On intellectual rigor

This thread brought up a familiar scenario. I found it pretty troubling, mainly since no one else in the thread seemed to have a problem with it.

The OP’s friends are promoting a theory, with facts to back it up. The OP, knowing that they are wrong, looks around for facts “to show them the error of their ways.”

When he is unable to find facts to disprove their claims, he is overwhelmed. “I KNOW what they are saying is false but I didn’t know how to undeniably disprove their claims.” They continue to provide more evidence to their position, and he is gives up, finally accepting not that they are correct, but that he will be unable to convince them. “I feel like I failed in fighting ignorance,” he says.

Does anyone else see the problem here?

If they can prove something and you can’t, aren’t they right?

Is it ever OK to assume a fact and look for evidence to prove it? Even if the other side is promoting a seemingly wacky, fringe scenario? In being unable to find such evidence, is it ever OK to still think you’re right?

Disclaimer: I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I never watched any of those movies and I’m not a troll, I just want to discuss the validity of assuming someone’s wrong because their ideas are strange, even in the absence of evidence that they are wrong.

No, his conspiracy theory friends are wrong even if Buddha Clause is unable to provide point-by-point rebuttals to some of their claims. You’ve confused being right with winning an argument. The theory that Sept. 11 was a government coverup is absurd on its face. If you don’t know how to specifically rebut some of the claims about the way the towers fell or “suspicious objects” under the planes, that doesn’t mean you must admit the conspiracy took place. They can’t “prove something.” Theorists of all kinds of conspiracies are very consistent in their perpetual failure to prove anything. What they generally do is poke around for inconsistencies in a few minor areas of a commonly accepted theory, ignore counter-arguments, and then say “if what I’ve just said is true, the popular theory is entirely false and something else happened,” without more an a few slivers of evidence for their own theory.

That thread was an interesting presentation of a problem that comes up a lot here (and in the real world).

Let’s say that “X” is some concept (i.e., that broccoli is healthful or that JFK is alive today). If I say “X is true,” I have the burden of proving that X is true. I can’t declare that X is true simply because someone else (or no one else) can prove that X is not true.

Note that this is how most conspiracy theorists work–they look for little tiny holes in the accepted evidence and challenge everyone else to prove that X is not true.

Assuming 1) The facts that they state are true and 2) Their conclusion is logically supported by both their facts and reasoning

When dealing with fringe and conspiracy theories, either of these can be highly suspect. They state a lot of ‘facts’ that either aren’t true or are wildly exaggerated or misconstrued, and use bad reasoning or logical fallacies to come to their conclusion. A big one is false dichotomy - proving the ‘official theory’ false does not automatically make any competing theory true - that theory still needs it’s own supporting evidence, and for sure just nitpicking small details of the official theory is not a solid line of reasoning.

So basically, the onus is on them both to disprove your theory and provide solid proof of their own theory - doing one does not make the other automatic. And to provide cites for their evidence as well as use sound reasoning to create a conclusion from the premises.

Well do you have your own opinion, or is your opinion just that their opinion is incorrect? Of course it’s ok to have a strong leaning towards an opinion based on common sense and look for evidence to support that. Hell, it’s even ok to look for evidence for something you don’t believe in, to act as a devil’s advocate or to insure an injection of non-bias into a debate.

Would this make ID a conspiracy theory? :wink:

There is no proof in Zeitgeist, a conspiracy theorists approach is to make you argue his theory couldn’t have possibly happened. That is not an intellectually honest debate.

Emphasis mine. I’m not saying I disagree, but on the subject of intellectual rigor, isn’t it begging the question to label something from the outset as a “conspiracy theory”? What could that possibly have to do with the soundness and validity of the argumentation involved?

In the third segment of Zeitgeist it is declared, “The Income tax is nothing less that the destruction of democracy”. Until you prove that, I don’t feel the need to defend calling it a ‘conspiracy theory’.

But what does calling it a conspiracy theory add to your argument?

Whether the claim “The Income tax is nothing less that the destruction of democracy” is true or false (I’m inclined to say false), I don’t see how it’s relevant that there’s a conspiracy theory involved.

Ours is a broad world with an extensive history and many specialized realms of knowledge. It doesn’t necessarily require an in-depth knowledge of any of these subjects to successfully utilize the work of specialists in those fields.

I am not a motorcycle mechanic. I don’t have any real personal experience with motorcycles or particular insight into how they work. If someone comes to me proclaiming that motorcycles are powered by the good will of three inch leprechauns, I really won’t feel like less of a man for not bothering to dissuade them from this view or carrying out an extensive debate on the proposition. I’m happy to let them “win” such a debate by virtue of their innate debating skills or adamant support of such a bizarre belief. Motorcycles still won’t be propelled by the good will of three inch leprechauns. Perhaps that’s a lack of intellectual rigor on my part, but at some point I realized that I really cannot be bothered to address every idiocy that I encounter in my life.

Similarly, I am not a modern historian. I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of the events of the JFK assassination, the moon landings, or how September 11th was carried out. I still think I’ll generally be well served by providing the most regard to the mainstream theories on these topics.

I get by.

If you would like to watch the movie and present in a clear and concise manner the intellectual rigor the movie presents as evidence feel free. I will not, nor do I feel compunction to do so. Calling it a conspiracy theory doesn’t add to my argument, it simply ridicules what they’re calling their ‘argument’.

Intelligent design proponents (I like to call them I.D.ots) employ the same tactic, sure, and some of them do suggest outright conspiracies by scientists and so forth.

I don’t think so.

Some people don’t respect intellectual rigor in the first place. Calling them what they are doesn’t disprove what they say by itself, but it’s usually worth acknowledging.

Okay, fair enough. No disagreement here.

Very well stated. I think my philosophy is pretty much the same.

I agree. Dismissing something as a conspiracy theory is often a very practical response.

My initial reaction was that the OP isn’t talking about being practical, it’s talking about being intellectually rigorous, and I was kind of unsatisfied with the first few responses because it seemed like they were not in that same spirit. But on further reflection, it seems that the OP is asking about the extent to which standards of intellectual rigor should apply in mundane situations, in which case I suppose the responses are on target.