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Problems With Empirical Evidence

 
 
Reply Mon 23 Sep, 2013 06:02 pm
I'd like to suggest that a devotion to, or insistence on, empirical evidence can be harmful to rational discourse.

If for every discussion point we really require hard data, then a very great deal of valid conversation is pretty well precluded from taking place. People should be given room to develop arguments which are reasoned and reasonable, without being prematurely assassinated by others who glibly cry out for 100% justification of any and all assertions -something which we know to be very far from possible in any case.

Any dissenters to this view?
 
fresco
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 12:12 am
@medium-density,
Except in the realm of a relatively universal paradigm such as a current scientific one, "evidence" lies in the eye of the beholder. Your word "reasonable" applied to arguments pre-supposes a certain degree of agreement between correspondents (i.e. social convergence) as to what might be called by them "evidence", and also what they take to be axioms (unsupported premises). Without such agreement, "arguments" will indeed be futile. In short argumentation is to a large extent a sociological process rather than merely a logical one.

Thomas
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 03:50 am
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:
I'd like to suggest that a devotion to, or insistence on, empirical evidence can be harmful to rational discourse.

I think the question is, what do you want a rational discourse for? If all you want to do is make conversation, you will suffer no harm from dropping the part about "rational" and just keep talking. Just be honest about it and acknowledge that that's what you're doing.

But if your purpose in having a rational conversation is to get closer to the truth of a matter, I don't see how you can avoid a heavy emphasis on empirical facts. After all, facts are what establishes the truth or falsehood of any claim about the world.

medium-density wrote:
Any dissenters to this view?

Yes.
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 05:31 am
I don't have a problem with the demand for evidence. Where I get a bit irritated is when the demand for evidence is sometimes made for irrelevancies. For instance, when the discussion is about cars and a poster demands evidence concerning trains, which is often a ploy to steer the topic away from original intent. Often, in such cases, they ought to begin a different thread.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 06:07 am
Many people online are engaged in promoting a polemical, political point of view, even if the subject is philosophy, science, history, morality, or even aesthetics. Sometimes it is a polemical, religious point of view. If such an individual makes a claim, and proceeds from that claim to a proposition, especially a call for action, it is not only perfectly reasonable to demand evidence, it is foolish not to.
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rosborne979
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 07:38 am
@medium-density,
I think it's possible to have meaningful discussions without excessive evidence, but this can generally only happen when there is already agreement in the discussion on certain assumptions. But when there is disagreement, it's always going to come back to evidence.

The other possibility is that either party can agree to put aside agreement on certain assumptions in order to pursue the logical evolution of an idea (even if there is no evidence for it). Sometimes the logical progression reveals a paradox or improbability which then categorizes the original assumption as improbable. I think this is the way most detectives go about solving crimes when not all the evidence is available. Various theories are played out which result in categories of probability. Then evidence is sought in those categories which have the highest probability.

If your question relates specifically to threads on A2K, then I would say that what you're seeing is that there is a great deal of disagreement on basic assumptions. So evidence is always going to be required.
medium-density
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 06:11 pm
@fresco,
Yes you're right, all discussions are predicated on cultural norms and specific contexts. And while a lot of that is specious I don't know that I accept that arguments and logic are mutually exclusive.
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medium-density
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 06:19 pm
@Thomas,
facts are what establishes the truth or falsehood of any claim about the world

I think this assertion demonstrates the root of the problem. You're perfectly right in what you say, the issue is that claims about the words aren't necessarily made in the light of facts. In fact it's true to say they rarely are, outside of intensely academic circles. It's another problem that the validity of a claim is not very easily ascertained, to put it lightly.

So, in the absence of comprehensive and uncontested data, reasoned arguments must fill the breach. Sticking our fingers in our ears until a question is satisfactorily proved one way or the other gets us nowhere.
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medium-density
 
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Reply Tue 24 Sep, 2013 06:26 pm
@rosborne979,
If your question relates specifically to threads on A2K, then I would say that what you're seeing is that there is a great deal of disagreement on basic assumptions. So evidence is always going to be required.

The question wasn't aimed at this website, though it may apply to it in some ways -I haven't frequented it enough to say. I think a great number of disputes are based on clashes of assumption, like you say.

I wonder though if there isn't a distinction between an argument based on reason and an argument based on assumptions. I suppose that depends on how strict we are with our definitions.
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neologist
 
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Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 11:31 am
When 2 apparently rational folks come to different conclusions, what would be the reason(s)?
Differing axioms, including standards of "evidence"?
Subtly flawed logic?
InfraBlue
 
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Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 12:59 pm
@neologist,
Those three you mention, certainly, especially in regard to topics regarding politics, religion and sex.
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medium-density
 
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Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 05:46 pm
@neologist,
I believe there is so much evidence out there, and so much uncertainty too, that the only way to be coming from a truly evidence based perspective is to be a scholar in the subject at hand. This is obviously not possible for the majority of subjects, since scholarship necessitates that we devote our time with fidelity to only a few subjects, and usually only one broad one.

This is part of my frustration with the "where's your evidence?" objection in informal dialogue. The fact is we trust certain sources over others and rely on other heuristics like reputation of the institution or individual proponent, and whether the information being put forward is psychologically pleasing to us or not.

"Where's your evidence?" should be "What's your evidence?" And we should interrogate why you credit that evidence over other kinds, and by evaluating one's reasons some further understanding might be reached.
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Susan Burns
 
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Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2014 07:38 pm
In this age of speculation, there is a time to brainstorm and, also, a time to shut up and do one's homework.
Ragman
 
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Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2014 08:27 pm
@Susan Burns,
I believe that you are new and may not be aware. In the future you may want to check for the datestamps of the thread. You'll find this an inactive thread from last March. Now that doesn't mean your opinion and comments aren't still valued. but perhaps it might not generate much response due to inactivity. For example, OP Medium-Density is not active on the forum currently for a few months. That isn't to say they won't be back, though.
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