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Old 06-07-2001, 03:01 PM   #21
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I'm not sure how I overreacted, but sure you can change your definition all you want. Are you admitting that saying "no evidence" for miracles existed was an overreaction?

Not at all. I simply had a different working definition. I didn't consider mere claims as real evidence since I consider them so weak. It was probably due to logical fallacy of mere assertion that I took this view point. But hec, I can question even that well known and accepted fallacy. Probably won't get very far, but I can question it anyhow.

Sure. But such definitions rest on discussions about the evidence. That is a large part of what we do on this forum. And this is what you seemed to be avoiding by saying there was "no evidence" of Christian miracles.

Actually I said there was no evidence of miracles period. I didn't specify Christian ones. However if I loosen up my definition of evidence to contain mere assertions, then I won't have this problem. It'll be tough though I think.

Your optimism is represented by your continued use of the American Justice System as somehow a model of how to investigate assertions of truth.

Wow, thats reading a lot into a single reference of how some evidence is thrown out due to its inherent unreliability.

It is not just a matter of determining the "truth" of crimes or not. The justice system is a realm of competing values, only one of which, although important, is determining the truth.

Hmm. I would have thought discovering the truth was the premier overlying reason for the justice system. After all, we don't want to punish the innocent and we don't want to let the guilty go free. You might argue thats not how it works in practice and you might have an argument there, but certainly the principle of discovering the truth should be of paramount importance. The fact that the justice system can fail only highlights the necessity to be all the more careful and diligent.

Paul was reporting things sensed visually and audibly, at the least.

Well that begs the question to no end. Did he really? How do you know? Because he said he did? I think its possible that McClaine and Grey's sense their experience as well. I know Indians have claimed this. People who have reported ghosts claim all kinds of sensory perception of them. But since we're in the realm of accepting mere assertion as evidence, there's room for all of this stuff I guess.

McClaine and Grey's claims are based on mental impressions. Big diff. I have no idea who Sai Baba is but Turton claims he's been discredited, so I gather the evidence was not enough (at least in his eyes).

Discredited through modern scientific means of investigation I wonder? Its too bad the many ancient supernatural claims that there are can't be put under the same level of investigation. We might just find them all to be "discredited".

Of course the trick would be to prove that Paul wasn't having a "mental impression". How to do that I wonder?

My sincerity is actually irrelevant to the issue, whether you have reason to doubt it or not. But I don't prima facia assume that only Christian miracles are possible. There certainly could be evidence for other miracles out there.

The devil, however, is in the details.


Well since your truly open to the possibility of miracles from Indian mystics, channelers, ghosts, various Gods and spirits, and reincarnation, then your all right in my book Layman.

 
Old 06-07-2001, 03:15 PM   #22
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Koyaanisqatsi:
[b] I'm sorry, Layman, but you're incorrect. Hearsay testimony is not admissable in our courts and is not considered evidence for irrefutably sound reasons. </font>
You don't understand what I have said. Besides you are wrong. Various forms of hearsay testimony are permitted in court: statements against interest, dying declarations, excited utterances, etc. Moreover, hearsay testimony is often relied on in arbitrations and in other nations' justice systems.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> But then, I guess you knew that, which is why you broadened your statement to include "all over the world," and left out the legal overtones, yes? </font>
I am much more knowledgeable on the rules of evidence than you are. But I don't think that the rules of evidence from the American Justice System are the best way to arrive at truth. It's just a pop reference that people use because they've seen an episode or two of Law and Order.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Remarkably disengenuous, but it's expected of the cult mentality. </font>
Nothing disengenuous about it. I've been consistent on this throughout the thread.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If I may just ask, what in your mind would not be considered valid "evidence" if anonymous centuries old cult mythology is considered valid evidence?
</font>
When studying ancient history I think ancient texts are invaluable evidence. The issue is not whether something is classified as "evidence" or not, the issue is how much probative value does the evidence provide. As I said before, evidence is that which has some tendency to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.



[This message has been edited by Layman (edited June 07, 2001).]
 
Old 06-07-2001, 03:30 PM   #23
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by madmax2976:
Not at all. I simply had a different working definition. I didn't consider mere claims as real evidence since I consider them so weak. It was probably due to logical fallacy of mere assertion that I took this view point. But hec, I can question even that well known and accepted fallacy. Probably won't get very far, but I can question it anyhow. </font>
You are back to begging the question. If something is a "mere" claim then it's not very probative evidence. If something is a claim, then it rests on the credibility and surrounding circumstances in which the claim is made.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Actually I said there was no evidence of miracles period. I didn't specify Christian ones. However if I loosen up my definition of evidence to contain mere assertions, then I won't have this problem. It'll be tough though I think. </font>
Just more question begging. Perhaps a "mere" claim is not "evidence." But if that mere claim is eyewitness testimony, or made against the interests of the party asserting the claim. Then I don't classify it as "mere" anymore.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Wow, thats reading a lot into a single reference of how some evidence is thrown out due to its inherent unreliability. </font>
It has been much more than a single reference. You and other skeptics have latched onto the rules of evidence for the American Justice System as if it is the measure by which all "truth finding" should be conducted.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Hmm. I would have thought discovering the truth was the premier overlying reason for the justice system. After all, we don't want to punish the innocent and we don't want to let the guilty go free. You might argue thats not how it works in practice and you might have an argument there, but certainly the principle of discovering the truth should be of paramount importance. The fact that the justice system can fail only highlights the necessity to be all the more careful and diligent. </font>
It's not how it works in practice and its not intended to work that way. Mistakes aside, many rules in the AJS intentionally keep out probative evidence. I am sorry to disappoint you but there are at least four important, competing purposes in the American Judicial System:

1. Truth finding;
2. Judicial economy;
3. Protection of individual rights; and
4. Public confidence in the system.

The privilege against self-incrimination is a barrier to "truth finding" and is meant to protect the rights of the individual. The exclusionary rule is a large barrier to "truth finding" but is meant to protect the rights of individuals. The limit on appeals is a barrier to truth finding but is meant to serve judicial economy and encourage the public confidence in the judicial system. The rules against character evidence and other "prejudicial" evidence is a barrier to truth finding, but is thought necessary to protect an individual's rights and to encourage public confidence in the system.

