How much evidence does it take to believe or to know?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.

Post Number:#16  Postby Scott » January 15th, 2010, 11:47 pm

Algol wrote:Scott,

In your opinion, must the evidence which proves something true be empirical and analytical in all cases? It seems to be from looking at your posts. If I am mistaken, can you give an example of something you believe to be true that does not use analytics? (Not passing judgement on you; just curious)

What do you mean by analytics? To me, it is a term that suggests logic, which deals with the relationship of the veracity of premises to the veracity of potential conclusions, more than the term suggests evidence, which deals with confirming the veracity of the premises. Of course, if you have a valid logical argument than that means evidence for the premises is in a way of speaking simultaneously indirect evidence of the conclusions.

The word empirical refers to information gained by means of observation, experience, or experiment. As I understand it, that which is believed from evidence is by definition empirically-gained beliefs or knowledge and vice versa. Thus, generally speaking, I think the idea of 'non-empirical evidence' is an oxymoron.

Sometimes I may use the phrase 'empirical evidence' but I feel that is redundant. I sometimes purposely use a redundancy for the purpose of emphasis.
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Post Number:#17  Postby wanabe » January 16th, 2010, 4:59 pm

Can I simply call attention to sentence one of my signature? Perhaps repeating it about 1481 times would get my point across.

It can be said that he sky is reflective, not a color, like many other things.

~~~~~~~~~~~Forgive the... shortness of the previous edition.~~~~~
Scott wrote:How much evidence does it take for you to believe something as opposed to just thinking it is possible?

I believe everything, I have faith that anything is possible and nothing is as it seems.

How much evidence does it take for you to say that you know something?

As a consequence of the above I can know nothing.

How much evidence is required against something for you to not believe it is possible?

As stated above: anything is possible; so this does not apply to me.

There are many ways in which something could understood, each one right or wrong depending on the circumstance. Disparaging relativism, I must make 'choices' (in some way) and I make those 'choices' on what I believe to be the 'facts' at the 'time'.
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Re: How much evidence does it take to believe or to know?

Post Number:#18  Postby John Jones » January 16th, 2010, 11:16 pm

Scott wrote:Standard of Belief

First of all, this thread is not about opinions (e.g. the sky is pretty, or this cake tastes good). It is completely logical that opinions differ from person to person.

This thread is about factual statements and the standards we use to determine whether or not to believe them.

How much evidence does it take for you to believe something as opposed to just thinking it is possible? (e.g. "I believe the sky is blue" as opposed to "The sky may be blue or not; there is not enough evidence for me to believe one way or the other.")

How much evidence does it take for you to say that you know something? (e.g. "I know the sky is blue," or "I know the sky is not blue.")

How much evidence is required against something for you to not believe it is possible? Do you just have to believe the opposite? (e.g. "I believe the sky is blue, so I think it is not possible that the sky is not blue.")


We don't, and can't, require any evidence to know what sort of things could be in the world. And we don't require evidence for perceptions like colours.
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Post Number:#19  Postby NameRemoved » January 16th, 2010, 11:51 pm

Scott asked:

How much evidence does it take to believe or to know?


Let me now ask you something Scott
how much evidence does a mustard seed need to grow? how much evidence does a snowdrop need to pierce through ice in winter and grow? How much evidence do the birds need yet they find food and live in the most treacherous of landscapes, and they still sing.
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Post Number:#20  Postby Keith Russell » January 17th, 2010, 12:31 am

It takes a little evidence to "believe" a little; and a great deal of evidence to accept a claim to a large degree.

One should never "believe", should never accept a claim, should never claim to "know", to a greater extent than the evidence supports....
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Post Number:#21  Postby Meleagar » January 17th, 2010, 7:35 am

The real issue isn't really "how much" evidence is required, the real issue is that most people have a very apparent double-standard in the way they sort and label evidence; they dismiss evidence that contradicts their beliefs, making it convenient for them to claim that their views are based on evidence and that other people's views are not.

Some people claim that their beliefs are based on empirical scientific research, which usually means (unless they are practicing, published sceintists in that field) that their beliefs are actually based on anecdote and testimony; IOW, popularized accounts of scientific discovery and/or perhaps reading some actual peer-reviewed, published research.

If I believe what Nature magazine says about something, I'm not believing empirical scientific research, because I conducted and experienced no empirical scientific research; all that I experienced was reading about the work claimed to have been conducted; I'm believing a trusted authority.

