Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Working The Refs Pays Off: Politifact Blows The Ried/Romney Tax Dust-Up

Working the refs pays off.  Just ask Mike Krzyzewski...or the GOP...

One of conservatism's most effective ploys of the last fifty years has been the charge of liberal media bias--a charge that even some conservatives have admitted is really just a matter of working the refs.

It has seemed to me for some time that Politifact, facing the generally greater mendacity of the right, has bent over backwards trying to avoid the charge of liberal bias. This, of course, produces the opposite bias--in order to appear even-handed to the less-honest of two competing groups, the allegedly neutral judge holds the more honest group to higher standards.

That's what's happened with the Reid-Romney dust-up about taxes. Politifact has asserted that Reid is lying about the claim that Romney did not pay taxes for ten years--it gives his claim a "pants on fire" rating. And  WaPo FactChecker gives Reid four Pinocchios. Both are supposed to indicate that the claim in question is a lie. However, it is in no way clear that either rating is warranted, given that we do not know whether Reid's claim is true or false. A lie, on the strictest and most common definition, is something like a falsehood knowingly misrepresented as being a truth. Since neither Politifact nor FactChecker know whether Ried's claim is true, neither is in a position to call his claim a lie, so neither is in a position to give the rating they have given.

Now, they might claim that Reid's claim is unjustified and/or irresponsible, and that's not crazy. However, Reid is actually in a better epistemic position than they are--he at least knows who the source of the rumor is, and Politifact and FactChecker do not. As Nyhan basically notes, the rating scale of both organizations is set up to represent something more like lies vs. non-lies rather than justified vs. unjustified / responsible vs. irresponsible assertions. (A wildly irresponsible claim can be the moral equivalent of a lie--just as bad as a lie, that is. Most of the lies the Bush administration told in the spin-up to the Iraq war, for example, were the moral equivalent of lies, but (in a textbook display of consciousness of guilt) they normally were very careful not to lie technically and on the narrowest definition.) At any rate, and more importantly, neither Politifact nor FactChecker know exactly how good Reid's evidence is. Thus, even if their rating scales were well-suited to rating the justification/responsibility of assertions, they're not in a position to make a clear judgment in this case.

Details matter in such cases, incidentally, and it does matter--in some way that's hard for me to articulate off the top of my head--that Romney could easily disprove Reid's assertion, but chooses not to. If, for example, the claim could only be disproved with difficulty, we might have a different case on our hands.

All this does put Politifact and FactChecker in a rather tight spot epistemically. If they claim that Reid's assertion is a lie because he doesn't know whether the proposition in question (Romney did not pay taxes for ten years) is true, then they seem to have to rate their own assertions as lies, since they don't know whether or not their own claims are true. After all, if no one knows whether the proposition in question is true, then no one knows whether or not Reid is telling the truth when he says that it's true. And if Reid is lying for saying that the proposition is true without knowing it, then Politifact and FactChecker are lying for saying that this other proposition (Reid is lying) is true without knowing that it is. But clearly they are not lying, they're just making unjustified claims...as Reid may (or may not) be doing...

OTOH, one could assert that Reid has the burden of proof, and so the positions are asymmetrical. However this seems to be not quite right. Politifact and FactChecker can plausibly (though not unimpeachably) claim that Reid's claim is irresponsible. But that's not what they have, in effect, said. What they've said is that he is lying. And that they are not in a position to do.

Reid has told us, in general terms, what his evidence is for the first proposition. By committing himself to that proposition, he is committing himself to the reliability of his source. At least he is being up front about the general character of his evidence. (He's also, again, making a claim that Romney could easily refute, and refute by doing something he ought to do anyway...)

None of this is terribly complicated, and it all reinforces the worked-ref hypothesis: Politifact and FactChecker have both reached fairly far beyond the known facts to tag Reid with a liar rating. Their rating is, I think, irresponsible, and my guess is that it hints at an unfair standard.

There's a rather easy way to test this hypothesis, however--they hypothesis that one or both organizations are holding one side to a higher standard than the other. We could ask, for example, whether either Politifact or FactChecker gave a pants-on-fire/4 Pinocchio rating to birther claims about Obama's birth before Obama had produced evidence about his birth certificate. The cases seem similar at a glance. If they did give such ratings to birthers before evidence was produced, then I'll happily apologize to both organizations. I haven't check this out, so I don't know the answer to my question.