The AJS keeps out probative evidence purposefully and knowlingly on a regular basis. I have personally drafted orders keeping out very probative evidence because of defective search warrants. I've also drafted orders denying death penalty appeals not on our examination of the evidence, but because the claims had been "exhausted."

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Well that begs the question to no end. Did he really? How do you know? Because he said he did? I think its possible that McClaine and Grey's sense their experience as well. I know Indians have claimed this. People who have reported ghosts claim all kinds of sensory perception of them. But since we're in the realm of accepting mere assertion as evidence, there's room for all of this stuff I guess. </font>
Yes, we start with the individual's own statement. If you really want to compare Paul's experience to McClaine's and Grey's, then please be specific.

And MM, we accept "assertions" as evidence all the time, even in the AJS.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Discredited through modern scientific means of investigation I wonder? Its too bad the many ancient supernatural claims that there are can't be put under the same level of investigation. We might just find them all to be "discredited". </font>
I agree that the more evidence the better. But I'm not sure that McClaine or Grey have been discredited through modern scientific means. Perhaps they have, but it seems that many of their claims are beyond what could have been verified through MSM.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Of course the trick would be to prove that Paul wasn't having a "mental impression". How to do that I wonder? </font>
Evaluate his specific statements and others he made on related topics. Evaluate the historical conditions of his time and see if there were any other people reporting similar experiences.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Well since your truly open to the possibility of miracles from Indian mystics, channelers, ghosts, various Gods and spirits, and reincarnation, then your all right in my book Layman. </font>
To say that I am open to the possibility of them is not to say I have seen sufficient evidence to convince me of their occurrence.



[This message has been edited by Layman (edited June 07, 2001).]
 
Old 06-07-2001, 04:09 PM   #24
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[quote]<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by MOJO-JOJO:
[b][QUOTE]Originally posted by lpetrich:
Responding to Metacrock:

But more importantly, Jesus' miracles spawned a huge movment that grew into a major world religion and it began immediately, which might indicate people really experienced something--its not proof but it might indicate it.

Lots of religions have started out as obscure cults; does doing so prove their truth?
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Good point lpetrich, this argument is often used by Mormons to "endorse" their faith....which Christians hold as being completely apostate and dangerous.


[This message has been edited by MOJO-JOJO (edited June 07, 2001).]
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</font>
Meta =&gt;None of those, except maybe Isalm, have Grown into major world religions. But that's an irresponsilbe response because you aren't looking at the real thrust of my comments. you are just responding to one little point out of context, is there are reason for that?

 
Old 06-07-2001, 09:43 PM   #25
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You are back to begging the question. If something is a "mere" claim then it's not very probative evidence. If something is a claim, then it rests on the credibility and surrounding circumstances in which the claim is made.

A claim by a person is nothing but a claim. One can do all the tests for credibility that they wish, but it will never change a claim into anything other than a claim. Whether or not people will believe a claim rests on many things, such as how well they know the person, what the nature of the claim is, how the claim is presented, etc.. Now if there is some hard evidence to go along with the claim, then your not believing something just based on a claim.

Hec, I could have people I know very well stand right in front of me and make certain claims and I still wouldn't believe them. I'm simply not that gullible.

Just more question begging. Perhaps a "mere" claim is not "evidence." But if that mere claim is eyewitness testimony, or made against the interests of the party asserting the claim. Then I don't classify it as "mere" anymore.

Hehe. Well I don't think I'm the one doing the question begging here. You assume a claim of "eyewitness" testimony is what the claim says it is and then say that it has more merit because its eyewitness testimony. That's getting your cart way before the horse I think.

There is eyewitness testimony for ghosts, UFO's, Bigfoot, pyschics and the Lock Ness monster. There is testimony of a watermelon appearing on a farm in Sengal with "Allah" written on it. This happened just before the feast of Rammadan. I had one Afghani soldier tell me personally of how Allah sent a flock of birds into a Russian Hine helicopter during the Russia/Afghanistan war after he prayed to Allah for help. In England the newspapers reported the finding of a tomato with the message, "Mohammed is the messenger" written inside. In July of 1997 an aubergine was sliced several times and the Hindu symbol for God appeared on each slice. It is currently on display at the Brapadi temple. There are many witnesses to Sai Baba's miracles (regardless of the naysayers - probably just unreasonable skeptics like me anyhow )

Of course it might be more prudent to suppose that all these fantastic claims are exaggerations, made up stories, embellishments, lies, myths, folklore, legends, or just plain fiction. But then again, I'm probably just being overly skeptical.

It has been much more than a single reference. You and other skeptics have latched onto the rules of evidence for the American Justice System as if it is the measure by which all "truth finding" should be conducted.

