Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Probability vs Possibility

The Discovery Institute, more specifically davey klinghoffer, recently thought he was shocking the world by pointing out that Richard Dawkins called himself an 'agnostic'.  ("Richard Dawkins's Roll of the Dice") Aside from the fact he's called himself that before (See The God Delusion), I can't understand anyone being surprised, well that is anyone except maybe klingy.  But then I am always surprised by what klingy things is newsworthy.

I think it comes down to an understanding of what is 'possible' and what is 'probable'.  Let's use one of my personal favorite examples.  My wife believes in ghosts and other paranormal stuff.  When we get into a discussion about it, which we do so rarely, she feels victorious when I have to admit to the possibility of the existence of ghosts.  To me, I am being honest, to her I am admitting that I am wrong in not believing in them.

By honest I am saying that since no one has brought forth evidence which absolutely negates the possibility of ghosts, by leaving that door cracked to the tiniest of margins, I am being honest.  The reason is simply that it is impossible to prove a negative.  Proof requires some evidence, not supposition or wishful thinking.

So while being honest leave the door cracked, what do I think is the probability that someone will walk in with actual evidential support for the existence of ghosts?  While I hate resorting to mathematics, I think the probability is as conceivably close to zero as you can be without actually being zero. I can't say zero because I have to leave that door cracked an infinitesimally tiny amount.

Of course the fact that no one has actually brought forth any real evidence for ghosts doesn't stop someone who desperately wants to believe in them.  But what I believe my wife is doing is confusing 'possibility' with 'probability'.  In normal day to day conversation if the topic comes up, I simply state that I do not in any way shape or form believe in ghosts or any of the other paranormal crap.  It's only when you want to get technical that I admit that the door isn't 100% closed.  But what my wife, and others, fail to realize is that the door might be cracked, it takes real, actual, falsifiable and repeatable evidence to force it open any wider.

That's what I think happened here to Richard Dawkins.  By leaving the door opening the tiniest amount, some people, like klingy, think he no longer considers himself an Atheist, which is ridiculous.  I do wish klingy would take the same advice he tried to pass off to Richard Dawkins in his final line and just be quiet.  But then he doesn't get paid to be quiet, he gets paid to try and find an anti-science spin on  . . . well . . . anything.

I do have to add . . . if Intelligent Design is not a religious proposition, then why is klingy commenting about Dawkins at all?  We all know the reason, but will klingy ever admit it?  That would require the same level of honesty Dawkins used when describing himself as an 'agnostic'.  I wouldn't suggest holding your breath in anticipation.

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