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To be confused about what is different and what is
Critical and Purposive Thinking
First, a little fundamental philosophy: the essence of all perceivable and−to my mind−conceivable reality involves some combination of change, limits, discontinuity, definition, contrast, and irreversibility. We experience, perceive or apprehend the differences of things−tangible and intangible. For instance, if every tangible thing that we cast our eyes upon was the same color and shade, we would see nothing. If there were only one unvarying sound or tone of the same intensity, we would hear nothing. So it would be with the senses of smell, taste and tactile feeling. We rely upon our five physical senses to perceive the changes or discontinuities of the physical realm to give us our experience of physical reality.
And so it is in the intangible, intellectual (spiritual) realm. If we do not apprehend and appreciate the differences in various aspects of our intellectual or non-material reality, our thinking is foggy, muddled or lacking in clarity so that we can be confused to the point of thinking or concluding inaccurately. As a significant example, a discipline in our modern world known as Information Theory made important and useful distinctions between data, facts, information, and knowledge.
There are also important and basic differences between para-normal claims, scientific theories, historical reconstructions, and philosophical paradigms; and there are critical differences between the criteria that necessarily be applied to the reasonable evaluation of their validity or correctness. We will be at sea if we do not realize these differences and deal with them accordingly.
The above types of proposals are so much blather, hot air−are meaningless−until it somehow becomes important to evaluate them to the point of accepting or rejecting their correctness and thereby necessarily relying on the correctness of our acceptance or rejection. And, if we accept any such proposal to the point of relying on it in any important way, we have essentially added that particular understanding to our "knowledge."
In understanding the differences in our proposal trio, it is useful to recognize that there are primarily four categories or types of knowledge that pertain to these issues. These can be listed as:
Intrinsic knowledge is a kind of "hard wired" or intuitive knowledge that can still be further developed as time goes on. Intrinsic knowledge shows up in our rationality, our "knowing how to know" and our knowing how to apply logic, do math, and come to conclusions. This type of knowledge or ability allows us to receive data, recognize facts, become informed and to make conclusions that lead to knowledge. It allows us to learn and grow intellectually.
Experiential knowledge comes to us through some kind of personal experience. Descartes' fundamental conclusion came to him through his experience and apprehension of his fundamental fact−"I think", thereby enabling him to know intrinsically " therefore I exist." As I type this article on my computer, I empirically experience the various aspects of that process. That knowledge has come to me experientially, directly to me through some combination of my five senses.
The above two categories of knowledge are the most reliable knowledge that we can have. We generally trust our rationality and, if we are careful, our logic. I know that 2 + 2 = 4 every time, and I know that I will get it right every time. I also know the monitor and keyboard are on the desk as I type. No one can "talk" me out of this kind of knowledge.
Evidential knowledge is composed of personally experienced evidence which directly implies conclusions reached beyond a reasonable doubt. With this type of knowledge we experience some of the evidence but not the thing itself. This makes this knowledge less reliable than that based on experience because it involves some subjective inference and some limiting interpretation of the evidence. A simple example would be where we got up in the morning, looked out the window and observed a fresh and unblemished covering of snow over everything. We would say we know it snowed during the night even if we didn't see it happen. Or if there were tire tracks in the snow on the driveway, we would say (limit our interpretation) that a car had driven in and out. Of course, it's possible that some joker hung from a very long crane and carefully rolled a tire to make two parallel tracks in our driveway. But not likely!
Consentual knowledge is composed of knowledge that others have shared that we consent to know because we trust (rightly or wrongly) in the person or source passing on this knowledge. Often the consent is given based on irrelevant psychological factors such as authoritative stance or attitude, charisma, enthusiasm, etc. Often the consent is given based purely on the lack of any apparent reason not to trust. Consentual knowledge can be further broken down into four distinct categories:
a. That based on other's experiences, their recollection, interpretation and account of that experience
b. That based on other's experienced evidence, their recollection, interpretation and account of such.
c. That based on other's consentual knowledge.
d. That based on other's beliefs, opinions, estimations, guesses, imaginations, fantasies, falsities and misunderstandings.
The latter two categories of evidential and consentual knowledge are simply and clearly less direct than the other types, and therefore intrinsically less reliable. Unless increasingly more care, extensive checking and aspect confirmations are accomplished these two kinds of knowledge can fall off rapidly in validity.
Consentual knowledge is the most prevalent and voluminous in our knowledge base but the least reliable, and it is staggering to realize to what extent we have incorporated consentual knowledge by what may be uncritical consent. There would be a lot more humility and much less acrimony if the popularizers and promoters of scientific dogma were aware of the proportion of the consentual component in their "knowledge base."
A paranormal claim is considered paranormal precisely because there is a normal or reasonable doubt as to whether the phenomenon actually happened, happens, or can happen. A para-normal claim is not the same as a para-normal explanation for an event or phenomenon that is not in doubt. Let us remember that any situation or event that is on the extremes of the normal distribution curve looks para-normal and can invite a "paranormal" explanation."
A "scientific" theory, if it is not going to morph into a philosophical paradigm, must restrict itself to an explanation of observable phenomena. A Black Hole is not an observable phenomenon, it is one explanation for observable phenomena.
Einstein's Theory of Relativity is not so much a scientific theory as it is a materialistic or "scientific" paradigm. Roger Penrose's Tensor Theory and David Bohm's Holographic Universe are examples of other scientific or philosophical paradigms.
In the realm of knowledge, scientific theories, paranormal claims and historical reconstructions−hereinafter called proposals−should be subject to what the acronym FLIPPERS stands for.
Falsifiability - It must be possible to conceive that the proposal could prove to be false. If it cannot be conceived as false then the proposal is not saying anything significant or meaningful. Furthermore, it must be possible to devise ways to test the validity of the proposal before it can be considered worthwhile to consider it.
Logicality - Any argument offered in support of a proposal must be logically sound.
Integrity - The critical data or evidence offered in support of a proposal must be factual or true and complete, while the selection of the evidence must be honest, open and unprejudiced, i.e., non-fudged.
Predictability - Any proposal must offer some implied and inferred predictions, which can be checked. Extraordinary predictions which are verified are generally considered as having substantial weight in evaluation.
Productivity - Any valid proposal must have an aspect of productivity or meaningfulness to it, in that some implied and inferred benefit or usefulness would construe in its adoption.
Extensiveness - The evidence offered in support of any proposal must be exhaustive−that is, all of the significant available evidence must be included for consideration with none deliberately left out.
Replicability - Any experimental results garnered under replicable conditions and offered in support of the proposal must be replicable. Furthermore, empirical data and evidence gathered from one situation or locale should be consistent with or buttressed by other comparable data and evidence gathered from a different situation or locale. Except for historical reconstructions, total reliance upon historical or non-replicable evidence at least tends to reduce the worth or validity of the proposal.
Sufficiency - The evidence offered in support of any proposal must be adequate to establish the validity beyond an agreed upon reasonable doubt, with these stipulations:
(1) The burden of proof for any proposal should rest primarily on the claimant(s).
(2) Extraordinary proposals demand extraordinary evidence.
(3) Proposal evidence based upon authority and/or testimony is always inadequate by itself.
If the proposal being offered cannot meet or satisfy the above criteria, it must be considered to be either invalid, or inadequate, or at least primarily in the realm of dogma, opinion or unsubstantiated possibility instead of being useful or in the realm of knowledge.