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Thread: Observational and critical thinking fallacies: An all too common mistake

  1. #1
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    Observational and critical thinking fallacies: An all too common mistake

    It is a regular (daily) occurrence on this and perhaps countless other message boards: A complete lack of critical thinking. Add to that a disregard for the inherent drawbacks of human observation AND memory and what we end up with is someone that is bent on ignorance. And I mean the word 'ignorance' as it is defined properly - 'a state of being uninformed'. But in several cases lately that ignorance is willful and deliberate.

    I'm starting this thread out of frustration. It seems a primer is needed in some cases. Aome people have expressed that 'taking trustworthy people at their word' is acceptable as a scientific fact or as hard evidence of an event. At the very least this discounts and ignores the myriad flaws with human observation. At the worst it is willfully ignorant of human deception.

    Here are some things I'd like to point out about science (many things below are taken from various websites):

    Science attempts to apply some of the following criteria:
    1) Skepticism of unsupported claims
    2) Combination of an open mind with critical thinking
    3) Attempts to repeat experimental results.
    4) Requires testability
    5) Seeks out falsifying data that would disprove a hypothesis
    6) Uses descriptive language
    7) Performs controlled experiments
    8) Self-correcting
    9) Relies on evidence and reason
    10) Makes no claim for absolute or certain knowledge
    11) Produces useful knowledge


    i would also like to link this:
    Here is a massively informative optical illusion site. And before you IGNORE this site let me state this: Your brain, indeed everyone's, is easily fooled and hoodwinked by SIMPLE optical effects. Before you support a claim that could have been caused by one or more of these, do you have PROOF it was not a misinterpreted object/event?

    http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/

    And a side note to that: pluralism of observation (multiple people seeing the same thing) is does not provide proof of something extraordinary. Everyone sees a triangle in the Kanizsa Triangle example. And everyone is WRONG. Therefore many observers can be wrong in very much the same way.

    I won't be exploring memory issues in this post at it is an entirely different can of worms that makes optical illusions look like child's play. I would like to point out that there are also audio illusions as well as touch, etc. The brain is a very easy thing to trick.

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    I love illusions as an aid to help people begin to realize what they thought they saw may not be what they really saw.

    Great link, LotusExcelle!

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    Thanks Mugs! Some people look at those illusions and say 'what does that have to do with the UFO!' and I can't help but shake my head.

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    Some common logical flaws that come up are:

    * "You can't prove it isn't an X"

    Well, maybe. But that doesn't make it any more likely that it is an X

    * "Science was wrong about Y in the past"

    But that doesn't mean that it is wrong about everything; or that your idea is more likely to be correct.

    Also, science is rarely "wrong" in the sense that a theory has to be totally discarded and replaced with something new (e.g. geocentrism -> heliocentrism). More often, there is an extension of old ideas to fit a new domain (e.g. Newtonian physics is still useful for many things but, when necessary, you have to use the more accurate math of relativity).

    * "No one believed Galileo [or whoever]"

    Just because some new theories, which later turn out to be true, have met resistance doesn't mean that yours must be true because no one likes it. (There is a fancy name for this sort of inverted logic, but I can't remember it). This "inertia" in sceince is generally a good thing because it means that new ideas must have overwhelming support before they can be accepted. Most ideas get accepted very rapidly once the critical level of evidence and/or mechanism is achieved: the famous "paradigm shift" (plate tectonics, relativity, QM, etc.)

    * "New ideas can come from anywhere" (and variations like "Einstein was just a patent clerk")

    Sadly, nowadays, most physics and cosmology is so deeply technical that, unless you have all the necessary math and physics background, you aren't going to be able to contribute anything much. If all you know comes from reading popular science articles and books, you aren't going to be making any breakthroughs. (And Einstein wasn't "just" a patent clerk, he was a physicist who happened to work as a patent clerk).

    * "We can never be certain of anything so my idea is as good as any other"

    Not if it doesn't fit with all the existing evidence and observations it isn't, and be able to caclulate/predict everything that the current theory can.. Ideally, it should add something new: enable the calculation or prediction of something that current theory cannot, for example.