18 Comments:

Blogger Bryan said...

"it's got to be pretty bad for R-Money to keep the records secret in the face of charges like this."

Just the other day you were using reasoning very similar to the appeal to ignorance reasoning you now criticize from PolitiFact.

I was way ahead of you noting how PolitiFact inevitably applies its "burden of proof" criterion unevenly, by the way. Funny how the Left doesn't appear to notice these things until PolitiFact starts "bending over backwards trying to avoid the charge of liberal bias."

You talk about the "generally greater mendacity of the right." What's the evidence for that? Your own personal experience? PolitiFact?

Just curious.

Cheers.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Hey, Bryan, thanks for the comment.

Coupla points:

1. There's no appeal to ignorance in my. An *appeal to ignorance* occurs when one reasons roughly like so: I don't have sufficient evidence for p, therefore not-p. My reasoning--and that of many others, goes like this: Reid's attacks are hurting MR; if they were false and if there were nothing else damaging in MR's taxes, then MR could easily not only refute Reid's charges, but deal a serious blow to Reid in the process. MR will not, however, release his returns. Therefore it's plausible that either the charges aren't false, or there is something else damaging (to MR) in the returns. A very different argument, not at all an appeal to ignorance. Possibly flawed on other grounds, but, if so, I don't see it.

2. I'm sure lots of people are ahead of me on everything, but I'd certainly have cited you if I'd have known of your blog and your post. I'm happy to know about your blog, and will check it out.

3. As for the greater mendacity of the right: well, I'm going to appeal to that as something that's apparent to reasonably objective parties. Certainly not an eternal truth, but one that's true and evidence here and now. A glance at your blog suggests that you don't agree... As I've said to others: if you can see the news that I see and conclude something different, I'm not sure what I could cite that could possibly change your mind...

4. As for Politifact itself...I've suggested an experiment... We could probably think of others...

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Jim Bales said...

Nice experiment, WS!

Politifact lists all of their Birther posts.

Most are rated as "Pants-on-fire", but not all of them. One of the latter strikes me as a reasonably close analog to the Harry Reid case. It involves a Texas state rep who claimed
"I read the governor (of Hawaii) can’t find anything that says he was born in Hawaii."

Politifact's "principle" is:
People who make factual claims are accountable for their words and should be able to provide evidence to back them up. We will try to verify their statements, but we believe the burden of proof is on the person making the statement.

For Berman, Politifact concluded:
"[Texas state representative] Berman didn’t pinpoint where he heard or read that Hawaii’s governor couldn’t find proof of Obama’s birthplace. We combed published reports, finding no proof [Hawaii Governor] Abercrombie said that. We rate Berman’s statement False."

For Reid, Politifact concluded:
"Reid has made an extreme claim with nothing solid to back it up. Pants on Fire!"

Both claims are extreme (although Berman’s strikes me as more extreme than Reid’s). I'd say that having "no proof" is essentially the same as "nothing solid to back it up". Berman gave no more evidence to back-up his claim than Reid did. By claiming that Berman was somehow more truthful than Reid, Politifact violated its principles.

Wanna make a bet on the chance of Politifact correcting its error?

Best
Jim

1:04 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1) "There's no appeal to ignorance"--That's right. Neither you nor PolitiFact engaged in the appeal to ignorance. You both used similar reasoning.

2) Thanks!

3) If it's apparent to reasonably objective parties then you should be able to describe the evidence that makes it so. We can assume it's not apparent because of the actions of magic pixies?

4) Nobody on the Republican side comparable to Harry Reid in party stature gave birther claims the time of day. Instead, just try a word study for "burden" at domain "politifact.com" and see who's getting ruled false or worse based on the burden of proof criterion. I didn't notice that faulty criterion (see #2) because it was unfairly applied to Harry Reid, iirc. ;-)

Cheers!

1:15 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Jim,

Nice work man! A difference between philosophers and engineers: philosopher: "somebody might be able to figure this out it they..." Engineer: "Got it..."

6:49 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Bryan,

1. Well, you said "similar to the appeal to ignorance," so I took you to mean there was an appeal to ignorance afoot. My reasoning was not the same as Politifacts, though, nevertheless. They say Reid is lying because he won't produce his source (or something like that). I reason to an explanation: Romney could produce his returns, and if they're clean he has much to gain, and if he doesn't produce them so he has much to lose, and he's at least in part a rational utility-maximizer...ergo it is plausible that they are not clean. Those aren't similar at all.

