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View Poll Results: How much lack of Evidence becomes Evidence?

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2. You may not vote on this poll
  • Theorey / Model comes after Observed

    0 0%
  • Predicted Observed within a life time ~100 years

    0 0%
  • Predicted Observed within 3 Standard Deviation of expected.

    1 50.00%
  • Never, Hold out infinitely for Predicted , or direct evidence against model / theory

    1 50.00%
  • Never, hold infintely for predicted , or until a better model comes along.

    0 0%
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Thread: When does lack of evidence itself become evidence?

  1. #1 When does lack of evidence itself become evidence? 
    Forum Freshman IamIan's Avatar
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    There are things that are consistent ( sometimes even required ) with a given theory that have not been found.

    Lack of evidence would never be direct evidence , but it could become indirect evidence.

    If say a given theory predicted x would happen on average once per minute. X not happening in one minute is not significant. But after an entire years of x not happening it might become indirectly significant.

    - - - - - -

    Although I am not directly asking about dark mater, it is a modern day example of the concept.
    Dark Mater was proposed over 80 ago now. AFAIK it has not yet been detected directly. But even that 80+ years has not been sufficient to cause any significant issue with the theory that predicts it.

    - - - - - - -

    Do we just hold onto a current model ( no mater what it might be ) , until there is a better model?


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  3. #2  
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    "Lack of evidence" becomes "evidence" as soon as evidence is predicted but not seen.
    I don't see an option in your poll for that.

    If someone claims that they "have a moose in their garage", then the absence of evidence of a moose in their garage is evidence that they don't have a moose in their garage.

    But if someone claims that "sometime in the future an alien spaceship will land" then that is unfalsifiable; it can neither be proved nor disproved.
    There will never come a time when a lack of evidence will disprove the claim.
    That kind of claim is unscientific.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman IamIan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    "Lack of evidence" becomes "evidence" as soon as evidence is predicted but not seen.
    I don't see an option in your poll for that.

    If someone claims that they "have a moose in their garage", then the absence of evidence of a moose in their garage is evidence that they don't have a moose in their garage.
    I don't know how to edit my poll to add that.

    I did not initially consider a single test failure to be automatically conclusive.

    I had originally thought about the margin of error or statistical significance of a given signal sample.

    In the moose example. How likely could a moose still be in the garage and not detected given the type of testing done. If in one sample you only saw 10% of the garage, there might still be enough other garage in the other 90% to fit a moose. That would mean not finding it in that 10% doesn't mean it isn't in the other 90%. But given the size a moose could be , the size of the garage, the type of testing, etc. One should be able to develope a standard deviation for the average odds of finding a moose in the garage ( if one is there ). When you're testing is out to 3 standard deviations , there is only a ~0.27% chance that the moose was there and just not detected. Is that low enough to be considered evidence that the moose is not there?

    If a single failure were conclusive that would be bad news for 80+ years of not directly finding Dark Matter.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Junior anticorncob28's Avatar
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    I just voted and it turns out I was the first to vote. I chose the three standard deviation answer after I tried to understand what the answers meant. After you explained what it meant, I'm glad I picked what I did because that sounds reasonable and it was what I thought it was.
    Can you explain your first two options with your moose example?
    So the second option is that if there is no evidence of a moose in the garage after a lifetime, then that is evidence that there is no moose?
    What "Predicted Observed within a life time ~100 years" sounds like to me is "If I observe what was predicted in less than a human lifetime (~ 100 years), that is evidence that the thing does not exist", which is obviously not true.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    In the moose example. How likely could a moose still be in the garage and not detected given the type of testing done. If in one sample you only saw 10% of the garage, there might still be enough other garage in the other 90% to fit a moose. That would mean not finding it in that 10% doesn't mean it isn't in the other 90%. But given the size a moose could be , the size of the garage, the type of testing, etc. One should be able to develope a standard deviation for the average odds of finding a moose in the garage ( if one is there ). When you're testing is out to 3 standard deviations , there is only a ~0.27% chance that the moose was there and just not detected. Is that low enough to be considered evidence that the moose is not there?
    But, in practice, you look in the garage and you can't find the moose.
    You don't check 10% - you check 100% of the garage.
    It is not as though the moose can hide behind the lawnmower, is it?