    * "I don't need to know the current theory because it is wrong"

    Sigh. If you don't fully understand the current theory (a) how do you know it is wrong and (b) how can you produce a reasonable critique of it. Also, if you don't have the math and physics background to fully understand the theory you are challenging, then it is unlikely that your idea is rigorous enough to fly.

    * "They laughed at Charlie Chaplin"

    Yes, they did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    It is a regular (daily) occurrence on this and perhaps countless other message boards: A complete lack of critical thinking. Add to that a disregard for the inherent drawbacks of human observation AND memory and what we end up with is someone that is bent on ignorance. And I mean the word 'ignorance' as it is defined properly - 'a state of being uninformed'. But in several cases lately that ignorance is willful and deliberate.

    I'm starting this thread out of frustration. It seems a primer is needed in some cases. Aome people have expressed that 'taking trustworthy people at their word' is acceptable as a scientific fact or as hard evidence of an event. At the very least this discounts and ignores the myriad flaws with human observation. At the worst it is willfully ignorant of human deception.

    Here are some things I'd like to point out about science (many things below are taken from various websites):

    Science attempts to apply some of the following criteria:
    1) Skepticism of unsupported claims
    2) Combination of an open mind with critical thinking
    3) Attempts to repeat experimental results.
    4) Requires testability
    5) Seeks out falsifying data that would disprove a hypothesis
    6) Uses descriptive language
    7) Performs controlled experiments
    8) Self-correcting
    9) Relies on evidence and reason
    10) Makes no claim for absolute or certain knowledge
    11) Produces useful knowledge


    i would also like to link this:
    Here is a massively informative optical illusion site. And before you IGNORE this site let me state this: Your brain, indeed everyone's, is easily fooled and hoodwinked by SIMPLE optical effects. Before you support a claim that could have been caused by one or more of these, do you have PROOF it was not a misinterpreted object/event?

    http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/

    And a side note to that: pluralism of observation (multiple people seeing the same thing) is does not provide proof of something extraordinary. Everyone sees a triangle in the Kanizsa Triangle example. And everyone is WRONG. Therefore many observers can be wrong in very much the same way.

    I won't be exploring memory issues in this post at it is an entirely different can of worms that makes optical illusions look like child's play. I would like to point out that there are also audio illusions as well as touch, etc. The brain is a very easy thing to trick.
    What you miss is that 'pluralism of observation' is not looking at the same thing again and again in the same way. Most optical illusions are shown to be illusions when one takes a tactile observation instead of optical. Or you can get a trusted reference to see if the illusion is an illusion, i.e. use a straight edge to see if a seemingly curved line is straight.

    This very much applies in science. A completely new way to do an experiment is a good way to firm up the evidence that the original is correct.

    Making sure that what you think you see is what you really saw is a major concern in science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by korjik View Post
    Making sure that what you think you see is what you really saw is a major concern in science.
    Right, and a definable possibility of illusion is a legitimate scientific concern, not ATM that can be simply poh poh or "woo woo"d away with a hand wave.

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    Quote Originally Posted by korjik View Post
    What you miss is that 'pluralism of observation' is not looking at the same thing again and again in the same way. Most optical illusions are shown to be illusions when one takes a tactile observation instead of optical. Or you can get a trusted reference to see if the illusion is an illusion, i.e. use a straight edge to see if a seemingly curved line is straight.
    I just did something very close to that just now.
    Looking at a house through the slats of the louver, I was amazed at how the diagonal edge of the roof appeared to meander, with the parts visible through the stats looking obviously more vertical that the overall slant of the roof.
    To see if I could document the effect, I took several pictures of it with my DSRL camera, taking care to manually set the focus so the house was in focus. Looking at those pictures, the effect is totally gone.
    I then reshot the house, this time keeping things slightly out of focus and this time it's obvious that it's not an optical illusion (just try the straight edge) but rather a real effect caused by me being slightly nearsighted.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The funny thing is that without this photo I would have also been perfectly happy with the optical illusion explanation, I just got curious enough to test things.
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    if i understand this thread correctly, it is being reasoned that eye-witness accounts (of ufos for example) are inherently not permissible as scientific evidence because of the possibility of our senses playing tricks with us.

    it was also said:
    And a side note to that: pluralism of observation (multiple people seeing the same thing) is does not provide proof of something extraordinary. Everyone sees a triangle in the Kanizsa Triangle example. And everyone is WRONG. Therefore many observers can be wrong in very much the same way.