I see. So now I am to be blamed for the "continual" references that others have made, even though I made just one about how evidence is sometimes dismissed. Oh well.

But since you accuse me, I might as well dive in and give your accusation some merit after the fact. What I suspect is that you're a little jealous of the court system level of fact finding. For all its failings that some would like to point out, I suspect believers would get all giggly if they had any evidence that even remotely approached the level we find in modern day criminal trials. But of course all there is (in this instance) is the relatively weak science of history to support beliefs. I understand and sympathize, but it is what it is. Of course there's still faith.

It's not how it works in practice and its not intended to work that way. Mistakes aside, many rules in the AJS intentionally keep out probative evidence. I am sorry to disappoint you but there are at least four important, competing purposes in the American Judicial System:

1. Truth finding;
2. Judicial economy;
3. Protection of individual rights; and 4. Public confidence in the system.


Well you have Truth finding as #1 so thats okey dokey with me. No dissapointment here.
As for keeping out "probative evidence", I agree with you that I can be dismayed if pertinent evidence is thrown out because of technicalities. However I'm not naïve enough to not realize that they keep this stuff out for a reason. That reason is due to the high stakes involved. We're not just talking about quaint and interesting historical possibilities. We're talking about human lives. With such high stakes its only reasonable to demand a very high level of evidence. There have been sufficient examples of police overzealousness and downright fraud to warrant a high level of protection against those potential abuses.

Of course throwing out hard evidence is more an extreme case than the norm. The typical exclusions apply to things like hearsay, conclusory testimony, prejudical evidence, etc.

But perhaps I am completely misunderstanding your position here. Perhaps your not trying downplay the standard of truth finding found in the court system in order to elevate the level of evidence for your beliefs based on ancient historical evidence. I'm glad if I am wrong on this.

The privilege against self-incrimination is a barrier to "truth finding" and is meant to protect the rights of the individual. The exclusionary rule is a large barrier to "truth finding" but is meant to protect the rights of individuals. The limit on appeals is a barrier to truth finding but is meant to serve judicial economy and encourage the public confidence in the judicial system. The rules against character evidence and other "prejudicial" evidence is a barrier to truth finding, but is thought necessary to protect an individual's rights and to encourage public confidence in the system.

I don't agree with your assessment of those things necessarily being a "barrier" to truth finding. They can be. They can also be an aid against fraud and abuse which is also an aspect of truth finding. Who or what do you think an individuals rights are being protected against?

The rules against prejudical evidence can also be an aid in truth finding. I surprised you don't see this. A person convicted on a crime largely because of their past crimes is not necessarily the finding of truth. It could simply be a reflection of bias - that element that often hinders truth finding.

The AJS keeps out probative evidence purposefully and knowlingly on a regular basis. I have personally drafted orders keeping out very probative evidence because of defective search warrants. I've also drafted orders denying death penalty appeals not on our examination of the evidence, but because the claims had been "exhausted."

Search warrants are mechanisms that are supposed to aid in truth finding by eliminating the possibility of abuse and fraud by our officials. I suppose if we can someday have complete trust in all our officials this wouldn't be necessary but until that day….

Yes, we start with the individual's own statement. If you really want to compare Paul's experience to McClaine's and Grey's, then please be specific.

It is impossible to compare experiences here. The only thing I have to compare are claims of experiences.

And MM, we accept "assertions" as evidence all the time, even in the AJS.

Yes but you left out crucial elements. Claims are thorougly cross-examined by trained lawyers. Complete transcripts are made for possible future review by others. Credibility is rigorously questioned and investigated. The nature of the assertions is taken into consideration. If you had a witness who claimed to see a murder and then also claimed to see flying demons or fairies, his credibility would be pretty much out the door.

I for one am not very comfortable when/if a person is convicted of a crime based soley on personal testimony. Too many mistakes have been made this way. The stakes are too high and eye witnesses are too unreliable. Motive, weapons, DNA evidence, lack of alibi, forensic evidence, fingerprints - these are hard evidences to consider. High stakes require high levels of confidence.

I agree that the more evidence the better. But I'm not sure that McClaine or Grey have been discredited through modern scientific means. Perhaps they have, but it seems that many of their claims are beyond what could have been verified through MSM.

No I was refering to Sai Baba. McClaine and Grey have not been discredited as far as I know. (I don't know how anyone could discredit Mclaine or other reincarnation testimonies.) As far as Sai Baba is concerned I don't really know how or if or by whom he was discredited. Like I said, it could have just been some skeptics like me.

Evaluate his specific statements and others he made on related topics. Evaluate the historical conditions of his time and see if there were any other people reporting similar experiences.

Other peoples experiences would be their experiences. Just because they might be similar lends no credence to the veracity of someone else's experience. There have been thousands of UFO's sightings, some very similar in content. The same with NDE's. I don't consider them any more reliable because of that.

If a person I had known for all my life, who had a reputation for level headedness, who wasn't prone to beliefs in deities and spirits and miracles, and who was known to be trustworthy , who came to me face to face and told me a person had risen from the dead, I would not believe him or see that I had any sufficient reason to believe him.

Contrast that to believing in 2000 year old religious propoganda stories from a pre-scientific culture surrounded in belief in miracles, spirits and deities of all kinds. Contrast that to "testimony" from a people that lived 2000 years ago and of whom very little is known.

The contrast in great indeed.

To say that I am open to the possibility of them is not to say I have seen sufficient evidence to convince me of their occurrence.

