31 October 2020

From impossible to improbable: small step or giant leap ?

Proposition: Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon is a hoax.
 
Impossible? Improbable? 
 
Is the difference a small step or a giant leap
 
Follow this cryptic journey from steps on the moon to the bowels of Christ fuelled by parsnips! 
 
Hang on tight!



Faith: The idea that moon landings are a hoax is simply ludicrous. They moon landings happened, the evidence is incontrovertible.

Skip: What is that evidence?

Faith: This article tells and shows how photographs taken by NASA's reconnaissance lunar orbiter reveal human footprints on the moon.

Skip: OK, but the photographs could be fakes. Or maybe NASA actually landed a mechanical lunar rover on the moon that has two wheels on each side with boots in place of tyre treads, and it was set to "walk" around a bit. Voila! Footprints.

Faith: Aww, come on, that's just stupid.

Skip: Stupid, yes. But possible?

Faith: No way. They have soil and rocks that they brought back from the moon that are not found anywhere on earth.

Skip: Well, that one's easy to challenge. The rocks are found on earth. They're in NASA labs. How can we be sure they are not elsewhere too? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And besides, have you seen these rocks? Are you a geologist? Can you confirm that they absolutely cannot be of this earth?

Faith: No the experts have made this judgment. I trust the experts.

Skip: Sure, I trust experts too. But I also know that it is sometimes wise to ask for a second opinion. Experts do not always get it right, and often disagree. Indeed, it's almost certain that for any expert opinion, you will be able to find another expert who disagrees.

Faith: Oh this is silly. The theory that the moon landings are a hoax is simply impossible.
 
Skip: I'm not asking you to admit that there were no moon landings, or no humans walked on the moon, or even that they are a hoax. I'm asking you whether you might be wrong about man walking on the moon?

Faith: While I acknowledge the points you are making, they 'doth butter no parsnips with me' 😂

Skip: Let me respond to your 17th century idiom about buttered parsnips with a quote from the same century called Cromwell's rule: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken?'  
 
Faith: What?
 
Skip: Cromwell's rule says that anyone who is 100% adamant about their view is in trouble for two reasons: (a) they might be wrong and (b) they are blind to this possibility.
 
Faith: Ah, OK, I think I can see that. That the moon landings are a hoax is highly improbable rather than impossible. 
 
Skip: Yes, exactly. It's a small step with enormous implications.
 
Faith: But you have to make a giant leap to get over the remaining problem. Your view presents an absurdity, namely that the impossible is not possible at all? 😂 
 


Induction is the glory of Science, and the scandal of Philosophy
   -- C.D. Broad, Commemorative Address at The Bacon Tercentenary, (1926)

Words are but wind that do from men proceed;
None but Chamelions on bare Air can feed;
Great men large hopeful promises may utter;
But words did never Fish or Parsnips butter
   -- John Taylor, Epigrammes (1651)
 
 I never made a mistake in my life.
I thought I did once,
but I was wrong.
  -- attributed to Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts

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