    I won't be exploring memory issues in this post at it is an entirely different can of worms that makes optical illusions look like child's play. I would like to point out that there are also audio illusions as well as touch, etc. The brain is a very easy thing to trick.
    ok, but how does so-called scientifically valid or permissible data enter the scientific reasoning?
    at some stage there are ALWAYS human senses involved. of one or many humans, which - according to your reasoning - doesn't really matter.

    i ask you then, how is ANY scientific data ever permissible? at some stage in the data gathering there are ALWAYS human senses involved and they are inherently suspicious to you, right?

    repeatability - another fundamental principle of the scientific method - doesn't really work either. according to your reasoning anyways. because you are saying that even if multiple witnesses report the same event they can still be wrong.

    or am i missing something here?

    korjik refines one of your arguments by saying
    What you miss is that 'pluralism of observation' is not looking at the same thing again and again in the same way.
    that may be so, but still at some stage there are ALWAYS human senses involved.

    please explain to me why the so-called scientific data gathering in a lab or multiple labs witnessed by multiple people is inherently more reliable than multiple witnesses seeing the same ufo, or the same ghost or whatever?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    explain to me why the so-called scientific data gathering in a lab or multiple labs witnessed by multiple people is inherently more reliable than multiple witnesses seeing the same ufo, or the same ghost or whatever?
    As humble a source as Wikipedia: Scienctific method offers:

    Among other facets shared by the various fields of inquiry is the conviction that the process must be objective to reduce biased interpretations of the results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established.
    Repeatable.

    Let me repeat that.

    Repeatable.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    As humble a source as Wikipedia: Scienctific method offers:



    Repeatable.

    Let me repeat that.

    Repeatable.
    i don't think you understood me.
    at virtually every stage of the scientific practice human senses are involved. the basic premise of this thread is that human senses are inherently unreliable.
    how is repeatability witnessed but through human senses?


    hence my question:
    please explain to me why the so-called scientific data gathering in a lab or multiple labs witnessed by multiple people is inherently more reliable than multiple witnesses seeing the same ufo, or the same ghost or whatever?
    in both cases, data gathering can only occur through our human senses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    [...] so-called scientifically valid [...] so-called scientific data gathering [...]
    By the way, it is called "science" because it works.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    i don't think you understood me.
    I think I did.
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    i don't think you understood me.
    at virtually every stage of the scientific practice human senses are involved. the basic premise of this thread is that human senses are inherently unreliable.
    how is repeatability witnessed but through human senses?


    hence my question:
    please explain to me why the so-called scientific data gathering in a lab or multiple labs witnessed by multiple people is inherently more reliable than multiple witnesses seeing the same ufo, or the same ghost or whatever?
    in both cases, data gathering can only occur through our human senses.
    Imagine a simple detector, with a digital display and a printer (it doesn't matter, for now, what the detector is designed to detect).

    Imagine an experiment in which the detector displays a value of what it's detecting, suppose at a rate of 1 every ten seconds.

    Imagine ten researchers watching the display, and each recording the value displayed in their notebooks. The printer prints once every observation (and the printer's printout includes a timestamp).

    Imagine all 11 sets of data being collected, compiled, and published.

    Is the published dataset inherently unreliable? If so, how?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    i don't think you understood me.
    at virtually every stage of the scientific practice human senses are involved. the basic premise of this thread is that human senses are inherently unreliable.
    I don't think that is the basic premise of this thread. I think the premise of this thread is about how to think through problems, and the mistakes some make when they don't use critical thinking. Optical illusions were introduced as examples of how people can make mistakes in observation and interpretation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    if i understand this thread correctly, it is being reasoned that eye-witness accounts (of ufos for example) are inherently not permissible as scientific evidence because of the possibility of our senses playing tricks with us.
    No, not inherently impermissible, but subject to careful review, as eye-witnesses often make assumptions about what they are witnessing.

    For instance, a person might say they saw a giant triangular ship, when what they actually witnessed were three lights in a dark sky, with no way of accurately judging the distance to the lights, or what was causing the lights.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nereid View Post
    Imagine a simple detector, with a digital display and a printer (it doesn't matter, for now, what the detector is designed to detect).

