Archive for January, 2010


Can you prove there are no fairies?

It is a basic rule of logic that burden of proof always lies on the affirmative, that whoever asserts something will be the one who has to prove it.  Ei incombit probatio qui didt, non qui negat – “the burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not him who denies” – and so whoever tries to shift the burden of proof to the opponent by insisting that a claim is true simply because it has not been shown to be false is committing a logical fallacy.

Burden lies on the affirmative. But now the question is, What is an affirmative? Does it simply mean a ‘positive’ claim, hence statements in the negative carry no such burden?

Let us see how Webster defines the word affirmative:

1 : asserting a predicate of a subject
2 : asserting that the fact is so
3 : POSITIVE <affirmative approach>
4 : favoring or supporting a proposition or motion

We see in No. 3 that affirmative also means ‘positive’. Now let’s see what positive means:

1 a: formally laid down or imposed : PRESCRIBED <positive laws> b: expressed clearly or peremptorily <her answer was a positive no> c: fully assured : CONFIDENT<positive it was her book>

It appears that affirmative and positive are about confident assertion instead of statements that are merely positively worded (take a look at the above example, “her answer was a positive no“). As such, the statements “There are no fairies” and “Fairies don’t exist” are therefore actually affirmative statements and so they are also laden with the burden of proof. (By the way, asserting that “there are no fairies” is not the same as saying “I don’t believe in fairies”, because the latter is not affirming their non-existence but simply disbelieving their existence.)

Now some might say that it is impossible to prove a negative. I beg to disagree. One can prove certain negatives, like proving that there are no “supercontinents” ten times the size of Asia (one can easily accomplish that with Google Earth). Other negatives may be harder – but still not impossible – to prove, like the statement that “There is no oil in Davao City”, because one would then have to dig up every square inch of the entire city to prove that.

I read this article about proving a negative that states that “a person is justified in believing that X does not exist if all of these conditions are met:

1. the area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined, and

2. all of the available evidence that X exists is inadequate, and

3. X is the sort of entity that, if X exists, then it would show.”

I totally agree. In the case of the “supercontinents”, all three conditions are easily met, especially #3.

But as for fairies, it would be virtually impossible to prove their non-existence because even if we had simultaneous 24-hour video coverage on every garden and forest on Earth showing no fairies (satisfying conditions #1 and #2), believers would simply say that fairies are normally invisible but can choose to show themselves to certain people at certain times, failing condition #3.

However, the inability to prove there are no fairies doesn’t automatically allow for the conclusion that fairies do exist, because that would also be an affirmative statement requiring proof. And so we are left with a technical stalemate as far as proof is concerned – but not probability.

Fairies are simply way too improbable that although it is impossible to prove their non-existence, one can reasonably live his/her life on the assumption that they don’t exist. And so when planting a garden, it would be a good idea to till it and water it and fertilize it – instead of just lying down waiting for fairies to magically make it bloom. inner minds


Of Grudges and Goals

Some people are forgiving while others are not. Some hold grudges, and a few carry their resentment long after the injury – real or imagined – had healed.

I believe all of us are emotionally motivated beings, and that includes those who consider themselves as rational and logical people, who place their heads well above their hearts, who make systematic and well-thought decisions, who think before they act.

The difference between ‘thinkers’ and ‘feelers’ is how they go about in trying to achieve their goals. But they are the same when it comes to the goal itself, because goals are ultimately dictated by the heart.

Take two guys, for example: one impulsive and spontaneous; the other cold and calculating. Both fall deeply in love with the same girl. The first guy freely expresses his feelings and the girl grows defensive and distant; the other works a subtle seduction and stirs interest, intrigue, and eventually desire. The probability is that the second guy will win.

Now some might argue that he is not deserving because his feelings are not strong enough considering he was still able to come up with a strategic plan, whereas his rival was overflowing with so much desire he could not contain it. And yet it is precisely the person’s control that proves one’s sincerity. Speaking out what one feels is easy and even quite relieving, but it takes a lot of work and self-denial to keep holding back until the right moment just to get the girl. And when one refuses to give in to his natural tendencies for the good of some future goal, it means the goal matters more than the immediate release. Just because the method of courtship is systematic and deliberate doesn’t mean the affection is planned as well.

Now as for grudges and vengeance, if we take these same two hypothetical guys, it would probably go like this: when offended or hurt, the emotional guy impetuously attempts immediate revenge – while the other waits for the perfect timing. The first guy’s reaction is often ineffective and could bring in more trouble, but the calculating guy would most likely be able to exact his cold sweet revenge with impunity.

We are all emotional beings. All of our goals are largely influenced by our hearts’ desires: love, happiness, vengeance. The only difference is that while some people turn the heart loose to go after the thing it wants, often with unsatisfactory or even disastrous results, others put the mind to work – literally as a slave doing the heart’s bidding – to effectively grant the wishes of its master. inner minds

Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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