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The Sagan Standard: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence - Effectiviology

The Sagan Standard

The Sagan Standard

The Sagan standard is related to astronomer Carl Sagan, who stated that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (a dictum abbreviated as ECREE).

This means that the more unlikely a certain claim is, given existing evidence on the matter, the greater the standard of proof that is expected of it.

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The double standard
The double standard

The double standard is a principle or policy that is applied in a different way to similar things, with no legitimate explanation. Thus, a double standard happens when two or more ...

Double standard examples
  • A person who judges and criticizes another person for doing something, even though this person does that very same thing repeatedly and doesn’t see an issue with it when they’re the ones doing it.
  • Treating similar employees differently when they do the same thing, by punishing one and rewarding the other, even though there is no proper, valid reason.
Why double standards happen
  • Using double standards intentionally involves an informed, conscious decision to do so and happens mostly when a person thinks that the double standards could help them achieve some goal (helping someone that they favor, hurting someone that they dislike etc.)
  • Using double standards unintentionally means a person fails to acknowledge the double standard, and is generally driven by some motivation, often emotional in nature.
The argument from dictionary
The argument from dictionary

The argument from a dictionary is a logical fallacy and happens when someone's argument is based, in a problematic way, on the definition of a particular term as it appears in a diction...

An example of the appeal to definition

"We should ignore the theory of evolution because the dictionary says that a theory is just an opinion that you have about something you can't prove."

The person using this fallacy is basing their statement on a specific definition of the word "theory" while ignoring alternative definitions that will better capture the meaning of the term as it's used in a scientific context.

Appeal to definition: when the process becomes fallacious

Not every use of a definition is necessarily fallacious. If the definition is properly justified and is selected in a properly justified way, it is generally not fallacious. However, it is fallacious when at least one of the following conditions are true:

  • There is no valid reason for using the definition.
  • The definition was cherry-picked out of a range of possible definitions.
When Studies Are Untrustworthy
When Studies Are Untrustworthy

Many layers of uncertainty along with thinking errors of scientists (blind spots) make the research or evidence untrustworthy about 42 percent of the time, according to a study.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Advice For Reading Scientific Studies

When we read scientific studies, it helps to keep in mind the following:

  1. Scientists are prone to error just like everyone else.
  2. Single source claims are dubious.
  3. There is a lot we don’t know.
  4. We should not be biased towards a particular outcome.
  5. Independent tests of the findings can be done if possible.
  6. Proof of something does not mean it is true, and a lack of proof does not mean it is false.