    Imagine an experiment in which the detector displays a value of what it's detecting, suppose at a rate of 1 every ten seconds.

    Imagine ten researchers watching the display, and each recording the value displayed in their notebooks. The printer prints once every observation (and the printer's printout includes a timestamp).

    Imagine all 11 sets of data being collected, compiled, and published.

    Is the published dataset inherently unreliable? If so, how?
    first off, i did not support that statement.

    a major premise of this thread - and one specifically emphasized by LotusExcelle - is the inherent unreliability of human senses because of the well-known fact that our senses are very susceptible to false perceptions.
    as an example LE specifically mentions ufo sightings. he argues (and so do virtually all members of baut) eye-witness accounts of ufos could not be permitted as scientific evidence because of the inherent unreliability of human senses.
    i am saying that if you think this through you inevitably arrive at the conclusion that what is commonly accepted as reliable gathering of scientific data is in fact unreliable.

    your example only shows that this cannot be the entire truth. clearly, most humans would accept your example of gathering data as the way to do it, myself included.

    it is also common knowledge, however, that human senses can indeed be very susceptible to illusions.

    i was just pointing out the clear double standard that is being applied here. hence my question.

    yes, ufo witnesses can be very unreliable. but is the same not true for scientists?
    admittedly, to a different degree perhaps. they are trained observers.
    but, as LE points out, many witnesses seeing the same optical illusion will still be wrong.

    on the other hand, there are eye-witness accounts of ufos from people that can easily be considered as equally reliable and trained observers.

    why now, so i am asking, are those accounts measured with a different stick?
    it doesn't make sense.

    if you categorically declare eye witnesses unreliable then you MUST declare scientist as unreliable and you can therefore not allow their data in the scientific court.
    and no, not even the repeated data gathered by multiple independent teams. they could all be falling for the same illusion, or so says the premise of this thread CATEGORICALLY (i.e. for eye-witnesses as a category of data gathering).
    clearly, that approach does not really work or make much sense. (not in the world we perceive ourselves to be in anyways.)

    you simply have to accept ufo sightings as the one in belgium in the late 90s (if i remember correctly) where hundreds people have seen the same object. the belgian airforce PUBLICLY confirmed that they saw the object on their radar screens. the flight characteristics and other data (lack of noise for example) were clearly perceivable. the object was flying very low and was more than big enough to be be clearly seen.

    how is that witnessing different from the witnessing in the example Nereid brought to the table?

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    as a side note:

    when i say
    you simply have to accept ufo sightings as the one in belgium in the late 90s (if i remember correctly) where hundreds people have seen the same object. the belgian airforce PUBLICLY confirmed that they saw the object on their radar screens. the flight characteristics and other data (lack of noise for example) were clearly perceivable. the object was flying very low and was more than big enough to be be clearly seen.
    i am not saying that this conclusively proves that the object was extraterrestrial in origin. it does not.
    it does prove, however, that an object was in the skies above belgium that night that exhibited flight characteristics that no known man-made object is capable of.
    in my book, that clearly warrants a thorough scientific investigation!
    yes, you cannot reproduce the sighting. but can you reproduce gamma ray bursts?
    we only know of them because they were somehow perceived by human beings of the scientific kind.

    i do not claim to know what that object was. i sure would like to know though!
    wouldn't you?
    and what better way to know about it than to target it with our combined minds and scientific instruments?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    if you categorically declare eye witnesses unreliable then you MUST declare scientist as unreliable and you can therefore not allow their data in the scientific court.
    and no, not even the repeated data gathered by multiple independent teams. they could all be falling for the same illusion, or so says the premise of this thread CATEGORICALLY (i.e. for eye-witnesses as a category of data gathering).
    clearly, that approach does not really work or make much sense. (not in the world we perceive ourselves to be in anyways.)

    Think part of the point is an experiment can be documented, it can be repeated. Observations compared and discussions had on the results. One person seeing an event that person does not understand or mis interprets is not the same.

    Humans are awful. There is a crime program in the UK and a good few years ago they staged crime in front of some unsuspecting witnesses. Then interviewed the witnesses as if investigating the crime. The witnesses accounts varied a lot. The filmed event was played back to them, they were surprised they got it so wrong.