Basically, these beliefs are constructed by how well their personal experience matches up with what a trusted authority (popularized and technical reports/research) has told them. This is largely how most people - even the spiritual and religious - go about forming beliefs, and why one should always maintain a healthy dose of humility and skepticism about their own beliefs and keep a measure of respect and open-mindedness about the beliefs of others.

Scientific reports are as apt to be flawed as any other form of empirical evidence-gathering, not only because humans make mistakes, but because of fraud, financial-strings corruption, pride and ego, and simple confirmation bias.

Pseudoskeptics are people that maintain their beliefs largely by dismissing the legitimacy of the authorities of those who believe differently from them, especially if those alternate sources of authority are in a minority. They sort their evidence conveniently and via tautology; if the evidence contradicts their view, it isn't "real" evidence. By dismissing it as real evidence, they don't have to account for it.

Also, they dismiss the views of others with prejudice; instead of simply stating that they are as yet uncovinced about a proposition, the pseudoskeptic often personally attacks the work, reputation and beliefs of those that sufficiently differ from them. They are defending a world-view, not making calm, cool argument based on fact and logic.

Since all forms of gaining knowledge - even the empirical - are subject and prone to error, it's best to stay neutrally skeptical to some degree about all available evidence, even that upon which one's own beliefs are based.
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Post Number:#22  Postby Simon says... » January 18th, 2010, 1:22 pm

If we are talking about knowledge as a "justified true belief", the question is, how much, or even what kind of evidence is appropriate "justification" to claim knowledge. There is of course a difference in claiming knowledge, and actually knowing. To know it it must be true, but should we shy away from claiming knowledge, just because there is a possibility that it isn't true? I claim that I "know" the sky is blue, I also claim that I am justified in believing that fact to be true. It is of course possible I am wrong, perhaps there is some elaborate conspiracy at work! I rather doubt it.

I would say that there are two valid kinds of justification for claiming knowledge and those are rationalism and empiricism. Both I think make up two essential parts of probability theory, a.k.a. the level of confidence we have, that a fact is, was, or will be true.

I think that one can gain a probability of 1 or 0, through axioms and paradoxes, and through deductive arguments based off of them. I not only claim knowledge that 1+1=2 [no alternative base used, and "one" semantically meaning "singular" etc] but also "certainty" of this fact's truth value, I claim total security from being mistaken. Why? Because, if I was mistaken, such would clarly be paradoxical, if ¬(1+1=2), then either one is not really one, two is not really two, addition is not really addition and equality is not really equality...or all of the above, in short, its a contradiction in terms.

But I think we can also get many probabilities between 1 & 0, and these are obtained empirically. Empiricism of course works through observation. The more times you observe it, the more likely it is to be real. Empiricism uses consistency whereas rationalism uses necessity. Both have their pros and cons, rationalism can yield much higher probabilities, but is not wildly a applicable, it only really applies in mathematics, axioms and deductive arguements. Empiricism's flaw of course, is that if a lie is more consisent than the truth, then it will be taken as true in error.

Nevertheless, empiricism works, so long as you keep at it. We defines whether or not a belief or "hypothesis" is justifed enough to claim "knowledge" i.e. to accept the hypothesis and publish the findings scientifically, is whether or not you have tested it enough times, to gain a quantity greater than a key critical value, which is (through a fancy equation that I have completely forgotten but used to know in high school) determined by the number of test subjects...In short, it all makes sense mathematically & I can't remember how ;)

It called inferential statistics, and scientists use it to work out if they have tested something enough for it to be justifed enough to claim it as knowledge and thus publish their findings. They sometimes get it wrong of course, and they clearly didn't "know" because it wasn't actually true, however that doesn't mean they where unjustified in claiming knowledge.
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Post Number:#23  Postby Keith Russell » January 18th, 2010, 10:00 pm

Meleagar wrote:The real issue isn't really "how much" evidence is required, the real issue is that most people have a very apparent double-standard in the way they sort and label evidence; they dismiss evidence that contradicts their beliefs, making it convenient for them to claim that their views are based on evidence and that other people's views are not.


Perhaps this is true of "most people", but what of the "few folks" who don't have the apparent double-standard?

You suggest remaining "neutrally skeptical", but it seems as big of a mistake to remain neutral about something for which the evidence suggests a strong degree of probability, as it is to believe something to a great degree, when the evidence doesn't support that level of belief.

