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LoBagola

likelihood of truth based on believers

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"the more people who believe something the more likely it's to be true"

 

I know that if one billion people believe in something, that doesn't change the likelihood of that something existing or being true.

 

But then something in me fights this. If I think of two mutually incompatible scientific theories: one with 10 supporting scientists, another one with one supporting scientist. Which one would I likely side with, assuming I can't understand the research? I would side with the one with 10 supporting scientists as I'd assume it is likely to have "more validity"  — am I contradicting myself if I do this?

 

I can look at that statement and say: it's wrong. But I don't feel convinced, and worry that I may be missing something, and I think I may be acting on it in a few areas of my life. It's quite strange.

Edited by LoBagola

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Depends what you mean by "can't understand". Do you mean not a clue? If you mean this, then pick neither, then start learning about it if you think it's important. It's okay to say "I don't know." Do you mean you have an idea at least? Then pick whatever makes most sense, but recognize that you're not sure yet.

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Consensus is not a truth value. If you don't understand it you should not accept it. But you can say, " its true most experts believe x". I drive Doctors and lawyers nuts. I had jury duty once where I got the judge to concede that the definition of "reasonably doubt" he read me was circular..... I wasn't asked to stay as a juror....

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On the subject of scientific consesus, I found this post by a participant at JREF (James Randi Educational Forum) to be of great value.  The person writing this is a confirmed Objectivist who I may invite to post here in the future.  He has a unique perspective as an actual scientist:

 

The simple fact is, I'm NOT. The consensus is a good rule of thumb for those who don't know the subject. In physics, yeah, I'll stand back and listen to the consensus--but I acknowledge that that's because I'm abdicating the responsibility of actual judgement, since I don't know physics all that well and am not taking the time to learn it. I don't pretend the Bandwagon Fallacy magically becomes sound logic merely because it's science and not politics; I'm taking a shortcut, I acknowledge it, and I'm very aware of the pitfalls in doing so. 

When you DO know a subject, following the consenses is not only flawed logic, it's downright dangerous. As a scientist my obligation is to follow, not the prevailing opinion, but the data. If the data do not support the consensus, it is my obligation to buck the intellectual trends in the community and advocate for a new interpretation. If we demonize those who do so (which is what consensus science amounts to) we may as well abandon the entire enterprise and simply have a board that dictates scientific truths to us. 

 

 

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The problem happens when people start aggressively supporting policies based on a "scientific majority" while knowing nothing about the actual science involved, and fighting to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

 

I'm guessing we're all talking the same political faction, which consistently does this with one particular scientific issue? B)

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