    Where as an experiment can be repeated and tested. Proven or disproven or put aside for later research if inconclusive.


    I would have thought anyway. Not being a scientist but human enough to know my eyes fool my brain and my brain fools my eyes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    For instance, a person might say they saw a giant triangular ship,
    when what they actually witnessed were three lights in a dark sky,
    with no way of accurately judging the distance to the lights, or
    what was causing the lights.
    I saw exactly that, except that there were five lights, large and
    glowing very softly, like they were phosphorescent. It appeared to
    be low in the sky, but it was completely silent. I was still trying to
    believe what I had just seen, a minute later, when a second giant
    triangular ship flew over. It was just like the first, except that it
    honked.

    Light from sodium vapor street lamps on light gray breast feathers.
    The dark wings, head, neck, and tails were invisible.

    It was pretty exciting at the moment.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    you simply have to accept ufo sightings as the one in belgium in the late 90s (if i remember correctly) where hundreds people have seen the same object. the belgian airforce PUBLICLY confirmed that they saw the object on their radar screens. the flight characteristics and other data (lack of noise for example) were clearly perceivable. the object was flying very low and was more than big enough to be be clearly seen.
    i am not saying that this conclusively proves that the object was extraterrestrial in origin. it does not.
    it does prove, however, that an object was in the skies above belgium that night that exhibited flight characteristics that no known man-made object is capable of.
    The bit you're missing is that it doesn't prove that what they saw was an object, that's an assumption you're making.
    It also doesn't prove that what the radars detected was the same as what the eyewitnesses saw, that's an assumption you're making.

    Incidentally, once it has been shown that some eyewitnesses make mistakes in what they see, that makes all eyewitness reports suspect no matter how many examples of eyewitnesses with perfect recall and the observational powers of a hawk because there's no way, without corroborating physical evidence, to determine which kind of witness is giving the report.
    Last edited by HenrikOlsen; 2010-Jul-03 at 10:33 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    The bit you're missing is that it doesn't prove that what they saw was an object, that's an assumption you're making.
    It also doesn't prove that what the radars detected was the same as what the eyewitnesses saw, that's an assumption you're making.
    of course it was an object, or call it phenomena. doesn't matter what you call it. anybody with functioning eyes would have seen the same thing.
    are you saying there were multiple objects in the sky that night, each exhibiting behavior not ever seen on any man-made craft.
    i think the unique circumstances make it easy to confirm that they were cause by the same object.

    bet aside from the concrete circumstances of that particular sighting, what you are saying must then also apply to scientific observations, because the same human senses are involved.


    Incidentally, once it has been shown that some eyewitnesses make mistakes in what they see, that makes all eyewitness reports suspect no matter how many examples of eyewitnesses with perfect recall and the observational powers of a hawk because there's no way, without corroborating physical evidence, to determine which kind of witness is giving the report.
    well, if you read my posts then you know that if you take this categorical stance you must declare the entire scientific process as unreliable or as you put it "suspect".
    because the scientific process is always (at least at some stage) based on sensory inputs. it is the main way humans can collect data.

    scientific lab results are ALWAYS given as eye-witness reports, are they not? how else could we know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    i do not claim to know what that object was.
    it does prove, however, that an object was in the skies above belgium that night that exhibited flight characteristics that no known man-made object is capable of.
    Ahem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    scientific lab results are ALWAYS given as eye-witness reports, are they not? how else could we know?
    No. Trying to equate the observation of outcomes in scientific experiments with the lay observation of happenstance occurrences is as misguided as it can possibly be.

    What makes happenstance observation unreliable is the mind's propensity to create a coherent story out of confusing or incomplete details. This propensity leads the mind to reject details that don't fit the emerging interpretation, and to invent "observed" details that support it. For example we've seen UFO witnesses describe a "large triangular shape that blocked out the stars" when we know for incontrovertible fact that the sighting in question was of three separate lights (e.g., three aircraft).

    In forensic investigations of happenstance events, eyewitness testimony is taken and analyzed according to methodologies design to account for and minimize this effect. There are guided questionnaires that interviewers use, and techniques intended to separate fact from interpretation. UFO fanatics largely discount and avoid these methods because they reject the notion that eyewitness testimony is flawed in this way.

