of Christianity, and religion in general, is based primarily on other principles. That said, I don't quite accept that the quality and quantity of evidence is the same. However, that may simply be a result of the comparisons I see made rather than problems with the actual evidence for the resurrection. Second, I actually hold many (most?) historical claims in abeyance far more than is typical. Some things I've little cause to doubt, especially when the logical progression is obvious. The things I "accept as sufficient to prove other historical claims" is much more limited than you probably can imagine. I realize these are tangents, but I felt it important to address it rather than leaving you (falsely) assuming anything.

    I don't think I'd be a person unwilling to give the existing body of evidence a fair hearing. I try not to operate that way. However, if I (or anyone) were unwilling to give a fair hearing, there are really only two options. Either you cut past the current discussion and delve into what extraordinary means and why it's generally unacceptable in principle, or you give up. For the first option, this probably entails getting into some philosophical underpinnings. Extraordinary doesn't have to mean much beyond atypical, and it should be possible to show someone that (extreme) rarity is not a reason to reject anything. That goes double for someone who, however slightly, already acknowledges the sheer scale of the universe. Of course, we both know that some people simply aren't willing to change their minds regardless of the evidence for or against any position. It's up to you to decide which people you consider worth the effort, though a good dose of humility and grace can go a long way in such decisions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    that is to say you're unwilling to give the existing body of evidence a fair hearing -- because of the supposedly "extraordinary" nature of the claim. Where does the debate go from there?
    It probably can't go anywhere until we agree on some definition of "extraordinary." If we can do that, then perhaps we can also agree whether or not it makes a difference as to the kind of evidence required to justify belief.

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    Sorry for not responding sooner, been busy of late.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    I am concerned about the imprecision with which you use the word extraordinary. My story could be corroborated by an article in the local newspaper. That is hardly extraordinary evidence, but it would convince you, wouldn't it?
    My definition of extraordinary would be something that is not probable behavior. In your example Obama serving you McDonalds is extraordinary because it is unlikely that a President would be serving breakfast at a fast food joint, not normal behavior for a POTUS. If you were not making an extraordinary claim, ie. "Sam served me breakfast this morning at McDonalds," I would take you at your word and not require additional evidence for your claim. Perhaps ECREE could be better worded to Extraordinary claims require an Extraordinary amount of evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    Just because you say so? Or do you have a proof that doesn't beg the question?
    Not just because I say so. A supernatural claim is by nature extraordinary, because It is not consistently reproduced. Gravity is natural because it is predictable and reproducible. Faith healing is a supernatural claim that is not reproducible in a controlled environment and therefore is not an ordinary occurrence, which is why most people go to doctors instead of priests for healing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    Do you think there is anything ordinary or natural that we have not yet been able to study and develop laws to describe?
    There are things that we once considered to be supernatural that we have now been able to consistently reproduce/observe and thus those phenomena have become natural and ordinary, to your point. However, what you are asking is the condition where something supernatural could become ordinary. If a God, who is capable of defying the laws of nature, consistently did so, then it is possible that its supernatural actions would be considered ordinary. However, this would also mean that we would live in a state of chaos. We would not be able to experiment without knowing if a supernatural event was happening at the whim of this deity. We would lose all methods of producing consistent results as we could not make predictions based on natural events.


