? Why "Burden of proof" ?

ECOLING at aol.com ECOLING at aol.com
Sun Aug 8 02:38:40 UTC 1999

I respectfully disagree with the person who
recently argued between the following two
alternatives that either could be an appropriate "null hypothesis"
(though I am greatly appreciative of that same person's
many other contributions!)

>   No languages are related.
>   All languages are related.

Rather, the real null hypothesis is something like

"We do not know whether all languages are related
(or whether there was polygenesis)" (etc.)

Any attempt to force anyone else to accept something
that embodies a CLAIM (as both of the first two alternatives
above do), is MANIPULATING the discourse,
instead of dealing with facts.
If we don't know, then we don't know, it's as simple as that.
I personally don't give a hoot what anyone wants
to "assume", or tell me to assume, in the absence of
data justifying such an assumption.
Using a "burden of proof" argument is merely
a way of trying to get someone to accept a conclusion
in the absence of evidence.

Only facts are relevant, facts which
could make one conclusion more probable than another,
(facts which DO NOT have anything to do with our own
mental convenience, not EVEN with assumptions that nature is
simple in some way we mentally want her to be,
when she may in this particular respect NOT be simple).

I would love it if we could get back to improving our tools,
and to improving our databases so we can more easily find relevant data,
and other such useful endeavors.
I do not presume to have yet seen all of the useful procedures,
not by any means.

Best wishes,
Lloyd Anderson

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