    The fact that results in scientific inquiry must be somehow reported by a human being placed somewhere in the workflow is not at all the same. In a designed experiment that will be repeated several times and measured by properly applied, carefully calibrated instruments, then subjected to panels of similarly qualified analysis there is ample opportunity to identify and eliminate human bias and interpretation. Then after publication, each result is considered forever tentative in case new opportunities for limitations and bias are discovered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JayUtah View Post
    Ahem.
    ahem what?
    there was a phenomenon with observable characteristics. what it was i don't know but some of its qualities have been observed.

    how is that different from observing astronomical objects?
    we observe certain characteristics of certain phenomena in the sky and we speculate what it might be.
    in the process of data gathering we make many unproven assumptions. for example that the doppler-shift we can observe on earth applies to all objects in the universe.
    in my book that assumption makes sense. however, it is simply an assumption.
    one with far reaching consequences i might add!
    we base speed and distance calculations on that assumption.

    i just picked one. there are many such assumptions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JayUtah View Post
    No. Trying to equate the observation of outcomes in scientific experiments with the lay observation of happenstance occurrences is as misguided as it can possibly be.

    What makes happenstance observation unreliable is the mind's propensity to create a coherent story out of confusing or incomplete details. This propensity leads the mind to reject details that don't fit the emerging interpretation, and to invent "observed" details that support it. For example we've seen UFO witnesses describe a "large triangular shape that blocked out the stars" when we know for incontrovertible fact that the sighting in question was of three separate lights (e.g., three aircraft).

    In forensic investigations of happenstance events, eyewitness testimony is taken and analyzed according to methodologies design to account for and minimize this effect. There are guided questionnaires that interviewers use, and techniques intended to separate fact from interpretation. UFO fanatics largely discount and avoid these methods because they reject the notion that eyewitness testimony is flawed in this way.

    The fact that results in scientific inquiry must be somehow reported by a human being placed somewhere in the workflow is not at all the same. In a designed experiment that will be repeated several times and measured by properly applied, carefully calibrated instruments, then subjected to panels of similarly qualified analysis there is ample opportunity to identify and eliminate human bias and interpretation. Then after publication, each result is considered forever tentative in case new opportunities for limitations and bias are discovered.
    i am certainly not saying that no guidelines should be applied. not everybody who comes to the conclusion that there is AMPLE evidence for objects with very strange behaviors in our skies is a ufo fanatic.
    to put all ufo witnesses in the same category is completely inappropriate. you make the assumption ufos can't possibly be here, therefor all ufo eye-witness accounts must be wrong.

    1. in belgium an object was seen on radar screens that exhibited flight-patterns not known from man-made objects.
    2. an object with the same highly unusual flight characteristics was seen by hundreds of people.

    how can that not be admissible in any scientific court?
    not as prove for extraterrestrials or anything like that.
    simply as proof that there was indeed a phenomenon in the sky that was clearly perceivable by eye and by radar alike.
    and what makes this phenomenon worthy of further investigation are the highly unusual flight characteristics - again clearly perceivable by eye and by radar.

    any scientific court that does not permit such observations for further investigation is extremely biased and does not deserve that name.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    ...
    yes, ufo witnesses can be very unreliable. but is the same not true for scientists?

    No, it isn't.

    admittedly, to a different degree perhaps. they are trained observers.

    No. There is no such thing as a trained observer of happenstance events. Everyone gets happenstance observation wrong equally.

    on the other hand, there are eye-witness accounts of ufos from people that can easily be considered as equally reliable and trained observers. why now, so i am asking, are those accounts measured with a different stick?

    Because what makes a scientist's observation more reliable is the steps he takes before, during, and after data collection to ensure that he is not required to observe them as happenstances but as repeatable, calibrated, objective observations. It's the nature of the observation, not the qualities of the observer, that make the difference.

    ...ufo sightings as the one in belgium in the late 90s (if i remember correctly) where hundreds people have seen the same object.

    And no doubt they saw something.

    ...the belgian airforce PUBLICLY confirmed that they saw the object on their radar screens.

