Manual How Do We Know

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  1. How Do We Know? | NeuroLogica Blog
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  3. Chapter II
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  5. How do we know the Big Bang actually happened?

The dinosaur Oviraptor the "egg thief" was so named because it was found in association with eggs thought to belong to another dinosaur, but later discoveries of embryos within these eggs, showed in fact that the parents were protecting their unborn offspring. In other dinosaur nests we see babies considerably older than newly hatched individuals and even traces of food. This implies that the adults were looking after these babies long after they hatched, and that some extended parental care may have been involved. This is something we would predict from their living relatives.

Modern birds are literally living dinosaurs, and the crocodilians are their next nearest evolutionary relatives that are still alive today. Both exhibit parental care in nearly all species, looking after both the eggs and the hatchlings, in some cases for a number of years. That this is near universal behaviour for both, and when there is at least some evidence for this in dinosaurs, does imply that it was an ancestral trait for the collective group and thus most dinosaurs likely gave some care to their offspring pre- and post-hatching.

Other patterns of behaviour can also be detected from where fossils are found. For example, specimens of ankylosaurs those wonderfully squat and armoured dinosaurs are regularly found in marine deposits, even well out to sea. They were terrestrial animals, but perhaps spent a lot of their time close to the coast or around estuaries and rivers, meaning that they are washed into the sea more often than many others. On the flip side, the pachycephalosaurs and their giant bony heads seem to have favoured upland environments.

Fossils of these animals are very rare and most of their remains are only the "skullcaps" of solid bone, but these are rather beaten up. This is exactly the pattern we see when bodies have been transported a long way by rivers with skeletons being broken up, small bones destroyed and only the most robust parts here, the top of the skull surviving and the clear conclusion therefore is that they lived in upland areas.

How Do We Know? | NeuroLogica Blog

Put all of these lines of evidence together — eggs, nests, anatomical specialisations, coprolites, mechanical tests, bite marks, stomach contents, preservation types — and we can really start to get to grips with these issues. Add into this other studies — such as from footprints and trackways, reconstructing muscle groups, analysis of seasonal temperatures and climatic changes, scans of brains and bones around the ear to give ideas on senses, stress fractures in bones showing where peak forces were delivered, systematic injuries suggesting combat between horned dinosaurs — and you can see how a clear picture can be put together of the otherwise intangible behaviour of long extinct animals.

There are of course limitations here, and plenty is uncertain or unknown, but this is neither impossible to work out nor a work of fiction, but solid researched based on a wealth of data and careful analysis. A Reddit thread in the Skeptic subreddit is framed as criticism toward skeptical philosophy. The questions it raises are all important, and honestly the poster should have just framed his points as questions rather than criticisms, because they reflect not problems with skeptical philosophy but their poor understanding of it.

So the first lesson here is — humility. Rather, start with the assumption that you have more to learn, and then let proponents make their best case.

There are many good responses in the thread, which shows that a reasonable understanding of skeptical philosophy is out there in the community. The questions are very common beginner errors, and so they are worth responding to in detail. My first response, however, as others in the thread have pointed out is to begin with a basic text of the subject.

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Read a philosophy book. I point this out because I frequently encounter people who are trying to do philosophy without even realizing it, or without an appreciation for the depth of philosophy as an intellectual field. Philosophy is one of those things that everyone thinks they can do, even without a lick of education on the topic. Inevitably they make basic mistakes, often ones that were dealt with thousands of years ago by the first philosophers. This would be no different than making pronouncements about a highly technical field of science without ever having studied it, and without really knowing the position of experts.

I am from India and have seen both villages and towns. This is a basic question of epistemology — how do we know anything, and what does it mean to know something? There are very few absolutes when it comes to human knowledge.

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We call these premises methodological naturalism — every material effect has a material cause, and there is no magic or miracles arbitrary suspensions of the laws of nature. At least you cannot invoke such miracles when making an argument. Based on this premise, science uses logic and observation not to prove things correct, but to prove things wrong.

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That is a key point — you can never prove something wrong if you can invoke miracles as needed. By conducting experiments and making observations science can exclude hypotheses that are incompatible with the evidence. Whatever is left, the explanations that have survived dedicated attempts at proving them wrong, are then considered tentatively to be possible or even probable explanations.

The longer a scientific notion survives, and the more independent lines of evidence that lead us to the same conclusion, the higher our confidence in that idea. We build models that are capable not only of explanation but of prediction, and then we test those models, modifying and rejecting them as necessary. Throughout his comments the poster seems to be relying on a false dichotomy, that skeptics believe something is either a known fact or should be ridiculed.

This is not how skepticism works at all. For example, you would know that electric fences can be pretty dangerous and painful if you touched one while standing in a puddle of water. We all probably have times we can recall when we learned something because we experienced it. Instead, you would come to know what you believe to be true through informal observation Making observations without any systematic process for observing or assessing accuracy of what is observed.

The problem with informal observation is that sometimes it is right, and sometimes it is wrong. And without any systematic process for observing or assessing the accuracy of our observations, we can never really be sure that our informal observations are accurate.

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The fact that one man happened to lie to her in one instance came to represent all experiences with all men. But do all men really lie all the time? Probably not. This friend committed what social scientists refer to as selective observation Noticing only patterns that one has experienced directly or wishes to find.

How do we know the Big Bang actually happened?

Mikkelson, B. Her mother was the authority, after all. Without questioning what we think we know to be true, we may wind up believing things that are actually false. This is most likely to occur when an authority A socially defined source of knowledge. The definition for authority provided here comes from the following source: Adler, E.

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Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Other common authorities we might rely on in this way are the government, our schools and teachers, and our churches and ministers. Although it is understandable that someone might believe something to be true because someone he or she looks up to or respects has said it is so, this way of knowing differs from the sociological way of knowing, which is our focus in this text.

As a science, sociology relies on a systematic process of inquiry for gaining knowledge.


That process, as noted earlier, is called research methods. For now, simply keep in mind that it is this source of knowledge on which sociologists rely most heavily. In sum, there are many ways that people come to know what they know. These include informal observation, selective observation, overgeneralization, authority, and research methods. Table 1.

Of course, some of these ways of knowing are more reliable than others. Being aware of our sources of knowledge helps us evaluate the trustworthiness of specific bits of knowledge we may hold. Thinking about what you know and how you know what you know involves questions of ontology and epistemology.