I still believe the best option is to accept a claim only to the extent that the evidence suggests--no further, but no less, either...
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Post Number:#24  Postby Meleagar » January 19th, 2010, 6:56 am

Keith Russell wrote:
Perhaps this is true of "most people", but what of the "few folks" who don't have the apparent double-standard?


The only people that I know that don't sort evidence via confirmation bias are those whose beliefs do not require evidence. People who require that their beliefs be evidenced always find authority sources and empirical experiences that support their ideology. This is natural confirmation bias and and ideological sorting of experience.

You suggest remaining "neutrally skeptical", but it seems as big of a mistake to remain neutral about something for which the evidence suggests a strong degree of probability, as it is to believe something to a great degree, when the evidence doesn't support that level of belief.


Evidence is an interpretation of facts from a set of premises and according to a theoretical model of interpretation. Evidence can indicate many different things, depending upon the interpretation. When a person requires evidential support for their beliefs, then they interpret the evidence accordingly. Ideology isn't determined by how evidence is interpreted; evidence is interpreted according to ideology or belief, which generates the models of how evidence is interpreted.

Beliefs are generally not based on evidence; how evidence is interpreted is generally based on one's beliefs.
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Post Number:#25  Postby NameRemoved » January 19th, 2010, 8:01 am

Keith I would imagine that in the scenario of recognitions of those past over they could express certain physical truths about them when they were here, that only you or their intimate close circle could know about. We have memory here.. why not have memory in the afterlife?

Mel many beliefs are based on evidence.they don`t have to be..but many are

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Post Number:#26  Postby Keith Russell » January 19th, 2010, 3:39 pm

Meleagar wrote:The only people that I know that don't sort evidence via confirmation bias are those whose beliefs do not require evidence.


Am I correct in assuming that you don't view "beliefs that do not require evidence" as a good thing? I don't--but you don't seem to view "rational" people--those who base their beliefs on the evidence, in a very favourable light, either.

Given that, what epistemology do you prefer?

People who require that their beliefs be evidenced always find authority sources and empirical experiences that support their ideology. This is natural confirmation bias and and ideological sorting of experience.


I'm always skeptical when I run across the word "always".

Your view seems fairly bleak; one either believes without any evidence at all, or one bases one's beliefs on evidence that supports whatever beliefs one already has.

Is there no one, in your view, who is "rational"? Are you aware of none who continually check their beliefs against the best, most complete, and least contradictory evidence available--and who are willing to alter their beliefs as new compelling evidence arises?

Evidence is an interpretation of facts from a set of premises and according to a theoretical model of interpretation. Evidence can indicate many different things, depending upon the interpretation. When a person requires evidential support for their beliefs, then they interpret the evidence accordingly. Ideology isn't determined by how evidence is interpreted; evidence is interpreted according to ideology or belief, which generates the models of how evidence is interpreted.


I guess not. sigh
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Post Number:#27  Postby Santini » January 19th, 2010, 4:28 pm

Meleagar wrote:The only people that I know that don't sort evidence via confirmation bias are those whose beliefs do not require evidence.


If a belief is held in the absence of evidence then how can it be known with any degree of probability that the belief is true?


Izzy wrote:I would imagine that in the scenario of recognitions of those past over they could express certain physical truths about them when they were here, that only you or their intimate close circle could know about. We have memory here.. why not have memory in the afterlife?


For the same reason that a car without an engine will not run.

We have a functioning brain when we are alive. This brain normally has the ability to form memories.

We do not have a functioning brain when we are dead and thus no known way to form memories.
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Post Number:#28  Postby Meleagar » January 19th, 2010, 5:10 pm

Keith Russell wrote:Am I correct in assuming that you don't view "beliefs that do not require evidence" as a good thing? I don't--but you don't seem to view "rational" people--those who base their beliefs on the evidence, in a very favourable light, either.


I don't consider either to be good or bad.

Given that, what epistemology do you prefer?


I prefer believing without any attachment to interpretations of evidence, but I don't claim it is what everyone should or could do. However, I'm free to make a case based on evidence and logic about a position or assertion if I choose to.

Your view seems fairly bleak; one either believes without any evidence at all, or one bases one's beliefs on evidence that supports whatever beliefs one already has.