    No. After the visual sightings had been reported both air force and traffic control surveillance radar noted "something" on secondary radar. These people don't normally look at secondary radar. That's done only when there's cause to. When the reports came in and primary radar was negative, then they switched to secondary radar and found "targets." Since there was no systematic sample of secondary radar before and after the sighting, this is clearly confirmation bias. Nothing was done to test whether the later observations on secondary radar were correlated in any way besides rough simultaneity with the visual observations.

    the flight characteristics and other data (lack of noise for example) were clearly perceivable.

    No. The "flight characteristics" were deduced from fragmentary target radar data obtained from F-16s scrambled to intercept the "targets." The pilots never saw the phenomenon, although from the ground observation the objects were moving low and slow. The "targets" apparently exhibited extraordinary flight characteristics such as rapid accelerations, decelerations, and changes in altitude. These values were deduced, as I said, from fragmentary radar data while the aircraft attempted to get a fire-control "lock." A "lock" in targeting radar terms means a successful series of range-gate acquisitions over time. To anyone familiar with the operation of those radars and the computer algorithms used to translate radar data into useful fire-control solutions, that's a clear case of the range gates picking up random objects and trying to "fit" them into a dynamics solution. Until a sustained lock is obtained, a target will indeed appear to jump all over the sky.

    Combine that with the lack of engine or flow noise from the objects and the lack of a sonic boom, and all the evidence points to there not being anything physically there. That leaves simply the ground observations to attempt to explain. Instead the pro-UFO position is clearly biased and clearly fraught with observational and interpretational pitfalls that science knows how to avoid.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    ahem what?
    You say you aren't trying to identify it. Then you identify it as an object with fantastic properties.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    ...
    you make the assumption ufos can't possibly be here, therefor all ufo eye-witness accounts must be wrong.

    Straw man; I make no such claim.

    1. in belgium an object was seen on radar screens that exhibited flight-patterns not known from man-made objects.

    No.

    A phenomenon was seen from the ground by several people.

    Then, some time later, uncalibrated and uncontrolled observations were made via secondary radar and presumptively correlated to the visual sighting.

    Then, some time later, fragmentary target radar data was assumed to be that of some flying object, no matter how silly the properties of that object would have to be in order to produce that radar data. No testable correlation was made to any of the other data.

    2. an object with the same highly unusual flight characteristics was seen by hundreds of people.

    how can that not be admissible in any scientific court?

    Because, as I explained, it's riddled with observational and methodological errors, packed heavily with bias, and liberally supplied with supposition and assumption. That's why science rejects that.

    any scientific court that does not permit such observations for further investigation is extremely biased and does not deserve that name.

    No, any court that properly rejects such biased and assumptive interpretations is doing its job properly. You're now arguing in circles. You want to know what the difference is between scientific reasoning and UFO-fanatic reasoning. Then when presented with the difference, you claim that difference alone is grounds for rejecting the scientific method as flawed.

    I hope you've seen how it is, in fact, the UFO approach that is flawed and how science often stoops to pedantic means in order to ensure the quality of its observations.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Nereid
    Imagine a simple detector, with a digital display and a printer (it doesn't matter, for now, what the detector is designed to detect).

    Imagine an experiment in which the detector displays a value of what it's detecting, suppose at a rate of 1 every ten seconds.

    Imagine ten researchers watching the display, and each recording the value displayed in their notebooks. The printer prints once every observation (and the printer's printout includes a timestamp).

    Imagine all 11 sets of data being collected, compiled, and published.

    Is the published dataset inherently unreliable? If so, how?
    first off, i did not support that statement.
    Thanks for the clarification.

    a major premise of this thread - and one specifically emphasized by LotusExcelle - is the inherent unreliability of human senses because of the well-known fact that our senses are very susceptible to false perceptions.
    as an example LE specifically mentions ufo sightings. he argues (and so do virtually all members of baut) eye-witness accounts of ufos could not be permitted as scientific evidence because of the inherent unreliability of human senses.
    i am saying that if you think this through you inevitably arrive at the conclusion that what is commonly accepted as reliable gathering of scientific data is in fact unreliable.

    your example only shows that this cannot be the entire truth. clearly, most humans would accept your example of gathering data as the way to do it, myself included.