Certainly not. I completely understand. I'm just glad to see that your consistent and open to all those possibilities. Strict, unwavering monotheism is usually a trademark of a christian as well as patent disbelief in reincarnation, ghosts, channelers, mediums, tarot card readers, pyschics, and other such phenomenon.


 
Old 06-07-2001, 10:28 PM   #26
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by madmax2976:
[B] A claim by a person is nothing but a claim. One can do all the tests for credibility that they wish, but it will never change a claim into anything other than a claim. Whether or not people will believe a claim rests on many things, such as how well they know the person, what the nature of the claim is, how the claim is presented, etc.. Now if there is some hard evidence to go along with the claim, then your not believing something just based on a claim.

Hec, I could have people I know very well stand right in front of me and make certain claims and I still wouldn't believe them. I'm simply not that gullible. </font>
I am not as dismissive as you are of personal affirmations and attestations. I believe they should be evaluated for their turstworthyness.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Hehe. Well I don't think I'm the one doing the question begging here. You assume a claim of "eyewitness" testimony is what the claim says it is and then say that it has more merit because its eyewitness testimony. That's getting your cart way before the horse I think. </font>
Where have I done this? I believe all attestations should be evaulated, not assumed to be correct.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> There is eyewitness testimony for ghosts, UFO's, Bigfoot, pyschics and the Lock Ness monster. There is testimony of a watermelon appearing on a farm in Sengal with "Allah" written on it. This happened just before the feast of Rammadan. I had one Afghani soldier tell me personally of how Allah sent a flock of birds into a Russian Hine helicopter during the Russia/Afghanistan war after he prayed to Allah for help. In England the newspapers reported the finding of a tomato with the message, "Mohammed is the messenger" written inside. In July of 1997 an aubergine was sliced several times and the Hindu symbol for God appeared on each slice. It is currently on display at the Brapadi temple. There are many witnesses to Sai Baba's miracles (regardless of the naysayers - probably just unreasonable skeptics like me anyhow ) </font>
So what? You are just talking in broad generalaties. Not everything everyone says is correct. Fine. I never claimed it was. But I don't begin by assuming there can be no bigfoot, or that that there can be no UFOS, or that there can be no ghosts. I still may be skeptical of their claims, but I don't assume that the claim is false merely because it is made on such topics.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Of course it might be more prudent to suppose that all these fantastic claims are exaggerations, made up stories, embellishments, lies, myths, folklore, legends, or just plain fiction. But then again, I'm probably just being overly skeptical. </font>
If you assume that is what they are then I am sure you will arrive at the conclusion that that is what they are.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I see. So now I am to be blamed for the "continual" references that others have made, even though I made just one about how evidence is sometimes dismissed. Oh well.

But since you accuse me, I might as well dive in and give your accusation some merit after the fact. What I suspect is that you're a little jealous of the court system level of fact finding. For all its failings that some would like to point out, I suspect believers would get all giggly if they had any evidence that even remotely approached the level we find in modern day criminal trials. But of course all there is (in this instance) is the relatively weak science of history to support beliefs. I understand and sympathize, but it is what it is. Of course there's still faith. </font>
You also raised similar sounding claims on the Feedback Discussion board didn't you?

We use the "weak science" of history to support a great deal of belief. Of course, if you assume that all reports of miracles are fables or legends, then you will never find sufficient evidence to convince you otherwise. There actually are rather credible reports of modern day miracles, but you would dismiss those as well because you assume they are either fictions or embellishments or misunderstanding. The fact that certain alleged claims occurred in history and some occurred in the present day isn't the difference. The difference is your worldview.

As for being "jealous" about the evidence of criminal trials; I would of course like all the evidence that I could lay my hands on. But the longer I'm in the judicial system the less confidence I have that it facilitates the determination of truth.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Well you have Truth finding as #1 so thats okey dokey with me. No dissapointment here.

