Bayesian argument to believe in aliens?

obiwanbenobi

Active Member
why is it that all of the UFO's we see are close up and never seen further out into space? there's all sorts of telescopes being pointed "Out There[tm]" but do we ever see unusual zig-zag motions in space or flying saucer shaped asteroids? no.

all the local phenomena in the world are likely to be either man-made or natural things that some perhaps have not been explained yet, but by no means are they exhibiting anything i'd consider alien.

i have, by number, many more billions of examples of people being nutty.
 

johne1618

Active Member
Now are you sure you really want to throw the "supernatural" into the mix?

I see you define it as "The supernatural cases could consist of any phenomena that can’t be explained by our current understanding of science." Would that mean that thunder was supernatural until the causes were discovered and suddenly became natural after that point? No, it was merely natural but not yet understood.

Instead of generalizing the argument by using the terms “supernatural” and “natural” I should have used the terms “unexplainable” (by current science) and “explainable” (by current science).
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
Yes. Zeus throwing down lightning from the Olymp used to be a thing.
I should probably explain that a bit more.

In ancient Greece, lightning wasn't "unexplained". The explanation was that the gods caused this.

"natural" means that something occurs by itself, without human intervention.
"artificial" means human intent has a hand in it.

If you hear something funny that makes you laugh, it's a natural reaction. If your boss cracks a "joke", your laugh may be artificial. Food that grew by itself is "natural", food ingredients created by humans in a chemical factory are artificial.

Now if we have an explanation that involves intent, but no humans, it's neither natural nor artificial, but supernatural: gods, aliens or ghosts causing stuff to happen is supernatural.

A similar division is between the physical world and the spiritual word: thoughts are not things. The physical world is sometimes called the "natural world". Phenomena that go beyond the physical world are then supernatural, and that would include ghosts, gods, and psychic powers, but not extraterrestrials, unless these ETs used psychic powers to travel here and hide themselves.

I think that's where we can connect to the "what evidence" thread: evidence of aliens is not acceptable if it requires us to believe the aliens have supernatural powers; and "breaks the known laws of physics" is just code for that.

I have great confidence in the laws of physics. I couldn't rate any witness report as "90% certain" that involves violating a physical law. @johne1618 's bayesian argument fails on this, and arguments of the type "this fuzzy blob of pixels does impossible stuff and therefore is extraterrestrial" are destined to fail from the start.
 

Ann K

Active Member
A similar division is between the physical world and the spiritual word: thoughts are not things. The physical world is sometimes called the "natural world". Phenomena that go beyond the physical world are then supernatural
Thoughts are not objects, but are indeed physical actions. Thinking is, in that respect, analogous to walking, and neither can be accomplished without bodily actions. The fact that we cannot see electrical impulses is immaterial; they're still part of the natural world.
 

johne1618

Active Member
I have great confidence in the laws of physics. I couldn't rate any witness report as "90% certain" that involves violating a physical law.

The idea of my reverse Bayesian argument is to start by estimating the likelihood of a normal explanation for the evidence as a whole without any prior prejudices. Only later does one deduce the prior probability of the paranormal required to “balance” that likelihood of a normal explanation leaving a 50% posterior belief in the paranormal.

My problem with Carl Sagan’s “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is that it squashes each individual paranormal claim without allowing a group of good cases to be combined to offer support for the paranormal.
 
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