    it is also common knowledge, however, that human senses can indeed be very susceptible to illusions.

    i was just pointing out the clear double standard that is being applied here. hence my question.

    yes, ufo witnesses can be very unreliable. but is the same not true for scientists?
    admittedly, to a different degree perhaps. they are trained observers.
    but, as LE points out, many witnesses seeing the same optical illusion will still be wrong.

    on the other hand, there are eye-witness accounts of ufos from people that can easily be considered as equally reliable and trained observers.

    why now, so i am asking, are those accounts measured with a different stick?
    it doesn't make sense.

    if you categorically declare eye witnesses unreliable then you MUST declare scientist as unreliable and you can therefore not allow their data in the scientific court.
    and no, not even the repeated data gathered by multiple independent teams. they could all be falling for the same illusion, or so says the premise of this thread CATEGORICALLY (i.e. for eye-witnesses as a category of data gathering).
    clearly, that approach does not really work or make much sense. (not in the world we perceive ourselves to be in anyways.)

    you simply have to accept ufo sightings as the one in belgium in the late 90s (if i remember correctly) where hundreds people have seen the same object. the belgian airforce PUBLICLY confirmed that they saw the object on their radar screens. the flight characteristics and other data (lack of noise for example) were clearly perceivable. the object was flying very low and was more than big enough to be be clearly seen.

    how is that witnessing different from the witnessing in the example Nereid brought to the table?
    One step at a time.

    Now let's replace the detector with an imaging device, like a CCD+telescope.

    A computer records the stream of images from this device, with timestamps etc.

    These images are then published, in a format called FITS, which is designed to be a faithful copy of the original data (images are just data), as well as to record various important meta-data.

    Scientists around the world access these FITS files, analyse them, write up their work, and publish it.

    Are the FITS files inherently unreliable? If so, how?

    Are the papers published using the FITS files inherently unreliable? If so, how?

    (we'll continue this exchange, if you don't mind ScienceIsReligion, to find out where your inevitable conclusion* went wrong, between premise and conclusion; we'll also test your assertion concerning "the clear double standard")

    * "you inevitably arrive at the conclusion that what is commonly accepted as reliable gathering of scientific data is in fact unreliable."

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScienceIsReligion View Post
    i am certainly not saying that no guidelines should be applied. not everybody who comes to the conclusion that there is AMPLE evidence for objects with very strange behaviors in our skies is a ufo fanatic.
    to put all ufo witnesses in the same category is completely inappropriate. you make the assumption ufos can't possibly be here, therefor all ufo eye-witness accounts must be wrong.

    1. in belgium an object was seen on radar screens that exhibited flight-patterns not known from man-made objects.
    2. an object with the same highly unusual flight characteristics was seen by hundreds of people.

    how can that not be admissible in any scientific court?
    not as prove for extraterrestrials or anything like that.
    simply as proof that there was indeed a phenomenon in the sky that was clearly perceivable by eye and by radar alike.
    and what makes this phenomenon worthy of further investigation are the highly unusual flight characteristics - again clearly perceivable by eye and by radar.

    any scientific court that does not permit such observations for further investigation is extremely biased and does not deserve that name.
    You are picking and choosing what is okay to submit as evidence. Examples have been given to you as tho what a scientifically acceptable way to measure something may be (the printout, digital readout, as well as multiple trained observers). That is exactly 180 degrees opposite what you are grasping. The primary difference here is that we have two vital things that your examples CANNOT supply: repeatability and objectivity. The objectivity comes from the digital readout and printout. This has been uninterpreted or filtered by humans and is an 'as is' set of data. The repeatability which is absolutely VITAL for testing and verification comes from the experiment and the equipment used to observe that experiment. Perhaps they were testing the tensile strength of a new alloy. Maybe the sample gets sent to the lab and these 10 scientists discover it was NOT the alloy they had ordered... so they can repeat the test on the exact same testing rig using the same sensors and computers to run the numbers. The alloy they ordered, it turns out, was weaker! So this first sample was stronger, even though it was wrong. And - get this - they can re-test and verify their findings! Eyewitnesses claim the alloys were the same. They were both slightly copper colored.

    That is a pretty impressive method of discovery and testing. And the people that saw the alloy were completely wrong.

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