As for keeping out "probative evidence", I agree with you that I can be dismayed if pertinent evidence is thrown out because of technicalities. However I'm not naïve enough to not realize that they keep this stuff out for a reason. That reason is due to the high stakes involved. We're not just talking about quaint and interesting historical possibilities. We're talking about human lives. With such high stakes its only reasonable to demand a very high level of evidence. There have been sufficient examples of police overzealousness and downright fraud to warrant a high level of protection against those potential abuses. </font>
You are mistakenly assuming that all eclusion of evidence is somehow facilitating the discovery of truth. This is a fallacy. The exclusionary rule does not such thing. The rule against self-incrimination does no such thing. The rule against character evidence does no such thing. Rather, they are meant to protect people from the overreaching power of the state: the innocent as well as the guilty. I think many of these constraints are justified, but I'm realistic enough to realize that they do impede the search for truth.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Of course throwing out hard evidence is more an extreme case than the norm. The typical exclusions apply to things like hearsay, conclusory testimony, prejudical evidence, etc. </font>
"Prejudical" evidence is probative evidence. I have no idea what you mean by "conclusory testimony." And hearsay is often included under a number of exceptions.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> But perhaps I am completely misunderstanding your position here. Perhaps your not trying downplay the standard of truth finding found in the court system in order to elevate the level of evidence for your beliefs based on ancient historical evidence. I'm glad if I am wrong on this. </font>
You are misunderstanding my position, but I'm not sacrificing the justice system to elavate historical inquiry. I just realize that comparisons between the two are a poor analogy.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I don't agree with your assessment of those things necessarily being a "barrier" to truth finding. They can be. They can also be an aid against fraud and abuse which is also an aspect of truth finding. Who or what do you think an individuals rights are being protected against? </font>
I have no reason to give your opinion of this any credibility, especially when I've been in the trenches writing the orders and participating in the trials. We've decided as a society that some values are worth the trade off in truth-finding.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The rules against prejudical evidence can also be an aid in truth finding. I surprised you don't see this. A person convicted on a crime largely because of their past crimes is not necessarily the finding of truth. It could simply be a reflection of bias - that element that often hinders truth finding. </font>
Of course it can but in reality it does not. And it's not really even meant to. Most legal commentators I have read--a far sight more than you I am sure--admit that we are sacrificing determinations of truth to preserve certain other values.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Search warrants are mechanisms that are supposed to aid in truth finding by eliminating the possibility of abuse and fraud by our officials. I suppose if we can someday have complete trust in all our officials this wouldn't be necessary but until that day…. </font>
The primary justification for search warrants is the protection of individual liberties, not to promote judicial accuracy. If there is credible doubt as to the evidence obtained, it can be suppressed on that basis. The exclusionary rule was intended to keep out admittedly accurate, probative, and untainted evidence to promote other purposes.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It is impossible to compare experiences here. The only thing I have to compare are claims of experiences. </font>
I disagree. You could actually start with what the statements are to begin with. Then examine the contexts, cultural backgrounds, motivations, adverse consequences if any, etc. But you don't do this. You just dismiss them to begin with.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Yes but you left out crucial elements. Claims are thorougly cross-examined by trained lawyers. Complete transcripts are made for possible future review by others. Credibility is rigorously questioned and investigated. The nature of the assertions is taken into consideration. If you had a witness who claimed to see a murder and then also claimed to see flying demons or fairies, his credibility would be pretty much out the door. </font>
The very nature of the adversarial system itself can be a hinderance to truth determinations. Most of the world does not employ the adversarial system at all, and those that do apply it much less seriously than we do. My firm had a French attorney working with us for a few months and I had him over for dinner. To him, our system is insane and inherently impedes the search for truth. Legal manuevering, tactical delays, colorful arguments to 12 government employees dragged in off the street to resolve matters with which they are unfamiliar and unable to ask any questions about. In his opinion, the very nature of the adversarial system which you assume promotes truth seeking, is its greatest impediment.

Many litigators and business leaders share this view and increasing numbers agree to arbitrations clauses. In arbitration, there the door swings much wider to allow in all relevant evidence, the determinations are made by learned individuals who interact with counsel, and it costs a hell of a lot less.

My point is not that our system is horrible, it is that it is not an approrpiate analogy by which to judge the search for truth. It is a short cut I have noticed that many skeptics take to avoid actually discussing the nature of the evidence.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I for one am not very comfortable when/if a person is convicted of a crime based soley on personal testimony. Too many mistakes have been made this way. The stakes are too high and eye witnesses are too unreliable. Motive, weapons, DNA evidence, lack of alibi, forensic evidence, fingerprints - these are hard evidences to consider. High stakes require high levels of confidence. </font>
Things such as motive and "lack of alibi" are "hard evidences to consider? Such things can also be used in our historical studies. Unfortunately, DNA evidence has only been available for about 20 years or so. Should we have quit puttinb people in jail until we came up with DNA testing? Of course not, we examined the evidence and came to the best determination possible.

What high stakes demands is serious inquiry, not just naturalistic assumptions that preclude even the consideration of the evidence.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> No I was refering to Sai Baba. McClaine and Grey have not been discredited as far as I know. (I don't know how anyone could discredit Mclaine or other reincarnation testimonies.) As far as Sai Baba is concerned I don't really know how or if or by whom he was discredited. Like I said, it could have just been some skeptics like me. </font>
Skepticism is a useful tool.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Other peoples experiences would be their experiences. Just because they might be similar lends no credence to the veracity of someone else's experience. There have been thousands of UFO's sightings, some very similar in content. The same with NDE's. I don't consider them any more reliable because of that. </font>
Yes, similarity of experiences does provide veracity, and explanation, of the experiences described. The similarities in UFO abduction stories have lead many doctors and physchologists to probe deeper and discover past sexual abuse. The trick is to examine the evidence, not assume it can't or won't take you certain places.

I would point out that UFO stories and abduction claims often have that "hard" evidence you so cherish. There are videotapes, burn marks, crop circles, etc. Abduction victims have been found with stranges markings. But these should not be uncritically accepted either, they should be evaluated along with the personal testimony, motives, and social contexts of the events.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If a person I had known for all my life, who had a reputation for level headedness, who wasn't prone to beliefs in deities and spirits and miracles, and who was known to be trustworthy , who came to me face to face and told me a person had risen from the dead, I would not believe him or see that I had any sufficient reason to believe him. </font>
I would at least look into it. See if other level headed people who weren't prone to believe in deities and spirits and miracles were claiming the same thing. I would check the grave and maybe ask his family members what is up.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Contrast that to believing in 2000 year old religious propoganda stories from a pre-scientific culture surrounded in belief in miracles, spirits and deities of all kinds. Contrast that to "testimony" from a people that lived 2000 years ago and of whom very little is known.

The contrast in great indeed. </font>
There are a number of assumptions in here with which I disagree. I don't think that all of our sources are "religious propaganda" or assume that such labels resolve the issue. Although "pre-scientific" the events being reported were known by their tellers to be unusual and contrary to nature. They knew virgins did not spontaneously get pregnant or that the dead just pop out of their graves. In fact, they had predispositions to believe these such things as they related to a disgraced and crucified wannabe messiah. Nevertheless, they did believe and report his resurrection.