2. You're welcome!

3. Yeah, it's easy to point to evidence, and I didn't deny that. Rather, my general view is: if someone has been observing American politics with any care for the last 20 years and is not already convinced by the evidence that the right has, here and now, become more dishonest (and crazy) than the left, then there is no sense in me trying to convince them. I used to spend a lot of time bashing my head against such folks. I don't anymore.

4. I don't think Reid's status matters to this--it wouldn't normally. Though I don't think it would be utterly mad for Politifact to take it into account by, say, holding more important folk up to higher standards. (Reid's claim, of course, is nowhere near as crazy as birther claims--though that, too is beside the point.)

5. Note that Jim (above) actually carries out my suggested experiment, finding an analogous claim by Berman, who gets a *false* rather than a *Pants-on-Fire*. Just one case, but a pretty good one. It gives us some evidence of exactly the kind of double-standard I'm suggesting.

You suggest another one: compare ratings on burden-of-proof errors. You may have just been typing quickly, but the way you state the test wouldn't quite work. I would expect Republicans to get busted more on BoP grounds, given the current state of things. But if they're getting harsher ratings for comparable claims, *that* would be evidence of liberal bias at Politifact.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Also:
As for high-ranking Republicans not giving birthers the time of day, James Inhofe said that birthers "have a good point" or something to that effect, just for the record.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1) PolitiFact interviewed experts who said it was extremely unlikely Reid was right.

2) on to 3 ...

3) "it's easy to point to evidence"
So you don't point me toward supporting evidence because I am, in essence, pigheaded and unreasonable?

4) "I don't think Reid's status matters to this" I does matter, because story selection bias will make birther stories less likely to receive coverage prior to the release of the birth certificate. In your post, you had asked for a birther claim from prior to the Obama's release of the birth certificate. Jim provided no example of that. He gave examples from after the release of the birth certificate. You wouldn't find your example simply because PolitiFact isn't going to cover claims by persons with a low political profile.

5) Jim didn't meet your original challenge, as I point out above. The Berman case has some significant differences in terms of evidence (it's an issue of the accuracy of a paraphrase). Even without the comparison, however, I heartily agree that the "Pants on Fire" rating was too tough on Reid. All such ratings are too harsh, precisely because PolitiFact provides no objective criteria for applying the rating. It's a subjective judgment as to which claims are "ridiculous."
I suggested the terms of the word study to provide a pool of data from which to work. I didn't bother describing further because I assumed it's obvious that one should pick out the very similar cases and from there look for evidence of double standards. I made no suggestion that raw totals would provide a helpful benchmark.


*As for high-ranking Republicans not giving birthers the time of day, James Inhofe said that birthers "have a good point" or something to that effect, just for the record.*

Probably 25 percent of the electorate can identify Harry Reid. For Inhofe it surely drops below 10 percent. But my point was that it's unlikely you'd find a rating on a birther claim from the time prior to the release of the birth certificate. Jim helped confirm that by not finding an example.



What statement from Inhofe do you think makes a good fact check?
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/25444_Page2.html#ixzz0MSrigmaX

2:58 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Bryan,

Sorry, no time for this now, but a few points quickly, and more when I have some time:

1. So no appeal to ignorance, then, right? Contrary to your initial claim? We're now agreed on that?

3. Didn't say that. Rather, here's what I said: there is lots of evidence. If, say, Smith has looked at all the evidence that I have over the course of the past 20 years and come to a different conclusion, I conclude that there is nothing I can add to change his mind. I could enumerate many piece of evidence...but nothing to compare to the evidence that Smith has probably already seen. Now, a younger me would have been willing to spend hours arguing with Smith. The older me says: such conversations are almost always pointless. Of course one possibility is that *I'm* the one that's wrong. I'm fairly sure that's not true in this case, but is, of course, a possibility. St

More later. Back to work now...

3:11 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1) We'll have to stick with "contrary to Winston's interpretation of my initial claim" to obtain my agreement. My use of the phrase "appeal to ignorance" was a reference to your apparent evaluation of PolitiFact's reasoning. My assertion was that the reasoning was similar, not that the reasoning in either case was actually a fallacious appeal to ignorance.

