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Re: Just a single Question for the Candidates

[Andrew Suffield]
> "We can't be sure whether this orange-haired person likes to eat
> babies or not. He probably does, lock him up".

Not that a baby-eating example isn't a bit loaded ... but ok, I'll run
with it:

"Many orange-haired people have been observed to eat babies.  Here we
have an orange-haired person, and babies keep disappearing.  While
there is still some argument on the point of whether or not it is
acceptible to keep losing our babies, most of us agree that this is a
Bad Thing.  Maybe it is time to take steps to keep the babies away from
the orange-haired person, you know, see if that makes a difference."

> If you want to promote some action based on your guess - go
> ahead. But don't try to pretend it's based on anything but a
> guess. See how far you get.

I'm perfectly happy to suggest courses of action based on guesses
backed by anecdotal evidence but not firmly proven.  I'm not doing so
at this time, because I'm not the one with the ideas.

> > Is this just a game to you?  Did you think there were judges on the
> > sidelines keeping notes about who was using the wrong standard of
> > proof, or making unwarranted assumptions?  It's not a game to the ones
> > who started this thread.
> "It's not a game, therefore the rules (of logic) do not apply".

More like - there comes a point where calling people on the carpet for
what amount to technicalities is counter-productive and useless.  If
you're discussing going out for beer with a few friends, do you make
them follow Robert's Rules of Order?

> My direct point was that the argument "There are no other possible
> explanations" was false.

I think that's easy enough to concede.  In fact, I don't remember
seeing it argued otherwise.  So, what alternative explanations have
been offered?  Occam's Razor would seem to rule out the effects of

> My indirect point was that the fact that the causes cannot be known
> does not justify action based upon a guess as to what those causes
> are.

Action is justified on a basis weighted by the likelihood that the
theory suggesting the action is correct (i.e., the action is likely to
be effective), and by the urgency of the desire to address the problem.
The fact that the cause of a problem cannot be known for sure does not
by itself justify action, but it also does not justify *inaction*.

In other words, I would suggest that the burden of proof does not, in
cases such as these, rest solely with the affirmative.  If you would
argue that it does -- and simultaneously that hypotheses concerning
social structures cannot really be proven -- then by implication,
changes should not be made to social structures at all, and you may as
well come right out and say it.  I could be reading you wrong, but that
seems to be the gist of your earlier verbiage about "not lowering one's
standard for proof".

But this is silly anyway.  At the point I jumped in, this had become a
meta-debate; now it seems to be turning to a meta-meta-debate.  Since,
amazingly enough, I've got other things I could be doing with my time,
I'll go ahead and let you have the last word here, if you want it.


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