    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    Is that how you distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary? Are you under the impression that all ordinary events can be consistently reproduced?
    Yes. But, to avoid confusion, this is not related to your Obama example. We are talking about phenomena here and not probabilistic rational actions. We are talking about, if I throw a ball up it will consistently fall back to the ground.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    In your lexicon, perhaps. I don't equate trolling with just being wrong.
    This was just a joke, not an actual argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    I don't think you understand how induction works. Scientific theories are inductively justified, but scientists don't have 30,000 theories of relativity.
    What I mean by inductively justified, in this case, is when a person creates a new claim to validate their worldview when they accept a seemingly contradictory claim. Thus, a Christian, who admits that evolution is true, validates their worldview by the justification, "evolution is guided by God." To your point it is not exactly inductive logic, but I do not know a word for this concept and induction was close. The believer is creating a new claim, that cannot be, or is not, validated, in order to justify belief in their worldview. Scientists may create inductive arguments, but then experiment to determine their validity. That is why they have one theory of relativity, though parts may be still argued over, instead of one book read by billions of people and each having their own, though perhaps similar, interpretations. Furthermore, religions have no falsification process, as science does, to determine the validity of the various claims, neither internal nor external to the religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    I realize that many apologists do offer inductive arguments for their doctrines, but there is a difference between having an argument and having a justification. An argument is an attempt at justification. The argument has to be analyzed before we know whether the attempt is successful.
    I would agree with this, but I would further it by saying most apologists, and certainly most laymen, do not seek to determine the veracity of their arguments; their argument gives the illusion of justification as it makes their claim seem plausible. I may have used justification improperly, I was describing it relative to the person and not to others' satisfaction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver
    I am concerned about the imprecision with which you use the word*extraordinary. My story could be corroborated by an article in the local newspaper. That is hardly extraordinary evidence, but it would convince you, wouldn't it?

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    My definition of extraordinary would be something that is not probable behavior.
    So, you're using "extraordinary" just as a synonym for "improbable"?

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    it is unlikely that a President would be serving breakfast at a fast food joint
    It doesn't happen often. As far as I know it has never happened. But you evaded my point. You would believe it, wouldn't you, if you read it in a newspaper?

    If you would believe the newspaper story, then either (1) you regard newspaper stories as extraordinary evidence or else (2) a claim that the president was serving breakfast at McDonald's is, in some relevant sense, not extraordinary.

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    Perhaps ECREE could be better worded to Extraordinary claims require an Extraordinary amount of evidence.
    Perhaps. Can you propose a metric for that? How do you measure amounts of evidence?

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    A supernatural claim is by nature extraordinary, because It is not consistently reproduced. Gravity is natural because it is predictable and reproducible. Faith healing is a supernatural claim that is not reproducible in a controlled environment and therefore is not an ordinary occurrence
    What about love? How predictable is it? How consistently can it be reproduced in a controlled environment?

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    If it were ordinary/natural we would be able to study it and develop laws to describe the event.
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver
    Do you think there is anything ordinary or natural that we have not yet been able to study and develop laws to describe?
    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    There are things that we once considered to be supernatural that we have now been able to consistently reproduce/observe and thus those phenomena have become natural and ordinary, to your point. However, what you are asking is the condition where something supernatural could become ordinary.
    No, I was not asking that. I was challenging your apparently presupposition that, at this point in history, we are now sufficiently familiar with nature's laws that we can confidently declare, "For all X, if X were natural, then we could study it and develop laws to describe it."

    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    What I mean by inductively justified, in this case, is when a person creates a new claim to validate their worldview when they accept a seemingly contradictory claim. . . . To your point it is not exactly inductive logic, but I do not know a word for this concept and induction was close.
    I think the term you were looking for was ad hoc explanation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver
    An argument is an attempt at justification. The argument has to be analyzed before we know whether the attempt is successful.
    Quote Originally Posted by damanar View Post
    I would agree with this, but I would further it by saying most apologists, and certainly most laymen, do not seek to determine the veracity of their arguments; their argument gives the illusion of justification as it makes their claim seem plausible. I may have used justification improperly, I was describing it relative to the person and not to others' satisfaction.
    Arguments don't have veracity. Premises can have it, but not arguments themselves. If arguments justify their conclusions, then they have soundness.

    And a sound argument will justify its conclusion, no matter how improbable that conclusion is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Shaver View Post
    Arguments don't have veracity. Premises can have it, but not arguments themselves. If arguments justify their conclusions, then they have soundness.

    And a sound argument will justify its conclusion, no matter how improbable that conclusion is.
    Correction: If arguments justify their conclusions they have validity. Soundness and validity are two different things. Soundness requires the premises to be true. Validity only requires that the conclusion follow from the premises.
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