3) "Didn't say that." Certainly I'd have used quotation marks if you had. ;-)
Are you saying the implication isn't there? Your deeper explanation doesn't hide it well.


Take your time. You're not on a chess timer from my point of view. Family and work come first! :-)

3:52 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOL...why did I look at my e-mail...

1.2 Ok, so, we agree that I did not commit the fallacy Appeal to Ignorance, I take it.

1.2 We apparently still disagree about whether or not my reasoning was *similar* to Politifact's... I don't see the similarity at all, and since they aren't similar in virtue of both being AtI, I'm rather at a loss to figure out where the similarity is...

3. Yeah, it's a tough one, and I certainly see your point. I will admit, it is very difficult for me to see how someone can, on the basis of American politics since '92 and especially since 2000, not conclude that the right has been, during that period, more dishonest and epistemically irresponsible than Democrats/liberals. I think honest error, however, is at least as common as willful error--which means that I don't necessarily think that everyone who disagrees does so because they are pig-headed. The most epistemically virtuous guy I ever knew was a Republican...

So: I'm being honest when I say: I really just think it would be pointless to try to change the mind of someone who's seen what I've seen since around 1990 and still thought that the Dems were as bad as the GOP in the relevant ways. If someone can look at the events of those 22 years and draw that conclusion, I'm not so vain (or idealistic, perhaps) as to think that I can change their mind.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1.2(2) Both you and PolitiFact built probabilistic arguments (inferences toward the best explanation) in support of characterizing the nature of evidence not at hand. Their argument was better than yours, and I'll be happy to explain that if you like.

3 "I really just think it would be pointless to try to change the mind of someone who's seen what I've seen since around 1990 and still thought that the Dems were as bad as the GOP in the relevant ways."

You're making it sound like you based your assessment on anecdotal evidence over a long period of time. You'd be aware of the way bias could affect your conclusions. I think that's why you don't bother trying to convince somebody who disagrees with you. You don't have the evidence to begin to convince a skeptic. Anecdotes don't fit the bill very well because you can't produce the force of your argument in compact form. And even if you go through the trouble the skeptic can suggest (with some power behind the point) that your sample isn't likely representative without some method of accounting for selection bias.

3:39 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1.2 Sorry, Bryan, you're way off base here. Although I don't think that inference to the best explanation is the correct way to characterize explanatory inference, we don't have to address that here.

Certainly the argument about Romney's taxes that I (and others) have floated has an abductive aspect. Politifact's doesn't really.

Politifact's main argument is:

Our guidelines say that you have to produce your sources, but Reid didn't. So: Pants On Fire.

Then they also pruduce a probabilistic argument based on how many people paid no taxes.

What I and others said was: Romney is losing much by not releasing his taxes, and has much to gain from releasing them if there is nothing embarrassing in them. Yet he does not release them. So it's plausible that there's something embarrassing in them. (Part of that argument's strength, you'll note, lies in the weak modalization of its conclusion, and in its generality/vagueness. If I'd have said that Romney paid no taxes, then Politifact's argument would have been stronger than mine. As it stands, however, they're pretty hard to compare.)

One mistake here is to generalize the arguments too much. With Peirce, I'm inclined to think that, at bottom, every argument will resolve itself into deductions, inductions and abductions...but--and consequently--a similarity at that level of abstraction is uninteresting here.

So, no, no salient similarity.

I can explain that more thoroughly if you like...

3. Well, you're asserting a lot of things, all unsupported. You assert things about my motives and reasons that you don't know to be true, and you seem to think, falsely, that the ability to convince a skeptic should be a touchstone. That's a telling error. (Perhaps, though, you don't really mean 'skeptic'...)

Let me be honest, man: no, it's not all about anecdotal evidence. Yes, I've got plenty of evidence I can proffer. We could point to Poole and Rosenthal polarization studies, or the GOP's treatment of science... But I infer from your comment 3 there that we are not going to have a profitable conversation.

To repeat: if you honestly are someone who has looked at as much evidence as I have, and you honestly believe that the Dems are currently as epistemically irresponsible and dishonest and just plain loony as the GOP...then the odds that I can say anything to change your mind are vanishingly small.

