Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Accepting “I Don’t Know” As An Answer

Posted in The Call of Troythulu by Skepdude on September 16, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE CALL OF TROYTHULU

There is something that all of us do if we aren’t careful, mostly stemming from a deep discomfort of not having an immediate explanation or answer to something we want to know, but don’t–the argument from ignorance–a fallacy of thought by which we draw a conclusion not from data, but from a lack of data, from what we don’t know, a conclusion which more often than not turns out to be false when properly investigated.

One of the first things I had to learn as a skeptic was a tolerance for ambiguity, habits of thought by which I could say to myself “It’s okay to not have an answer for such-and-such a question right now.” It’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know…yet.”

There’s a great many people who are just terrified by the thought of not knowing everything with conclusive surety, even when that conclusiveness is wrong. So many people go to great lengths to convince themselves that they do, in fact, know what that strange light in the sky is, or what that creaking noise in the house late at night is, when they really don’t.

This is particularly true of those with a tendency to claim a event as being impossible to explain by natural or normal causes, and thus dismissing such causes prematurely, especially that dual bugaboo of paranormal and fringe-science advocates, coincidence and statistical noise.

A common argument is stated something like “X is so unlikely as to not possibly be due to the laws of chance(or nature)!”(read; the claimant’s understanding of those laws). In fact, it would be even moreimprobable that unusual coincidences don’t occur as often as they do, in accordance with the Law of Truly Large Numbers. For example, in a city of say, ten million people, one should by chance alone expect ten 1-in-1,000,000 coincidences to happen each day.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE CALL OF TROYTHULU

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