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Re: 5 more proofs and more
I want to congratulate Neil on his thoughtful and excellent letter. Neil makes some really good points that we probably ought to consider adopting in our search for "the truth".
For example, Neil argues for not demanding a strictly scientific (true/false) basis for our proofs, lest we discard hypotheses that may in fact be true. He is absolutely right. In astrophysics for example, in spite of nearly a half century of study by thousands of astronomers, we still don't know for certain whether the universe is open (expanding forever) or closed, (a gradually slowing expansion which will ultimately stop, then collapse on itself). Astronomers get by with probabilistic causal chains of logic, which are judged by the aggregate probability they represent. On that basis, Fred Hoyle's "steady state universe" hypothesis has been rejected, while astronomers still study the open and closed universe hypotheses. Although the aggregate probabilities slightly favor the closed universe, the open universe hypothesis is still viable. It's an technique that might work for us as well. (more later)
Following up on Neil's suggestion, my personal opinion is that we ought to rank the "Sinclair hypotheses" in order of believability, perhaps on a scale from 1 to 5
1=untrue, 2=probably untrue, 3=possibly true, 4=probably true, 5=true
Then, if we link a series of "small" hypotheses together into causal chains, we gain further insights by looking at the aggregate probabilities. (P1xP2xP3....)
Hypotheses that are in classes 1 and 5 need not occupy a lot of our attention, other than serving as the "rocks" on which we form our explanatory hypotheses. For example, if a favorite theory is based on mostly class 1 and class 2 hypotheses, that theory is in deep trouble, since it's aggregate probability will be very very low*.
Causal Chains of Logic:
Another good point raised (albeit somewhat inferentially) by Neil was that while history records events fairly well, it tends not to deal much with motivations (at least until modern psychological historians came along). For example, if Henry made the voyage to America, it obviously involved a great deal of money, people and resources. What was his motivation to make such a large investment? Where did the money/resources/people come from? Are there financial records that would suggest he raised money? Did he sell land? Did he make a will, or other provisions against his not returning? Are there records of changes in the numbers of ships built in the years immediately before and after his voyage? and so on.....
(1) "Facts" invariably have precedents and consequences. Looking upstream and downstream (causally), forming plausible chains of reasoning, and assessing their aggregate probability will help us sort out "the truth".
(2) Ranking "facts" as to believability on a some sort of scale (instead of true/false), will (I think) eliminate many of the disagreements that we have had, as well as providing a sounder basis for weighing or judging the believability of causal chains of events.
Finally I want to applaud Nevin's very useful "14 points" (now 19, courtesy of Neil); I think they have hit on a great way to focus our attentions on the really important issues.
* Untrue facts have a probability of zero of being true; True facts have a probability of one of being true; Thus, since the probability of a causal chain being true is P1xP2xP3..., if the probability of any element of the chain is zero, then the aggregate probability will be zero)
Neil Sinclair wrote:
> Dear Sinclair;
> My salutes to your side of the pond and your insights are as always valued. Thank you indeed for taking the time to comment on my additional 5 points. My insights come from a different perspective and that from an individual that is based in Canada and hence one who sees history as it is reflected on this continent and taught in this corner of the world.
> I am also an avid reader and a fair thinker. I love history and geography. >From the legal perspective I work at what evidence will persuade a reasonable man to come to a conclusion as to a given set of circumstances or
> To respond to you for the list, let me immediately suggest I am not at this point an original researcher. Nor do I have the skill of an archeologist such as Ms. Ramsay. I have not visited the sites first hand either like Tim or Niven or Rory or Laurel. I have to say in great shame that I have not been to Scotland ( yet!)
> Like most lawyers I view things as a professional that is handed the facts and I study as many other sources as I can in order to study the case before them, make a reasoned approach and assert what they have before them in the way of a case. So, for that matter, does everybody else in life.
> I also have great respect for those on the list, but distinguish those that do specific research and come to the conclusions they do, with those that have not done original research and can only comment. My deepest respect goes to individuals such as Niven, and Ian and Laurel who take a patient reasoned and longer range perspective from those on the list such as I, (that do not yet have the time to focus in the detail required). You have a prodigious amount of Sinclair knowledge and I do copy and value your detailed emails.
[ Excess quotations omitted. ]