Post No.: 0927
Regarding any context, if someone asked you, “What evidence will it take for you to change your beliefs?” and you cannot or won’t state what’ll satisfy you – then maybe your beliefs aren’t based on anything reasonable. You may profess that your current beliefs are based on the evaluation of evidence but this would appear doubtful.
There must always be a standard or level of evidence that’ll satisfy us in convincing us to change what we believe. So ask yourself, “What will it take to make me change my mind?” If we cannot explicitly state this standard or level of evidence to others, and most of all if we’re one day presented with this evidence yet we still resist changing our minds and perhaps keep moving the goalposts – then we’ve got an article of faith that doesn’t care for reality or reason.
Pseudoscience masquerades as science. A core habit of those who forward either it or mere faith is refusing to let go of claims or beliefs no matter the logic or proof to the contrary i.e. whenever hard counterevidence to our positions come, we constantly move the goalposts, use fallacious argumentation, declare that evidence is in the unfalsifiable gaps or claim that ambiguous, spurious, invalid, anecdotal or uncorroborated evidence supports our thesis – all whilst ignoring all the greater weight of counterevidence that discredits our positions in the process. We may misunderstand or misapply data, fail to conduct proper testing or observations, and generate post hoc hypotheses after collecting the data. Poorly-conducted science is trying to properly follow the scientific method but simply falling short of that standard, whereas fraud or pseudoscience doesn’t really try to properly follow the scientific method at all.
Plausible-sounding pseudoscientific or preternatural claims (like any other kind of bull**** in marketing really) are fabricated in order to sell goods or services and make money, like for purveyors who attempt to sell shark cartilage for its supposed anti-cancer properties, or indeed one of the original snake oils – snake oil. For those who make a living from ostensibly telling people’s fortunes, they purportedly explain communication with the dead and other ‘mystical’ practices.
A classic tactic employed by charlatans or shysters is appearing to welcome or invite truly independent scientists to carry out experiments with them to verify their claims but then not keeping to their appointments or then making up excuses for why those experiments constantly fail. Or they may assert that a lab test will never be ecologically valid and avoid scientists altogether. They feign transparency but ultimately don’t want to provide it because to reveal their tricks would be to undermine their reputation and livelihood. (It’s often all about the $$$.)
So when someone, say, claims to possess supernatural abilities or wants us to believe that their special tonics can treat what ails us – they’ll always manage to find some excuse to reject any rigorous scientific investigation or conclusion. Post No.: 0907 explained the difference between paranormal and supernatural.
They may perpetually claim ‘it just needs more testing’, as if all the failures so far mean nothing and finding just one ‘success’ will validate them. So no amount of evidence can convince them they’re wrong but any sole piece of evidence will convince them they’re right. The huge problem with this attitude is that any rare success is quite possibly a mere chance result – just like if you can make twenty different predictions and hit the nail on the head once, it doesn’t mean you have any psychic powers! We cannot dismiss all the (many more) missed predictions.
So they may claim they don’t believe in using tests as proof if such tests fail – yet they’ll point to any tests if their results appear to succeed! In other words, they seem to reject the notion of experiments when they fail to provide any evidence for their view – but then accept the results of experiments when they supposedly provide evidence of their view! That’s confirmation bias and cherry-picking data.
They might constantly move the goalposts or blame the client for ‘blocking the energy’. There’s always an excuse forwarded to preserve their belief, like if you take multiple consecutive tarot card readings and they come out with different sets of cards each time, and thus offer different readings, then they’ll claim some excuse for not accepting that it’s just random. They’ll forward some excuse for why we shouldn’t ever take multiple consecutive readings or say, “Just because” if you ask why not. Despite any evidence you present, their belief can never be falsified in their own minds. They often therefore avoid performing any readings for those whom they think are sceptical. But if something truly works then it doesn’t matter if someone is sceptical about it or not, like fire burns whether you believe it does or not!
All this avoiding of sceptics may reveal that the charlatans or shysters know themselves that what they’re doing is completely fraudulent; otherwise they wouldn’t be behaving underhandedly like fraudsters do. They may even turn rude and aggressive against those who aim to reveal their frauds – again just like fraudsters in other contexts frequently do. If you cannot win through your logical arguments or proof, you may attempt to ‘win’ through your fallacious arguments and threats.
Any kind of individual or group who doesn’t wish to be placed under rigorous scientific scrutiny, or who criticises scientific results out of hand, tends to have something to hide, including stock traders who think they’re special and don’t fail under stressful conditions yet won’t put themselves under independent scientific experiments to test this.
