To be confused about what is different and what is
is to be confused about everything. - David Bohm
Critical and Purposive Thinking
Some Critical Thinking on the Differences between
Claims, Scientific Theories and Historical Reconstructions.
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: 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 rationality and the application of
logic, allows us to know how to learn. Intrinsic knowledge is internal,
and is the most reliable or trustworthy knowledge that we have.
Sensory Sensory knowledge is simple perception which comes
directly from the five senses that we don't normally question. Sensory
knowledge is personal, dependent upon intrinsic knowledge, and takes a
minimum of interpretation.
Evidential: Evidential knowledge is composed of personally
experienced evidence which implies conclusions reached beyond a
reasonable doubt. With this type of knowledge we sense or address the
evidence directly but not the thing itself, and this knowledge is less
reliable than that based on experience because it overwhelmingly relies
upon interpretation. Evidential knowledge has an external source, and is
significantly less reliable than intrinsic or sensory knowledge.
Experiential: Experiential knowledge is composed of perhaps
prolonged personal life experiences that have come in a series of
learning situations. It is always a personal mix of beliefs and other
knowledge that takes a maximum of interpretation, yet it can be the most
meaningful knowledge that we have. The validity of this knowledge is
conditional on the validity of the personal interpretation.
Consentual: Consentual knowledge is composed of knowledge that
others have shared that we consent to hold because we trust (rightly or
wrongly) in the person or source passing on this externally derived
knowledge. Often the consent is given based purely on the lack of any
reason not to trust and should always be held with skepticism.
Consentual knowledge can be broken down further into three meaningful
a. That based on other's intrinsic, sensual, evidential, and experiential
knowledge and interpretation.
based on other's consentual knowledge.
based on other's beliefs, opinions, estimations, imaginations,
misinterpretations, fantasies, falsities, misunderstandings, neuroses,
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
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 just one among other explanations for observable phenomena.
Einstein's Theory of
Relativity is not so much a scientific theory as it is a
materialistic or "scientific" paradigm. But it has elements
that violate our most basic logic. 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
(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