RE: Rational Methodology for Evaluating Supernatural Claims

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Sun Nov 26 2000 - 11:04:12 EST

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    The big problem comes in the 3rd paragraph. You write:

    "As explained in Ref. 1, a key logical principle typically used in science
    is proof by elimination, "PE". According to PE, if there is a theory that
    describes a certain real event and all other possible natural hypothesis for
    explaining that certain event are false except for one specific natural
    hypothesis, then this one non-false natural hypothesis is the correct
    theory. "

    I have been in science for 30 years or so and have never heard of such a
    method. The problem is that if all known theories save one has been
    falsified, this is no guarentee that the remaining is correct. It also might
    be wrong and the case may fall into one of several possibilities:

    1. no one has thought of the correct theory.

      Aristotelian mechanics was falsified by Galileo, but his theory (not
    falsified) wasn't quite correct either. Newton came along and fixed it, but
    his wasn't quite correct either so Einstein corrected that. To date, there
    is little reason to correct Einstein, but that doesn't mean that in the
    future we won't see a need.

    2. People reject the wrong theory for inadequate reasons. Continental drift
    is an example of this. Wegner, Du Toit and others argued long and hard that
    the continents had been connected and then moved apart. In the 20's the AAPG
    held a conference in which they questioned everything about drift including
    Wegener's parentage. They rejected it based upon the notion that there was
    no mechanism which could account for the continental motion. They were
    wrong. In the 1960s evidence was found which resurrected the theory and
    provided a new mechanism Thus their falsification of drift was false.

    3. The mathematics for the development of the theory may not have been
    invented yet.

    General relativity could not be invented until Riemannian algegra was
    invented in the 1800s. If anyone had suggested General Relativity to a
    friend in 1750, it would have been rejected as the creation of a mad man.

    4. Our minds very well might not be able to comprehend the true theory.
    This is becoming a worry among physicists trying to develop a theory of
    everything. When we begin to work with math of 10-11 dimensions and attempt
    to deal with non-linearities in those dimensions, we may never truly
    understand the full implications of what we have wrought.

    5. One can never rule out that invisible leprechauns actually cause
    everything to happen in the universe. Thus by your methodology, this
    becomes the correct theory because one can find difficulties with every
    other theory of man. But this one can't be so falsified and must therefore
    be true.


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