Considering the source

What weight should be given to a source that has given misinformation over and over? In this link , Libertarian is asserting that the source should not be brought into question, rather the sole content of the article in question and not the source of the article. My contention is that it’s very reasonable to look at the source to make a better opinion of what’s information and what’s bunk.

In an ideal world, Libertarian is correct. The content of the information is what matters most. However, there is the question of reliability and credibility. In every day life, the time is not available to take every statement as true ab initio, and then try to prove or disprove each part of the statement, when that person or organization has a long and consistent history of being right or wrong. Perhaps taking account of track record is academically corrupt, but there are pros and cons to both approaches.

In a perfect world, one would examine the evidence in each case, regardless of the source. But, you know what? Most people are pretty busy, and don’t have time to go hunting down every piece of evidence. Therefore, if a source is known to have lied often in the past, i’ll be very hesitant to believe what they say now.

levy96018a and davidw, twins seperated at birth or low level telekinetics? You be the judge.

It is reasonable to view any source with skepticism. Even authoritative sources might have typos and other errors. But it is unreasonable to discard an assertion because of who made it.

high level telekinetics

Well, to put it at an absurd extreme, if Weekly World News was quoted as a source and for some reason there suddenly was a bat baby, would your perception of the source be skewed or would you take the article at face value. There are many many news sources out there that report with a slant,,, the,, et al that need to be taken as biases sources. The space expert in the linked case has been debunked and refuted numerous times. In turn, he, IMHO, should be treated with incredulity.

This is a simple thing.

If the “space expert” has been debunked, then the reasonable way to counter his argument is to show how he was debunked. The unreasonable way is to say that he has cooties.

But that’s not what you’re being asked to do in the thread in question, Lib. You’re instead being asked to consider two sources, one of which is an authority and one of which is known to be beyond unreliable… if you must decide whether to accept the assertion or not, it is not at all unreasonable to discard it.

Here, from your own link to the genetic fallacy:

I would argue that when the source is known to be beyond unreliable, there’s not only a perceived defect, there’s a real defect. It does not mean that the claim is guaranteed to be false, but I suggest that it at the very least means that the standard of evidence required to verify the claim should be raised.

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Lib, no one is saying that he has cooties. What we’re saying is that it’s well known that he is neither a space expert nor someone with more than a passing acquaintance with the concept of honesty with regards to these matters. In essence, his own argument is an appeal to authority where that “authority” is himself.

If his argument is wrong, then show how it is wrong. There is no other way to debunk. Address the argument, not the arguer.

This is a messageboard. In the relevant sense, it IS an ideal world: there’s plenty of time to explain exactly what’s wrong about something. Doing so is going to make for far more productive discussions and learning than simply dismissing something, even if justified. As far as I’ve seen the mods describe it, this board exists not only for the benefit discussants trying to vie over what’s right and wrong, but also to interested lurkers who want to learn from seeing evidence used in broad debate.

If we were really pressed for time, then I would agree that Lib is being too absolute: when you don’t have much else to go on, or expertise to judge, or just feel you have better things to do, past experience may be all you have to go on. But the fact is, there’s almost plenty of things to go on when we have the time. And if there’s one thing people who post regularly on messageboards have, it’s a LOT of free time. :slight_smile:

Brought here at Buck’s request…

In the other thread, El Jeffe wrote:

What have I said thus far that makes you think that?

The conspiracy theorist must show the flaw in NASA’s reasoning before I believe him. I’m not cutting him any special slack. I’m only saying that he isn’t wrong simply because of who he is.

Over there, Duck wrote:

No. I consider that he is drunk.

Well, I don’t think anyone is saying, “This dude is a fool, and he’s saying X, so X must be false.” That would be the genetic fallacy: even a fool might say that chocolate contains sugar, and denying any claim the fool makes is going to make us deny that chocolate contains sugar.

What people are saying is, “This fool is saying something that stretches belief. Given that this fool has said a lot of things before that were demonstrably false, we’re not going to waste too much time debunking this one, until the fool provides much better evidence than has been provided in the past.”

The most important difference is that the fool is saying something that stretches belief. That, combined with the fool’s known propensity for saying things that are demonstrably false, makes me unwilling to waste too much time with him.


Fer Chrissake’s, Lib, I’m starting to think you’re being obfuscatory on purpose, and that being the case, I don’t see any need to waste much more time on this. Is it not implicit in, say, an expert presenting evidence on some thing X that the expert is making a claim that X is true? If we have a case where the expert says one thing and a person known for dishonesty says the opposite, the burden of proof ought to be on the latter, not the former. You’re effectively reversing that, which is, frankly, sort of silly.

To put it another way, your argument is that when I tell you I have a bridge to sell you despite being a poor graduate student who owns no land, you have no basis for disbelieving my claim. And, you’re further arguing, to disbelieve me is unreasonable. Clearly, you and I are using different definitions of that word.

Here’s the point which may have gotten confused in the details. The problems is that the source, if dubious in the best, has the propensity to be dubious. As compared to a source one may have found to be more consistently truthful. I think it’s a bad manoeuvre to say “well, since it came from this person and they’re guilty of quackery in the past, that their current hypothesis is void”. My contention is that there is a weighted scale of credibility based on track record.

I wouldn’t waste any time at all with him until he presents evidence to show that NASA’s conclusions are wrong. Not because it’s him, but because there is a lack of evidence.

You’ve made up an argument, assigned it to me, and then rebutted it. That’s a straw man.

I’m saying that logical fallacies are found in assertions, not in people.

Sources are not assertions. You debunk assertions by addressing assertions.

In retrospect, my bridge example was indeed not really on target.

But I stand by the rest of my post; it is not unreasonable to consider whether a source is credible or not. In fact, I will go further and state that one must, in the real world, consider whether a source has any credibility. To do otherwise is silly.

I understand what you’re saying, I just think it’s misguided, because there isn’t sufficient time in the universe to become enough of an expert on all things that it’s possible to debunk every false assertion made, or even to find an expert who could. If I were to make some random claim and provide the evidence to support it, but were known to be a pathological liar, I think it’s reasonable to act under the assumption that my claim is false, while admitting that it may not be.

Think of the old knights and knaves logic puzzles. If I understand your argument properly (and let me know if I’m not getting you), each time a knave told you something, you’d spend however long it takes to prove him wrong before you would consider that it probably is wrong, even if you knew that person was a knave. Is that correct?

If I were to devise an infernal machine which generates all possible assertions about any particular argument, would there come a point where you would accept the assertion that the device itself was idiotic, and therefore not relevant to determining the truth or falseness of any arguments at all ? If there isn’t such a point, it seems to me that you leave yourself open to being endlessly baffled by bullshit. Letting that happen is a great way to lose arguments, so it’s perfectly reasonable to call assertions from disreputable sources into question before examining their consequences, much less their truth values.