    As to trying to make a statistical model, I bow out.
    My knowledge of statistics is not great but this evening's alcohol consumption is.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by anticorncob28 View Post
    Can you explain your first two options with your moose example?

    So the second option is that if there is no evidence of a moose in the garage after a lifetime, then that is evidence that there is no moose?

    What "Predicted Observed within a life time ~100 years" sounds like to me is "If I observe what was predicted in less than a human lifetime (~ 100 years), that is evidence that the thing does not exist", which is obviously not true.
    The moose example was not mine. But here goes.

    The First option is asking about the potential idea that you don't have a theory / model of the moose being in the garage until after you already have direct observed evidence that there is a moose in the garage. Model / Theory always would follow after the direct evidence. Which would prevent predictions like Dark Mater prior to them being observed directly.

    The second was about the potential idea of , if you failed to observe the predicted thing in a human life time ( ~100 years ). That option was about the idea of if one did not see that predicted thing expressed in that type of time scale. In the moose example context, that would require a less than 100% testing method per sample. And some amount of time to perform each test to get each sample result. It also gets at the idea of how quickly in a time scale we sometimes expect to see / get results.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    But, in practice, you look in the garage and you can't find the moose.
    You don't check 10% - you check 100% of the garage.
    It is not as though the moose can hide behind the lawnmower, is it?
    If your test method was 100% results from one test sample then sure.

    But it could be a 20 story garage over a city block wide. Not all test methods would have a instant check that is 100% for that entire structure in one sample.

    Or a baby moose inside the closed cargo van that is inside the 2 car garage. Initially test does not include seeing inside the closed cargo van. That initial test wouldn't have 100% in one sample.

    If I could I'd add the option for you. But, I can't.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    The First option is asking about the potential idea that you don't have a theory / model of the moose being in the garage until after you already have direct observed evidence that there is a moose in the garage.
    Model / Theory always would follow after the direct evidence.
    I agree, but the person making the claim has directly observed the moose in the garage - their theory/model/claim is based on their observation of that moose - which would be scientific.
    But if they were to simply wake up one morning and decide there was a moose in their garage then that would just be wishful (crazy?) thinking and not be scientific.

    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    The second was about the potential idea of , if you failed to observe the predicted thing in a human life time ( ~100 years ). That option was about the idea of if one did not see that predicted thing expressed in that type of time scale. In the moose example context, that would require a less than 100% testing method per sample. And some amount of time to perform each test to get each sample result. It also gets at the idea of how quickly in a time scale we sometimes expect to see / get results.
    If someone claimed that there was a moose, then the time scale needed to observe the moose would be tiny (instant?).

    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    But it could be a 20 story garage over a city block wide. Not all test methods would have a instant check that is 100% for that entire structure in one sample.
    Or a baby moose inside the closed cargo van that is inside the 2 car garage. Initially test does not include seeing inside the closed cargo van. That initial test wouldn't have 100% in one sample.
    This sounds like you are arguing against the analogy (I think there's a logical fallacy for that.)
    There is no difficulty in examining a normal garage (for a large animal) completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    If I could I'd add the option for you. But, I can't.
    No worries.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    I agree, but the person making the claim has directly observed the moose in the garage - their theory/model/claim is based on their observation of that moose - which would be scientific.
    But if they were to simply wake up one morning and decide there was a moose in their garage then that would just be wishful (crazy?) thinking and not be scientific.
    If they formed thier theory / model based on indirect evidence ( moose poop heading toward the garage ), and/or ( Moose sounds coming from inside the garage ). Then it can be a scientific theory, even without yet direct evidence / detection of the moose itself being in the garage.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    If someone claimed that there was a moose, then the time scale needed to observe the moose would be tiny (instant?).
    Depends on the type of test used.

    For Light and Human eye. Yes that is fairly fast. But limited to point of view/obstructions, etc. ( baby moose inside closed van ).

    If your test methods is via DNA analysis of samples that takes much longer to cover the same certainty for the moose in garage theory.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    This sounds like you are arguing against the analogy (I think there's a logical fallacy for that.)
    There is no difficulty in examining a normal garage (for a large animal) completely.
    I agreed before and I'll still agree. If your test is 100% from one sample then sure, you're done.