If there’s telepathy, telekinesis/psychokinesis, precognition, clairvoyance or psychic ability, ghosts and the like, then it should be easy to prove it – just see if people can truly read minds remotely, levitate objects through mere thought, reliably predict the future in lab conditions, or introduce us all to a ghost once and for all. See if a series of predictions are far better than guessing by chance, and see if there are no other valid explanations for the things that may be happening. If someone claims to have experimentally proved something in private but cannot replicate the results reliably then it’s not a sufficient standard and level of proof. They should explain their methodology clearer in their published academic papers if they think other scientists are doing something wrong. Meow.
The scientific field of psychology explains all this – not the phenomenon of psychic ability or the rest, but people’s strong or intuitive beliefs in such phenomena.
The good thing about science is that scientific theories are allowed to evolve and therefore refine or change – they’re not dogmas or ever sacrosanct. But a limitation is that science can only deal with things that can be observed and measured. However, if something cannot be observed and measured then it’d logically have no effect on the universe that matters to us i.e. if something doesn’t have any consequences then why care about it?
Science does indeed depend on the tools we currently have, and we just mightn’t have the tools to measure ghosts for example yet. Advancements in the accuracy and precision of measuring instruments are one of many factors why some previously-held scientific conclusions refine or change over time. Greater precision (which improves miniaturisation) and new materials often herald major advancements in technologies. So we may never know if we’ve reached absolute 100% certainty with any prediction, like whether all protons behave like how we’ve observed so far (because we’ve not checked absolutely every proton in the universe). Yet this doesn’t mean that we cannot believe in anything – the best we can critically do is to believe in the best of what we currently know via the scientific method and independent peer review system; and as this knowledge reinforces or advances via every well-conducted experiment, our beliefs should reinforce or advance with it.
Questions related to purpose or meaning, or what we ought to morally do, cannot be objectively answered through science – these answers are subjective. But science can (eventually) objectively answer other types of questions… unless something is regarded as unfalsifiable.
In science, we define predictions that can be tested and falsified (capable of being proved false) by observation. But critical thinkers accept that there are some hypotheses that are unfalsifiable and we therefore cannot rule them out. This however doesn’t mean we can automatically rule them in, unless positive evidence is found to prove a falsifiable claim for that phenomenon.
For example, the statement ‘faith can empty oceans’ is unfalsifiable if you claim that the reason why people haven’t emptied oceans like that is only because they lack enough faith. No matter how much faith they do have, you’ll perpetually claim that they don’t have enough.
For phenomena that do or don’t (currently) have alternative testable falsifiable hypotheses, we cannot just automatically accept an unfalsifiable hypothesis as true because that’s a dangerous route to go down since people can then believe in all kinds of ludicrous or unjust unfalsifiable claims. It’s like if nothing could categorically prove your innocence, should people therefore assume your guilt? Thus just because one cannot prove something is false, one shouldn’t just automatically assume that it’s true. The inability to prove something is absolutely false doesn’t mean that it’s therefore absolutely true. But a believer in faith will contemplate ruling in unfalsifiable hypotheses and hold them as true, particularly those that support their existing worldviews.
Unfalsifiable hypotheses contribute to why we cannot be absolutely 100% certain of what we know. There indeed could’ve been an intelligent designer who created this universe – one who was so clever that She/He/It made it look like She/He/It wasn’t needed. It’s not a strict impossibility to conceive. ‘Highly unlikely’ isn’t the same as ‘impossible’.
We shouldn’t rationally believe this though because we have no clear positive evidence of this, and we have other much more strongly-supported-by-positive-evidence theories. Yet we cannot ever 100% rule out the possibility – that’s the nature of knowledge according to epistemology. That’s why we must always remain humble regarding our knowledge and beliefs, whether we’re scientifically or religiously-minded.
So scientists cannot be 100% certain that God doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean God must therefore exist. It’s up to people to prove that God (in the form they believe) exists. One could think of countless things that one cannot ever feasibly or easily prove false (like there’s a fuzzy owlbear orbiting Sirius) or are unfalsifiable, but it’s not up to others to prove that our claims are false – it’s up to us to prove that our claims are highly confidently true.
This principle of positive proof rather than conviction by faith is the only fair way otherwise people can fabricate millions of unsubstantiated claims. For example, there are so many different religious faiths around the world today, and in history, and new ones will spring up in the future – so which faith is correct? Is it monotheistic or polytheistic? Do spirits resurrect or not? They all assert their own to be right. Well the only fair way to know who’s right is via strong (stronger than all the alternative hypotheses) positive proof for one’s claims.
Some may argue what’s the harm? False or unfalsifiable beliefs can sometimes be harmful because they distract us from working on what’s real and they can lead to injustices. So before you ever strongly assert a claim – ask ‘how can we know this for sure?’ and experiment and test to see whether that claim is true. Keep it tentative if you can’t, and reject it if it proves to be false, no matter how much you want it to be true.
Meow. Most of the time in daily life, what we expect to see is what’s actually there, so it’s normally efficient to jump to conclusions. But sometimes we can be totally off the mark and it can cause harm if we believe in the wrong things.