Thursday, May 24, 2007

Epistemelogical Impacts of Presuppositions

Epistemelogical Impacts of Presuppositions

In the previous post (link here), I explored how people can be blind to their own presuppositions and blinded by their presuppositions.

Nevertheless, there is an additional effect that presuppositions can have. This effect is illustrated by some recent comments I received in the course of the same dialogue I mention above.

Here's the windup:
Let me repeat my statement ... in the form of a challenge. For, if nothing short of a full and public confession by govt insiders would make TF sceptical about the govt’s conspiracy theory, then there is no point in trading little factoids.

As a preliminary note, what the author of the quotation means by "govt's conspiract theory" is the view that radical Muslims smashed hijacked planes into both the twin towers, and that the towers fell down and took out the neighborhood.

The author of the comments seems to believe that I presuppose that the Muslim hijacking story is true. I do not. I have considered the evidence, and it is the posistion that is better supported by the evidence. I was initially skeptical regarding some things. I made the mistake of watching all the conspiracy theorist materials first. I wasted a lot of time thinking that the criticisms presented had some kind of merit.

Now, I'm persuaded that the vast bulk of the evidence supports the "official story" as most skeptics seem to prefer to phrase it. I'm not a big fan of using the term "conspiracy theory" in a non-standard way, because it muddies the waters.

In any event, the point to notice is that the commenter is right about one thing: if one holds a presupposition so tightly that no facts could shake it, then there is no point in presenting the evidence.

The challenge presented was:
So, TurretinFan, please outline an example of the kind of evidence that would change you into being a sceptic of the govt story.

At this point it is not so much the kind of evidence that is important, but the amount of good evidence. There is such an enormous weight of evidence supporting the official story that it would be hard to contradict it with only a little data. As to kinds, I find scientific and engineering data to be more persuasive than testimony by random individuals.

The trick would be finding evidence that cannot reasonably be explained consistent with the official story. This is what many of the conspiracy theorists have attempted to do. Among the most interesting of the allegedly inconsistent evidence is a newspaper report that claims that a passport of one of the hijackers was recovered from the street.

One major problem with that datum and at least most of the others that have been set forth is that they do not fit as part of a consistent whole.

The Quid Pro Quo was:
In return, I will do the same in reverse– I will give a brief outline of the kind of evidence that would remove my scepticism. Why don’t we stay with Bldg 7 on this.

Notice that this is not really "the reverse." It takes far less to create skepticism than to remove it, particularly when the skepticism is based on a presupposition. To put it another way, removing skepticism takes a lot more than removing confidence. One can raise a doubt easily, but placing things beyond a reasonable doubt is more difficult.

When one has adopted a presupposition, one has a foundation for knowledge. That foundation can be built upon, and the house of knowledge on top can be torn down or modified as necessary. Going after a foundation is much more difficult than going after the house. That's one reason why, in the American legal system there is supposed to be a presupposition of innocence.

In this case, there is enough evidence to convict the fanatical Muslims involved, but not enough evidence to convict the government. For me, it is really that simple.

If you start with an unbiased mind and analyze the official story critically, you will find that (at least on most points) it stands up to the various criticisms presented. If you consider any of the alternative hypotheses, you will immediately find an enormous number of inconsistences that do not stand up to the criticisms presented.

WTC7 may be an exception, but not all of the evidence has been released to the public yet. Although there is reason to confirm the official story, and though there are many gaping holes in the conspiracy theories, it would be nice to see the bulk of the evidence presnted before coming to a final conclusion.

So, answering the commenters challenge, I'm open to any kind of evidence, and it is not some much the kind but the quality, quantity, and consistency of the evidence that will persuade me that the facts are different than the official report.

Hopefully, everyone who is unbiased on the issue can say the same. If, however, one's epistemology is based on a presupposition of governmental guilt, one's skeptiicsm will not be easily removed.

May God give us (including the present author) wisdom both to refrain from presupposing what we ought not, and also to presuppose what we should.


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