Friday, January 15, 2016

"Settled science"

"Chinese symbols for interrogative, questioning, curious, inquiring, uncertainty,
hesitation, misgiving, distrust, skepticism, interrogation, question, query, inquiry, doubt."
Beware of unanimity:

"R[abbi] Kahana said: If the Sanhedrin unanimously* find [the accused] guilty, he is acquitted. Why? — Because we have learned by tradition that sentence must be postponed till the morrow in hope of finding new points in favour of the defence."

- from the "Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin", Folio 17a.  According to Wikipedia, this Talmud from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was composed of "documents compiled over the period of Late Antiquity (3rd to 5th centuries)."

*(Usually the Sanhedrin was composed of 23 judges.)

A recent law paper by Ephraim Glatt argues the relevance of this to modern jurisprudence, pointing out the difficulties and drawbacks of attempting to get a unanimous jury verdict.

But a statistics paper out this month discussed here (hat-tip to Anna Raccoon) also argues that beyond a certain level of corroboration (e.g. in a police line-up of suspects) there is an increasing risk of false positives.

Perhaps more of us would be persuaded by the claims of "warmists" if climate "experts" had more dissenting voices? Similarly, Matthew Parris in last week's Spectator said he would be more likely to vote for Prime Ministerial motions on such matters as Europe, Iraq and Syria if we had "leaders with the intellectual self-confidence to ask us for no more than a modest two cheers for a halfway decent case."

As the old saying goes, "“Ask two Jews, get three opinions.”

More light, less heat?


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