    I was not arguing against the example itself. I was pointing out how even in that case ( moose in garage theory ) there can be a context where one sample from a type of test is not necessarily 100%. ( baby moose inside a van , DNA test samples , etc. )

    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    If I could I'd add the option for you. But, I can't.
    No worries.
    Mental note of your vote for potential for one sample that failed to yield the prediction.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    If they formed thier theory / model based on indirect evidence ( moose poop heading toward the garage ), and/or ( Moose sounds coming from inside the garage ). Then it can be a scientific theory, even without yet direct evidence / detection of the moose itself being in the garage.
    I am not sure it would be conclusive if it was only the sounds of a moose. ( It could be an animal impersonator or a cow with a sore throat. )
    But I was thinking that in my example that it was direct evidence (i.e. touch, sight, sound, etc.), the kind of evidence that we usually rely on when discerning if something exists.

    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    I was not arguing against the example itself. I was pointing out how even in that case ( moose in garage theory ) there can be a context where one sample from a type of test is not necessarily 100%. ( baby moose inside a van , DNA test samples , etc. )
    I agree.
    Which is where the 'replication' part of the scientific method applies.
    If one person (the originator of the claim) sees a moose: that would be evidence.
    If another person sees a moose: that is more evidence.
    But if no-one else can see a moose: that is a lack of evidence - which is, in turn, evidence of the moose not being in the garage.

    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    Mental note of your vote for potential for one sample that failed to yield the prediction.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    I am not sure it would be conclusive if it was only the sounds of a moose. ( It could be an animal impersonator or a cow with a sore throat. )
    But I was thinking that in my example that it was direct evidence (i.e. touch, sight, sound, etc.), the kind of evidence that we usually rely on when discerning if something exists.
    The lack of 100% conclusiveness is why some tests would not be 100% certain from one test sample.

    The significance of a lack of direct evidence is the core of the poll I was curious how people stood on it.

    The sight , sound, etc. can be indirect evidence, without actually directly detecting the moose itself , the dark mater itself , or the whatever. You can hear the moose sounds, or see the moose poop, etc. Even if you might not directly see the moose itself.

    A real world historical example is the 80+ years of not ever directly detecting dark mater, but it is still scientifically accepted to exist through exclusively indirect evidence only.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    I was not arguing against the example itself. I was pointing out how even in that case ( moose in garage theory ) there can be a context where one sample from a type of test is not necessarily 100%. ( baby moose inside a van , DNA test samples , etc. )
    I agree.
    Which is where the 'replication' part of the scientific method applies.
    If one person (the originator of the claim) sees a moose: that would be evidence.
    If another person sees a moose: that is more evidence.
    But if no-one else can see a moose: that is a lack of evidence - which is, in turn, evidence of the moose not being in the garage.
    Agreed.

    The curious part, is in other cases ( such as dark mater ) the continued lack of direct evidence for over 80+ years is not necessarily enough to itself be considered evidence against the existence of dark mater. Even when the evidence for it is all indirect ( like we saw for moose sounds, moose droppings , etc ). Would we still be considering the moose in the garage a viable theory after 80+ years of no direct evidence detecting it? If all we ever had was indirect evidence like the sounds and poop? I think we have very different standards / criteria for different cases/contexts. For good reason. But, different standards none the less.

