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matt

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on the relative importance of skepticism [Aug. 31st, 2008|10:21 am]
matt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shen_(clam-monster)#Characters

Read the paragraph linked above carefully. Then, consider how many possible double-entendres you can find, and does that lead you to believe the paragraph less?

How do you ascertain the truth of something which is potentially untrue but inaccessible at your level of ability?
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[User Picture]From: twoeleven
2008-08-31 06:15 pm (UTC)
on reflection, i think i use three basic strategies, roughly in order of use/preference:

1) break the assertion down into sub-assertions and see if i can say anything about them. frequently, i can. this is something of a one-way test: finding something wrong lowers my confidence in the assertion much more than finding something right raises it.

2) read other people's comments -- especially those that appear knowledgeable -- on the assertion. often, even if the fine structure of the the claim being asserted are beyond me (unfamiliar terms, reasoning, or paradigm), this clarifies the coarse structure of the claim. eg: "so what A is really saying is that the old belief is wrong because B and C made assumptions we know now to be false."

3) attempt to improve my ability to judge the assertion directly. i try to avoid this because it's usually time-consuming and because i'm skeptical of my ability to apply to new skills to an important problem w/o outside verification of my skills working correctly.
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