And much more than "little" is known about the "people" that produced Christianity. Studies in the historical context and beliefs of Jews, Romans, and early Christians increases every day.

 
Old 06-07-2001, 10:32 PM   #27
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What does an atheist typically mean when he says there's "no evidence" for the existence of a god?

The courtroom is the natural analogy for evidence in any kind of in an argument. However, the analogy is usually meant in the most broad and abstract sense, both for charitability, and because it makes the case of the atheist even more compelling. The more nit-picky objections thus don't follow; that evidence is sometimes excluded from the courtroom for procedural grounds doesn't apply; there is no "fourth amendment" of debate.

In a courtroom, the claims of the parties are not considered evidence. They are considered hypothetical conclusions, and the jury is charged with deciding which of the party's conclusions the evidence persuades them to support.

The two most important features of what constitutes "courtroom evidence" are relevance and factuality.

Relevance just means that the any fact in question goes to demonstrate the truth (or falsity) of one of the competing claims. A fact that does not tend to distinguish between the competing claims is not relevant, and is thus not evidence.

Factuality means exactly that: relating a fact. Ordinary witnesses are usually asked to report the facts as they saw them, and explicitly not permitted to draw conclusions. It is only the lawyers who are permitted to suggest conclusions and only the jury (or judge) who may actually draw those conclusions.

Expert witnesses can testify about things other than direct experience, but it is presumed that such people have the expertise of the particular subject matter to draw conclusions that are themselves fact. For instance, an ordinary witness could testify only about the lines on a spectrum, but a physicist could draw factual conclusions about those lines, and testify the sample contained sodium.

As I said before, normally witnesses testify about fact. We do presume (somewhat inaccurately) that a person's direct experience constitutes factual testimony. If someone says, "I saw Mary's limb regrow", that is factual testimony. If someone says, "Mary's limb was miraculously regrown", that is a conclusion and cannot be offered as evidence.

Of course, the jury might draw the conclusion of miraculous origin from the the factual testimony, but that conclusion is not by itself "evidence". As noted before, a claim is essentially a kind of conclusion, an inference drawn from factual evidence, but not itself fact: A claim is not evidence. Evidence is what you actually see, hear, smell, touch, etc.

When an atheist says there is "no evidence" for a god, he usually means there are zero relevant facts from which one can plausibly abduct the existence of a god.

The purported "evidence" of most theists fails on factual grounds. Since the characters of the JC Bible, for instance, cannot and did not themselves give "testimony", their experience is hearsay, and cannot be testified to as fact. Even with a charitable interpretation of "testimony" (the ordinary courtroom testimony would require them to show up in person), we cannot even be reasonably sure of the actual existence of most of the characters in the Bible (with the exception of Paul), much less that they would personally attest to the accuracy of the statements attributed to them. The gospels are at best hearsay, because they were not actually written by anyone who actually witnessed anything. At worst they are theology or historical fiction.

Paul's "first-hand" testimony fails because he doesn't really testify to anything factual. He never actually "saw" Jesus (in the sense of light bouncing off of Jesus and hitting his retina), he mostly (AFAIK with only a few ambiguous passages) just talks of mystical internal experiences. But mystical internal experience do not qualify as fact about what one is experiencing, the way that actual vision is factual evidence about what one sees (although it might be wrong, actual vision is evidence).

Other so-called evidence looks the same. What's factual isn't relevant, and what's relevant isn't factual. A claim of a "miracle healing" isn't relevant, because a single unexplained healing is not evidence that would tend to prove the claim that a god actually exists. Some sort of stastical fact (introduced by a statistician as an expert witness) that would tend to decide the question either way would be considered relevant, but the facts of statistical analysis don't favor the theists.

The atheist who claims "no evidence" for the existence of god claims that for all so-called "evidence" offered from theists, none is both factual (rather than being opinion or hearsay; neither of which are usually considered "facts") and relevant (tending to support one side or the other). If a theist and an atheist were in court, the atheist would challenge every piece of evidence brought in on the basis of factuality or relevance, and I claim no impartial judge would actually permit it. Rather than deciding the case on the merits of the evidence, the atheist claims that the theist has not made his prima facie case and moves for summary dismissal.

[This message has been edited by SingleDad (edited June 07, 2001).]
 
Old 06-08-2001, 10:19 AM   #28
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I am not as dismissive as you are of personal affirmations and attestations. I believe they should be evaluated for their turstworthyness.

For things that are within the realm of reasonable expectation and assumption I pretty much agree. For things that fall outside the realm of reasonable expectation and assumption I totally disagree.

For instance if a friend of mine swore that he bowled a 300 game twice in a row, I’d be very suspicioius. If he told me he’d done it 3 or 4 times in a row, I’d wouldn’t believe him at all. I’d ask to see any witnesses of this event for myself. If he handed me some letters from some people claiming that they had seen him do it, I’d throw the letters back at him and demand to see these people in person. If for some reason that couldn’t be done, I’d be even more suspicious. I’d ask if the score got recorded electronically somehow. If he claimed it did and showed me the records I’d suspect he tampered with the database before I believed he actually bowled 4 perfect games in a row.

There are simply to many examples of lying, exaggeration, delusion, myth, fiction, wishful thinking, and deception to be able to take outlandish claims at face value, or even supported with a load of circumstantial evidence. People should know better by now.



Hehe. Well I don't think I'm the one doing the question begging here. You assume a claim of "eyewitness" testimony is what the claim says it is and then say that it has more merit because its eyewitness testimony. That's getting your cart way before the horse I think.