    For me , I lean more toward the 3 Standard Deviations type of option for when the lack of directly detecting the prediction itself begins to become evidence about there being some kind of issue with the prediction ( or model it is based on ) itself.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    The curious part, is in other cases ( such as dark mater ) the continued lack of direct evidence for over 80+ years is not necessarily enough to itself be considered evidence against the existence of dark mater. Even when the evidence for it is all indirect ( like we saw for moose sounds, moose droppings , etc ). Would we still be considering the moose in the garage a viable theory after 80+ years of no direct evidence detecting it? If all we ever had was indirect evidence like the sounds and poop? I think we have very different standards / criteria for different cases/contexts. For good reason. But, different standards none the less.
    We would simply call it 'dark animal' - until we knew something more substantial.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by IamIan View Post
    The curious part, is in other cases ( such as dark mater ) the continued lack of direct evidence for over 80+ years is not necessarily enough to itself be considered evidence against the existence of dark mater. Even when the evidence for it is all indirect ( like we saw for moose sounds, moose droppings , etc ). Would we still be considering the moose in the garage a viable theory after 80+ years of no direct evidence detecting it? If all we ever had was indirect evidence like the sounds and poop? I think we have very different standards / criteria for different cases/contexts. For good reason. But, different standards none the less.
    We would simply call it 'dark animal' - until we knew something more substantial.
    Especially if they could detect moose dung but no moose. It would be of the "Dark Matter" type. lol
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  14. #13  
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    According to Karl Popper, never.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    According to Karl Popper, never.
    Apart from where he disagrees with you:
    "[Karl Popper] states that while there is no way to prove that the sun will rise, it is possible to formulate the theory that every day the sun will rise; if it does not rise on some particular day, the theory will be falsified and will have to be replaced by a different one."
    Absence of a sun rise would be evidence that the sun doesn't rise everyday.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    According to Karl Popper, never.
    Apart from where he disagrees with you:
    "[Karl Popper] states that while there is no way to prove that the sun will rise, it is possible to formulate the theory that every day the sun will rise; if it does not rise on some particular day, the theory will be falsified and will have to be replaced by a different one."
    Absence of a sun rise would be evidence that the sun doesn't rise everyday.
    Under Popper's views if I'm not mistaken, it is impossible to prove something scientifically 100%. If you could, it would be unfalsifiable and therefore not science. So if I were to make the scientific claim of the sun rises everyday due to my theory (x), and one day it does not rise, would the lack of evidence of the sun rising that day make that evidence to prove theory (x) wrong? If that's what you mean, I'd have to agree.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    Under Popper's views if I'm not mistaken, it is impossible to prove something scientifically 100%. If you could, it would be unfalsifiable and therefore not science.
    Yes, you cannot prove something 100%, but I do not see how that relates to "When does lack of evidence itself become evidence?".
    (Also, if something was proved 100% it would still be falsifiable.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    So if I were to make the scientific claim of the sun rises everyday due to my theory (x), and one day it does not rise, would the lack of evidence of the sun rising that day make that evidence to prove theory (x) wrong? If that's what you mean, I'd have to agree.
    Yes, that is what the Karl Popper statement is referring to, which makes your reply "According to Karl Popper, never." incorrect.
    Karl Popper would happily accept a lack of evidence as evidence.
    He would accept that a lack of sun-rise is evidence of the sun not rising every day.

    tbh: most of these discussions revolve around the assumption that there are 2 distinct situations: "evidence" and "lack of evidence" - it is all "evidence".
    If you went to a burglary, would you say there was a lack of evidence of a TV? Or would you say there was evidence of a TV being stolen?
    It all ends up feeling like an argument about whether grey is a dark white or a light black.
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  18. #17  
    Forum Freshman Cudamerica's Avatar
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    I've agreed that my first statement is incorrect.

    I then propose that lack of evidence is adequate to prove something wrong, but not right. For instance, the lack of evidence of the sun not rising everyday does not provide evidence that the sun will indeed rise everyday, but if the sun does not rise one day, then as I was saying before that lack of evidence proving the sun does rise everyday becomes evidence to prove it wrong.

    tbh: most of these discussions revolve around the assumption that there are 2 distinct situations: "evidence" and "lack of evidence" - it is all "evidence"
    Isn't that the whole point to a discussion? Either there's evidence or lack of evidence to get a point across. If discussions were made without any sort of evidence, we would view this world completely different. Or are you trying to point out many people believe that there is a real distinction to them, much like I thought before I actually started thinking about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    If discussions were made without any sort of evidence, we would view this world completely different.
    *cough*religion*cough*

    Quote Originally Posted by Cudamerica View Post
    Or are you trying to point out many people believe that there is a real distinction to them, much like I thought before I actually started thinking about it.
    Yes - that.
    The point I was trying to make (in my usual clumsy way) is that it is a distinction without a difference.

    The question "When does lack of evidence itself become evidence?" doesn't really make sense to me because it is the same as asking "When does evidence become evidence?".
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  20. #19  
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    *cough*religion*cough*
    Thank you for the laugh. I wish I wouldn't have read this when I was in class haha. Lots of head turns.
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