I mean, look at your dismissal of Jim's point... If you're right that the Politifact rating in the Berman case came *after* the release of the birth certificate, then, although that case doesn't meet the conditions of the experiment, it actually ends up supporting the double-standard hypothesis more strongly. Instead of two cases of assertions without produced evidence, we have Reid not producing his evidence and Berman making his assertion contrary to available evidence. There is no Earthly way to give Reid a lower rating than Berman in that case. Berman, indeed, deserves a PoF, whereas Reid *possibly* deserves a 'false' (but probably not). Yet you simply dismiss the case without nothing this rather obvious fact.

So, be honest: we're not likely to have a fruitful discussion about this, are we?

7:35 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1.2 "Politifact's main argument is" missing from your response, Winston. PolitiFact obtained expert opinions stating that it is unlikely that Romney went without paying taxes for any string of years, let along 10. Is it likely the experts are wrong?

"I can explain that more thoroughly if you like..."

Yes. Explain the omission.

1) Well, you're asserting a lot of things, all unsupported. You assert things about my motives and reasons that you don't know to be true, and you seem to think, falsely, that the ability to convince a skeptic should be a touchstone.

Just as when you use "seem," I am able to use "seem" and "I think" to make assertions which bear no burden or proof in a conversation with a reasonable person. The assertions I made lacking such clarifying language grant you the benefit of the doubt. I can refrain from granting you the benefit of the doubt if you wish. Just say the word.

4) "it actually ends up supporting the double-standard hypothesis more strongly. Instead of two cases of assertions without produced evidence, we have Reid not producing his evidence and Berman making his assertion contrary to available evidence."

As I pointed out (another omission on your part), the case with Berman has him using an inaccurate paraphrase of a real set of news reports. That's fundamentally different from Reid's behavior, and not really a good candidate at all for the invocation of a ruling based on burden of proof. You did not address the content of my objection.

5) "So, be honest: we're not likely to have a fruitful discussion about this, are we?"

I'm not going to assume you can't explain why you're ignoring lines of evidence in two of the cases we're discussing. I'll stick with this: If we're not going to have a fruitful discussion I won't let the problem occur at my end.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOL

See how this is not going anywhere.

Let's recap just some of the really easy stuff to begin with.

1.1 Remember how you started off with the accusation that I had committed an Appeal to Ignorance? Remember how I had not?

Unfortunately, things started getting shifty after that...

1.something
Ok, then we went to "your argument is similar to Politifacts"...but it wasn't. Now, this is not to comment on the strength of either argument. Just that: they weren't similar.

You misconstrued their argument as abductive/IBX. When I again explained that the arguments were not similar, you shift the ground again, arguing that I have left out the main argument, the appeal to expert opinion.

But that's not relevant; it doesn't help your case, since I made no appeal to expert opinion, either. So, again: your charge that my argument was similar to theirs was false.

See how this is going off the rails? See why it's because you are trying to prosecute a case rather than pursue the truth?

How to explain the omission? Not to put too fine a point on it: the omitted information was *utterly irrelevant to the discussion.*

4. An intentionally inaccurate paraphrase is not different in a way that will help your case.

5. So...see? No important omissions on my part. Your lines of argument keep shifting in a way that such arguments do when someone is trying to score rhetorical points rather than finding the truth.

Again: if you've been paying attention to the news for the last 20 years and still want to defend the thesis that American liberals are as loony and dishonest as American conservatives, *I am virtually certain that there is nothing I can say to you that is going to change your mind.* If 20 years and a shit-ton of evidence hasn't done it, nothing I can say in a humanly plausible time-frame will do the trick.

But sloppy accusations and ever-shifting lines of argument are certainly not going to advance inquiry. That's the stuff of mindless, pointless squabbling...and I gave that up a couple of years back, having put in my time on that front...

11:18 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

1.1 No, and no. You're impressing your interpretation on an ambiguity and ignoring my explanation. You won't receive that type of treatment from me in return.

1.something
"You misconstrued their argument as abductive/IBX. When I again explained that the arguments were not similar, you shift the ground again, arguing that I have left out the main argument, the appeal to expert opinion."

When did I shift ground the first time? :-)
It's implicit to PF's argument that the experts are probably right. "I made no appeal to expert opinion" I did not suggest that was a similarity. Both of you appealed to probability. PolitiFact trusts that its experts are probably right. You trust that Romney probably would not endure such damage (what damage?) from not releasing more tax returns if he wasn't hiding something horrendous. You're splitting hairs in your defense.

