I probably should save this post for the weekend, when we deal with non-political subjects -- but if I wait another couple of days, I may forget. So...what the hell.
Many of you have heard scientific-minded blokes invoke Carl Sagan's famous dictum: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Am I the only person to notice that this axiom is utterly non-scientific?
Since we have no universally agreed-upon definition of the extraordinary, we must admit that extraordinariness is a purely subjective criterion. In essence, Sagan is admonishing you to render judgment arbitrarily and capriciously.
Problem 2: Why
, exactly, would extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? All we have is Carl Sagan's say-so. I admired Sagan, but I never saw any reason to grant him the final word on all matters touching on philosophy.
Why knows? Maybe we can get through life just fine if we regard ordinarily-persuasive evidence as good enough for an extraordinary claim. Conversely, maybe ordinary
claims deserve extraordinary evidence. Take my ex, for example. She was the controlling type. If I told her that I left the house to buy some groceries, she would presume that I was lying unless she saw the store's surveillance footage. Although most people would say that she was being a total pain in the neck, one could argue that her attitude was based on sound epistemological reasoning.
At any rate, we need something more than one man's word.