Where have I done this? I believe all attestations should be evaulated, not assumed to be correct.


One of your support factors for a claim was the presence of eyewitnesses. When the claim is a claim that there were eyewitnesses, saying its has more reliability because of eyewitness is begging the question.

]So what? You are just talking in broad generalaties. Not everything everyone says is correct. Fine. I never claimed it was. But I don't begin by assuming there can be no bigfoot, or that that there can be no UFOS, or that there can be no ghosts. I still may be skeptical of their claims, but I don't assume that the claim is false merely because it is made on such topics.

Given the huge propensity of human kind to lie, invent, deceive, exaggerate, experience delusions, invent myths/folklore/legend, believe in myths/folklore/legends, believe in deities and spirits of all kinds, and engage in wishful thinking, the assumption that fantastic claims are false is highly warranted. If susbstantive hard evidence can be found to overcome this reasonable skepticism then that’ll be different. But claims that go in severe contrast to things that are known to be possible will require extremely strong evidence indeed.

If you assume that is what they are then I am sure you will arrive at the conclusion that that is what they are.

The assumption is warranted. Sufficient evidence will show me that I was incorrect in this assumption. I (and others) am willing to evaluate whatever evidence people wish to present for these things.

You also raised similar sounding claims on the Feedback Discussion board didn't you? Doesn’t ring a bell. We use the "weak science" of history to support a great deal of belief. Of course, if you assume that all reports of miracles are fables or legends, then you will never find sufficient evidence to convince you otherwise.

If I assume gravity does not have an acceleration of 9.8 m/s squared (on earth) will someone not be able to present clear evidence that I am wrong in my assumption? This is ridiculous. I could clearly be wrong on my assumption of many issues and there could be sufficient evidence to convince me that I am wrong regardless of those assumptions – if the assumption is indeed wrong.

All your doing here is giving your own belief in miracles as leg to stand on. If I assume miracles do actually occur, even against all my own personal experience and the total lack of hard data that they do, even against all my knowledge that people have and do make such things up, then somehow I’ll be closer to finding sufficient evidence to convince me they do occur. This is not reasonable. Sorry.

There actually are rather credible reports of modern day miracles, but you would dismiss those as well because you assume they are either fictions or embellishments or misunderstanding. The fact that certain alleged claims occurred in history and some occurred in the present day isn't the difference. The difference is your worldview.

I assume they are all fictions or embellishments because I have lots of reasons to believe it and no reason to believe the opposite. If I had any hard data at all to confirm that miracles are possible then this discussion wouldn’t be necessary. But no such data has ever been found or presented. The dismissal is warranted until clear evidence is presented and confirmed.

There are seemingly credible reports of UFO’s, ghosts, NDE’s, demon possession, miracles in other faiths, and reincarnation experiences. (Recollection of past lives) I don’t believe any of them either. Charlatans often seem credible which is why they fool so many people in the first place.

The farther we go back in history, the more increasingly difficult it becomes to confirm any of this stuff or any of the stuff that surrounds the claim for that matter. If people can’t prove miracles occur today in this modern age with ability to record images and communicate globally, and collect first hand data using trained scientists, then they certainly can’t prove that they can occur based on some old writings.


As for this being all part of my “worldview’”, you may be correct. When I see unambigious evidence presented that demonstrates that miracles do occur then I will adjust my worldview to incorporate them.

As for being "jealous" about the evidence of criminal trials; I would of course like all the evidence that I could lay my hands on. But the longer I'm in the judicial system the less confidence I have that it facilitates the determination of truth.

Regardless of all its failings (and I’m not going to keep arguing about them), its still a much higher level of truth finding than we find in historical science.

You are mistakenly assuming that all eclusion of evidence is somehow facilitating the discovery of truth. This is a fallacy.

Actually its not a fallacy. I could just be wrong about it. However this is really just a point of view and is based on specific circumstances. If prejudical evidence is excluded, and the person is innocent, this could relieve any bias in the determination of the jurors, thus enabling them to make a more truthful decision. If its excluded and the person is guilty, then it becomes a hindrance. Its not as cut and dry as you would like to portray it.

You are misunderstanding my position, but I'm not sacrificing the justice system to elavate historical inquiry. I just realize that comparisons between the two are a poor analogy.

There I agree. The standard of truth finding in the justice system, regardless of its failings, is much higher than that of ancient historical research so any analogy is a poor one. Remember that the justice system often is concerned with history. Its about what happened a few days, weeks, months or a few years ago. Because of the stakes involved we put in a lot of safeguards and use some very scientific techniques to determine the truth. That kind of stuff simply isn’t possible with ancient claims.

I just hope we continue to be more diligent about it. I don’t want to seen innocent people go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit OR see the guilty go free.



quote:

It is impossible to compare experiences here. The only thing I have to compare are claims of experiences.

I disagree. You could actually start with what the statements are to begin with. Then examine the contexts, cultural backgrounds, motivations, adverse consequences if any, etc. But you don't do this. You just dismiss them to begin with.


You can be convinced by textual evidence that fantastic, extraordinary events can actually occur. I believe my position is far more reasonable. It may be that miracles are possible. But until I see clear evidence that refutes all that goes against that possibility, I will assume they don’t.

The very nature of the adversarial system itself can be a hinderance to truth determinations.

So rigorous cross-examination, credibility confirmation, hearsay rules, prejudical testimony, record confirmation, forensic evidence, can’t have positive impacts on truth finding. What an interesting viewpoint.