What you find to be bleak about those scenarios? I think both can lead to quite interesting and enjoyable experiences.

Is there no one, in your view, who is "rational"? Are you aware of none who continually check their beliefs against the best, most complete, and least contradictory evidence available--and who are willing to alter their beliefs as new compelling evidence arises?


Your questions here illuminate the inherent problem. Evidence is not a neutral commodity; it is an interpretation of facts according to a perspective, theory, or world-view. There are many different ways to sort, evaluate, and interpret facts.

It is "rational" to interpret facts from any set of non-contradictory premises (preferably based on real-world or experiential states). Rational interpretations of facts and inferences from premises via such evidence can lead to many varied, cogent, and entirely logical conclusions.

What is somewhat irrational is insisting that one's particular set of premises and one's particular heuristic is the only valid set by which evidence can be gathered and sorted.

Santini wrote:If a belief is held in the absence of evidence then how can it be known with any degree of probability that the belief is true?


If evidence is the interpretation of facts and reasoned inferences according to a pre-existing world-view, then how would one validate that their world-view is correct?

How do you decide upon a heuristic, a world-view, from which to begin interpreting facts, establishing premises and making reasoned inferences? Don't you require some sort of evidence first?

This is why evidential systems are always tautological; evidence is not a neutral commodity; evidence is gathered, sorted, and interpreted according to an intention of some sort that reveals itself through the particular kind of confirmation bias employed.
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Post Number:#29  Postby Santini » January 19th, 2010, 5:52 pm

Mel, that doesn't answer my question.

Let's assume that you are correct and that we have no reason to believe that evidential-based reasoning leads to probable truth.

What does, then?

If nothing leads to the knowledge of probable truth then it sounds very much to me as if you are saying that nothing can be known to be probably true; that all knowledge is mere opinion and relative; that it's as likely that the moon is made of green cheese as rock.
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Post Number:#30  Postby NameRemoved » January 19th, 2010, 6:43 pm

Santini wrote:



For the same reason that a car without an engine will not run.

We have a functioning brain when we are alive. This brain normally has the ability to form memories.

We do not have a functioning brain when we are dead and thus no known way to form memories.


hi Santini, have you read the peer reviewed scientific studies on cellular memory, Memory appears at cellular levels not just in and from the brain itself.

Cellular memory hints at the origins of intelligence
Slime mould displays remarkable rhythmic recall.

Phillip Ball
Nature News


Learning and memory — abilities associated with a brain or, at the very least, neuronal activity — have been observed in protoplasmic slime, a unicellular organism with multiple nuclei.

When the amoeba Physarum polycephalum is subjected to a series of shocks at regular intervals, it learns the pattern and changes its behaviour in anticipation of the next one to come1, according to a team of researchers in Japan.
Remarkably, this memory stays in the slime mould for hours, even when the shocks themselves stop. A single renewed shock after a 'silent' period will leave the mould expecting another to follow in the rhythm it learned previously. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and his colleagues say that their findings “hint at the cellular origins of primitive intelligence”.

It is well-established that cells receive, interpret and adjust to environmental fluctuations, says microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago, Illinois. But if the results stand up, he says, “this paper would add a cellular memory to those capabilities”.

The organism chosen by the Japanese team could scarcely seem less promising as a quick learner. Physarum polycephalum is a slime mould belonging to the Amoebozoa phylum. It moves at a steady rate of about one centimetre per hour at room temperature, but this changes with the humidity of its environment. It slows down in drier air, and Nakagaki's team used this sensitivity to stimulate learning. The team found that when the mould experienced three episodes of dry air in regular succession an hour apart, it apparently came to expect more: it slowed down when a fourth pulse of dry air was due, even if none was actually applied. Sometimes this anticipatory slow-down would be repeated another hour later, and even a third.
The same behaviour was seen when the pulses were experienced at other regular time intervals — say, every half hour or every 1.5 hours.


If the dry episodes did not recur after the first three, the amoeba's sense of expectation gradually faded away. But then applying a single dry pulse about six hours later commonly led to another anticipatory slowing in step with the earlier rhythm.

