The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, October 19, 2009

Arguments from Ignorance

One of the things that always either amuses or frustrates me when I speak with people about all manner of paranormal claims - from religious claims ot UFO claims, to medical claims about "life force" etc. - is the tendency for people to fall into arguments from ignorance. The basic form that the argument usually follows is "Well, science can't explain X, therefore it must be caused by Y."

Sometimes there is little background to this. It's simply an assertion that "I don't know what caused such-and-such, so the cause must be this-or-that." You know "I ruled out electrical problems at the fuse box, therefore the flickering light must be caused by a ghost!"

Other times, people making these claims pass on responsibility to a third party, like so = "nobody has evidence of the origins of the universe, and so our priests assure us that it was created when Lord Kuchamaruga, diety of pipe cleaners, slew his brother Briiselbarush and the universe spilled forth from his perforated gut."

Ummm, why is listening to the priest of the pipe cleaner god a better answer than "I don't know" as regards the origins of the universe?

Ahhh, well.

Anyway, this matter is taken up by one Dr. Neil "Coolest Scientist Ever to Have Lived" Tyson in the following video:

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