Most of the world does not employ the adversarial system at all, and those that do apply it much less seriously than we do.

I’d rather live here thank you.

Many litigators and business leaders share this view and increasing numbers agree to arbitrations clauses. In arbitration, there the door swings much wider to allow in all relevant evidence, ….

Well that’s the whole point isn’t it? The standard of investigation. Relax your standards and more stuff gets included. I for one wouldn’t want my life hanging on the standard of arbitration, or even of a preponderance of the evidence for that matter. If my life depends on it, I want beyond a reasonable doubt. Hell, I’ll take scientific certainty if I can get it. Might as well go for the best.

My point is not that our system is horrible, it is that it is not an approrpiate analogy by which to judge the search for truth. It is a short cut I have noticed that many skeptics take to avoid actually discussing the nature of the evidence.

The court system has a standard of truth finding. Ancient historical study has a standard of truth finding. They both have failings. The modern court system remains vastly superior.

Things such as motive and "lack of alibi" are "hard evidences to consider? Such things can also be used in our historical studies. Unfortunately, DNA evidence has only been available for about 20 years or so. Should we have quit puttinb people in jail until we came up with DNA testing? Of course not, we examined the evidence and came to the best determination possible.

Yes and more innocent people inevitably died or were sent to prison because of it. That’s what happens when your standards (possible or otherwise) are low. More mistakes are made. Scary.

What high stakes demands is serious inquiry, not just naturalistic assumptions that preclude even the consideration of the evidence.

Wrong. What high stakes demand is that we be RIGHT. Not bend to supernaturalistic assumptions that tremendously bias people’s view of the “evidence”. If you want supernaturalistic assumptions to be included then present clear evidence that they should be. All the data (or lack thereof) to date shows they shouldn’t be.

Yes, similarity of experiences does provide veracity, and explanation, of the experiences described. The similarities in UFO abduction stories have lead many doctors and physchologists to probe deeper and discover past sexual abuse. The trick is to examine the evidence, not assume it can't or won't take you certain places.

You mean they should have assumed first that UFO’s actually abducted people and worked from there? To bad they didn’t have modern doctors and physchologists making reports back then. With some real scientific investigation we could have learned all kinds of things.

I would point out that UFO stories and abduction claims often have that "hard" evidence you so cherish. There are videotapes, burn marks, crop circles, etc. Abduction victims have been found with stranges markings. But these should not be uncritically accepted either, they should be evaluated along with the personal testimony, motives, and social contexts of the events.

Thanks. Even with hard data you see the reasonableness of being skeptical of fantastic claims.


quote:

If a person I had known for all my life, who had a reputation for level headedness, who wasn't prone to beliefs in deities and spirits and miracles, and who was known to be trustworthy , who came to me face to face and told me a person had risen from the dead, I would not believe him or see that I had any sufficient reason to believe him.

I would at least look into it. See if other level headed people who weren't prone to believe in deities and spirits and miracles were claiming the same thing. I would check the grave and maybe ask his family members what is up.


Good again. You’d want to do some personal investigation, check out the grave for yourself. When did he die? Are you sure he was dead? Are you sure he was buried here at all? Are you sure the body wasn’t moved? Was this a real person?

Assume you got all the answers that satisfied you. Will you then believe a person actually rose from the dead or will you question whether your investigation was flawed first? Will you conclude the resurrection was real or that the people you talked to personnally were making it up/delusional/lying? On what side of the fence will you tend to lay the probabilities? The side that says something in your investigation was amiss, or the side that concludes an actual resurrection took place?


quote:

Contrast that to believing in 2000 year old religious propoganda stories from a pre-scientific culture surrounded in belief in miracles, spirits and deities of all kinds. Contrast that to "testimony" from a people that lived 2000 years ago and of whom very little is known.

The contrast in great indeed.

There are a number of assumptions in here with which I disagree. I don't think that all of our sources are "religious propaganda" or assume that such labels resolve the issue. Although "pre-scientific" the events being reported were known by their tellers to be unusual and contrary to nature. They knew virgins did not spontaneously get pregnant or that the dead just pop out of their graves. In fact, they had predispositions to believe these such things as they related to a disgraced and crucified wannabe messiah. Nevertheless, they did believe and report his resurrection.


So the ancient jews and romans were actually skeptics regarding the miraculous? I’m not sure I understand you here.

How do you know what the story tellers considered contrary to nature? With all the deities and various beliefs running around, none of these ancients seem very skeptical to me. See Richard’s Kooks and Quacks essay – the title of this thread.

And much more than "little" is known about the "people" that produced Christianity. Studies in the historical context and beliefs of Jews, Romans, and early Christians increases every day.

Only in generalities. The personal details regarding the actual claimed figures remains very obscure.

 
Old 06-08-2001, 10:36 AM   #29
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Metacrock: WE Texans try not to associate with Yankies anyway.

Wait a minute, Metacrock. Speak for yourself. I have seen some women from north of the Mason-Dixon line I wouldn't mind "associating" with.

rodahi

 
Old 06-08-2001, 10:52 AM   #30
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As to virgins not getting pregnant every day, that is indeed something that had happened often in Greco-Roman mythology -- simply consider one reason why the Ruler of the Universe was known as "Father" Zeus.

And as to the idea that the Christian Virgin Birth is a "true" virgin birth unlike the others because it did not involve sex, IMO, that is a very Clintonian sort of quibble. "Divine impregnation" may be a less ambiguous term.
 
 

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