The same team has previously shown that these amoebae can negotiate mazes and solve simple puzzles2,3. So the new finding adds to “the cool things Physarum can do”, says applied mathematician Steven Strogatz of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Like all living organisms, slime moulds have built-in biochemical oscillators, like the human body clock. In other kinds of slime mould, these oscillators can create periodic ripple patterns in response to environmental stress, helping the organism coordinate its movements. Nakagaki's group thinks that the versatile rhythmic sense of Physarum stems from many different biochemical oscillators in the colony operating at a continuous range of frequencies.

The team's calculations show that such a group of oscillators can pick up and 'learn' any imposed rhythmic beat, although the knowledge decays quickly once stimulus ceases. The calculations also show that a memory of the beat can stay within the system, and be released again by a single, later pulse — just as the researchers observed.

http://www.bioedonline.org/news/news.cfm?art=3750






Body Memory, is the theory that the body, as well as the brain, is capable of storing memories. Body memory is sometimes cited to explain certain claims of having memories for events where the brain was not in a position to store memories.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_memory

Dr. Candace Pert, a professor in the department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University, believes "the mind is not just in the brain, but also exists throughout the body." Dr. Pert is an expert in peptide pharmacology. "The mind and body communicate with each other through chemicals known as peptides," she claims. "These peptides are found in the brain as well as in the stomach, muscles and all of our major organs. I believe that memory can be accessed anywhere in the peptide/receptor network. For instance, a memory associated with food may be linked to the pancreas or liver, and such associations can be transplanted from one person to another."*

More On Cellular Memory. New Heart, New Personality,
Too?


I am not here to promote nor deny the existence of cellular memory I just find the topic fascinating especially because so many of my readers do. Not long ago The Discovery Health Channel aired a program titled “Transplanting Memories.” http://dsc.discovery.com/ In the show experts explained why they believe in the concept. Georgetown University Professor, Dr. Candace Pert, said she believes the mind is not just in the brain, but also exists throughout the body. “The mind and body communicate with each other through chemicals known as peptides,” she said. “These peptides are found in the brain as well as in the stomach, muscles and all of our major organs. I believe that memory can be accessed anywhere in the peptide/receptor network. For instance, a memory associated with food may be linked to the pancreas or liver and such associations can be transplanted from one person to another.”

Another expert, German neurologist, Leopold Auerbach, discovered over a century ago that a complex network of nerve cells, like those of the human brain, exist in the intestines. And — Professor Wolfgang Prinz, of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, discussed the “second brain” in Geo, a German science magazine. Prinz said the digestive track is made up of a knot of about 100 billion brain nerve cells, more than found in the spinal cord. The article suggested the cells may save information on physical reactions to mental processes and give out signals to influence later decisions. It may also be involved in emotional reactions to events.



Perhaps all of this explains the many stories on the internet of transplant patients taking on the personalities of their donors.



If you really want to explore this phenomenon I strongly encourage you to read Knowing By Heart: Cellular Memory in Heart Transplants by Kate Ruth Linton in the MONTGOMERY COLLEGE STUDENT JOURNAL OF SCIENCE & MATHEMATICS

Volume 2 September 2003,



Several transplant surgeons have contributed to a theory for cellular memory essentially based on psychological and metaphysical conditions, which Dr. Paul Pearsall has pieced together. Pearsall is a psychoneuroimmunologist, or a licensed psychologist who studies the relationship between the brain, immune system, and an individual’s life experiences. Pearsall calls this theory the “Lowered Recall Threshold” Basically, it suggests that the immunosuppressive drugs that transplant recipients must take are what bring about associations to donor experiences in recipients. Immunosuppressive drugs minimize the chances of rejection of the new, foreign heart by suppressing the recipient’s immune system. Scientists believe these drugs could also possibly act as psychotropic, meaning “acting on the mind.”


http://bobsnewheart.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/more- on-cellular-memory-new-heart-new-personality-too/[/quote]


Santini a good book to read is Matter and Memory by Henri Bergson

Bergson is a tad cumbersome to read, but well worth the effort, he argues logically and his theories are based in science. You might be forgiven for assuming he must then conclude that the human mind depends on the brain, and must die when the brain dies, but Bergson argues the mind does not. Both the sciences and reasoning say the mind is related to the brain but never dependant upon it. Bergson wrote this over 80 yrs ago, a great thinker,his work study and books on Matter and Memory remain as valid today as they were radical in his day. He writes this book more on a practical grounded manner than one might expect from other such writers on theories pertaining to a mind outside of matter and he shows the mind and the matter to which he draws his conclusions .

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