"See how this is going off the rails? See why it's because you are trying to prosecute a case rather than pursue the truth?"

Are you prosecuting the case that I'm trying to prosecute a case or are you pursuing the truth? If there's any overlap at all then you should probably take a deep breath and simply try to deal with the issues one by one.

4) Thanks for the great example of a supported assertion (so unlike mine!). But seriously--how did you reach the conclusion that his paraphrase was deliberately inaccurate? Or was your comment just a red herring (you don't really mean to assert that he deliberately paraphrased inaccurately but just want to create the impression that you've addressed the issue)?

5) "So...see? No important omissions on my part"

Abracadabra!

On what grounds to you dismiss the notion that tax experts are probably right that Romney could not get away with not paying taxes based on the likely structure of his income?

"Your lines of argument keep shifting in a way that such arguments do when someone is trying to score rhetorical points rather than finding the truth."

Score some rhetorical points to PRaptor for *that* line.

"Again: if you've been paying attention to the news for the last 20 years and still want to defend the thesis that American liberals are as loony and dishonest as American conservatives, *I am virtually certain that there is nothing I can say to you that is going to change your mind.*"

I see the burden of proof moving around. You're putting the burden of proof on me for a counter-assertion to your assertion (one I never made). All in the interest of pursuing the truth?

This conversation can move forward following your examination of the probabilistic component to PF's invocation of expert opinion. Are the experts likely to be wrong?

12:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Aye Carumba.

Let's stick to the first point you brought up. If we can secure agreement on that, we can move forward.

Look, "both arguments involve probabilities" is not a similarity of a kind that will support your point. As I noted, ALL arguments are similar in SOME way or other. All have at least one premise and at least one conclusion, for example. But that's not the kind of thing you were asserting that the arguments had in common.

We've gone from:

A. Both arguments are appeals to ignorance (a very specific and salient similarity indeed...but not actually something they shared)

to:

B. Both involve some kind of explanatory inference (A very general type of similarity, and not something that the arguments did, in fact, have in common)

to:

C. Both arguments have something to do with probabilities.

Now, most non-deductive inferences have *something* to do with probabilities...a similarity at that level is one step shy of "they both have premises."

So, no: there is no salient similarity in the arguments.

If we're agreed on that point, we can move on...but I doubt that's the case...

Again, I'm not seeing the kind of sincere striving after the truth here that is going to make this conversation fruitful... And the "prosecuting the case that I'm prosecuting a case" business is not making me any more optimistic.

Be honest, Bryan: there's no hope of swaying your opinion here, is there?

Let's be up front about it before we both waste a lot of time. As I've noted, I've already wasted more than my share of time talking to people who have their positions etched in stone.

I'll be gone to Colorado for a week, with light posting, incidentally.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

**We've gone from:

A. Both arguments are appeals to ignorance (a very specific and salient similarity indeed...but not actually something they shared)

to:

B. Both involve some kind of explanatory inference (A very general type of similarity, and not something that the arguments did, in fact, have in common)

to:

C. Both arguments have something to do with probabilities.
***

You've stayed consistent. You've gone from ignoring my clarification to ignoring my clarification. You criticized PF's reasoning to the effect that it represented an appeal to evidence. I was saying that your reasoning was similar to PF's. To the extent I've been clear, I've been clear on that point.

You're imagining the distinction between B and C, which I introduced simultaneously rather than in consecutive replies. Positing that one explanation is the most likely is a type of inference to the best explanation (the best explanation being the most likely).

**most non-deductive inferences have *something* to do with probabilities...a similarity at that level is one step shy of "they both have premises."**

Point being, PF's argument is more like yours than it is to the appeal to ignorance. And, as I mentioned earlier, PF's argument is better than yours and I can explain why.

**If we're agreed on that point, we can move on**

The appeal to ignorance uses a premise, also. Is your argument just as similar to PF's as it is to the appeal to ignorance? Are the two arguments more similar to each other than to AaI in terms of that comparison? That's the issue, and after that whether PF's argument is, in fact, better than yours.

"I'm not seeing the kind of sincere striving after the truth here"
"Be honest ..."

Am I the only one noticing the theme of personal attack in your rhetoric?

1:36 PM  

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