are you skeptical of people who say invisible dragons probably don't exist
Why would I be skeptical of such a person? Do you suppose there might be some reason to doubt those people exist, because they claim to believe in something which on the face of it appears to be a fantasy? It's not really clear what you mean though. Perhaps you mean: Would I doubt - that such a person doubts invisible dragons exist? Or is it: Would I doubt their claim, "invisible dragons probably don't exist" is correct?
Well firstly, skepticism is best reserved for concepts and ideas, not people? I cant really doubt a person, but I might doubt their ideas. Are you deliberately trying to corner me with a perverse innuendo, that skepticism is a faulty approach? Perhaps you would care to put your own cards on the table then we can consider which ideas have the most merit, but it's a cheap shot to cast aspersions on an implied hypothetical conclusion I have never made, without tending a conclusion you would grant better plausibility to over the same question and why.
I should be happy to defend my claims, while you should be happy to defend yours. I never claimed that invisible dragons don't exist. Nor did I claim that the people who don't believe in them are wrong. There's a potentially infinite supply of implausible outlandish, and just plain false claims, that might never merit a moments consideration, not just because they are so implausible, but also because you can only ever consider the tiniest subset of all possible claims, and those are the ones you either conceive, or are presented with. Skepticism doesn't rest on the assumption that all ideas are equally worthy of belief or doubt. I'm still unsure of my terminology, but I believe this is known as relativism and by it's reckoning we may contend the conjecture 'that the moon is made of cheese', is on a par with the hypothesis that it is predominantly a mineral based object.
The problem with relativism is self evident. Merely observing that we can make any number of wildly implausible hypothetical claims, tells us well enough, that not all ideas are equally plausible. In fact, you could spend your whole life making claims that are absurd and or mutually contradictory. It's good work if you can get it, the Bible scribes swore by it, as di L Ron Hubbard. It stands to reason, that only a much smaller (actually tiny, finite) subset of all possible claims, is likely to be factually true. If that cant be accepted as an equitable premise, then all bets are off. The same of course goes for an objective universe, where solipsist assumptions are doomed. I can do without having to establish why the universe must be considered objective, before I even begin to defend the merits of skepticism. In reality I need to do no such thing, as the irony of the alternative, is that it's just self destructive. If you doubt the merit of skepticism, then you shouldn't mind just believing me without any critical assessment. If you resort to critical assessment, then you contradict yourself as you are also employing doubt.
Since I have no good reason to believe in invisible dragons myself, I hardly feel the need to press somebody else to hold them accountable, for what in my reckoning, amounts to their own lack of credulity. Sagan said "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", and by the same token unextraordinary things (such as the non existence of invisible dragons, or the prevalence of those who doubt they exist) don't require us to test any extraordinary conditions. So the straight answer is no, I would not be skeptical of the claim that "invisible dragons probably don't exist" WOULD YOU!? If so/not, why so/not? The reason I would not doubt this is because it hasn't been presented by anybody.
The dragon is hypothetical, and so is the dragon skeptic, yet you want me to commit to real belief or doubt? All this without contending a position of your own, that you would have to defend. Until an explicit claim is made, I am not required to test my convictions. If I had any reason to disagree with anybody, I would expect them to justify their convictions. In this case I cant do any such thing, as the person in question is hypothetical, and nor would I want to because as I have said there is no claim being presented that I would disagree with. That is not a double standard as your fabricated scenario seems to imply, because Skepticism is not a contentious proclivity to stubbornly doubt every claim with equal tenacity, regardless of their plausibility before during and after testing of said claims and balancing of the evidence for and against them. The contention that no invisible dragons exist, after all, is mutually exclusive to the claim that invisible dragons DO exist. If it just happened that the two conditions were equally plausible, then we would have to agree that unconditionally accepting either statement was an unreasonable assumption. But they are not equally plausible, not even close and the skeptics acceptance of the no dragon scenario, is neither an assumption nor unconditional.
The conclusion that there are no such dragons, should in principal be considered much more plausible on the a priori
grounds I have presented, i.e. that such a claim of invisible dragons is indistinguishable (in terms of whimsical contrivance and plausibility) from a vast multitude of arbitrary fantasy scenarios, which may each be manifestly fallacious, but also the immediate a posteriori
grounds, that it contradicts the understood workings of nature, in so many ways that we have no plausible grounds to expect or justify any exceptions of nature needed to be made, to accommodate these invisible dragons. Then when we go looking for empirical evidence like invisible dragon ****, and fail to find any invisible mass which feels like **** smell like **** and tas... Well never mind that, perhaps it's just imperceptible. Perhaps it has no odour, tactility or flavour. Perhaps you cant even hear the sound of the dragon. Of course, if there is no observable evidence possible for the dragon, how is that any different from what you should expect to find if no such dragon exists? If this dragon leaves no tangible evidence for anybody to measure or observe, how do we know, or even guess it exists? It was a fanciful and exceedingly implausible idea to begin with, now we have not only no evidence to back it up, but no justification to expect any evidence is possible.
Perhaps the only way to detect an invisible (inaudible, odorless, in-tactile) dragon, is to observe a plume of fire appearing in mid air. But what if you have never seen one. Suppose you are outside and feel a sudden hot breeze on you back, but you cant see feel, smell or hear anything else unusual, so you might then conclude there was an invisible dragon behind you. On the other hand, you could simply presume for want of a more plausible explanation, that the hot breeze was just a random fluctuation in temperature and a sudden puff of air (as opposed to a 'puff the magic dragon' did). That is reckoning with Occam's Razor, the principal which states that the most plausible explanation is the one which calls for the least assumption, whilst proffering the most agreement with empirical evidence.
I don't doubt ideas for the sake of doubting them. I do so if or while I realize there is insufficient evidence to support them. That may rely on a priori reasoning, established knowledge and/or direct research on the specific subject, but nothing is rejected out of hand, that is the wrong view of skepticism. Conviction is merely withheld, pending the evidence required to sustain it on reasonable grounds. I cant be expected to be convinced of something until somebody steps forward and says something like: This is what I believe, and this is why I believe, it That's intellectual honesty, to require that a belief be justified. Then I can assess the claim and contemplate the evidence for/against it, and the reasoning given by the claimant. Skepticism is not certainty of conviction that any claims are false. It is the lack of conviction that they are true. It's PROVISIONAL
. It depends on being given sufficient evidence and reason to believe.
Your hypothetical dragon and ideological dragon slayer, is a non-contest. There's just no case to answer. My skepticism is not unconditional, but provisional on the prevailing paucity of evidence. Your hypothetical skeptic is not only entitled to the same license for doubt as any real person, but is obligated to measure plausibility in the same manner, according to the same epistemological rules and rational protocols, if
, that is, s/he expects to succeed in estimating the factual veracity of a claim. Your scenario also fails to present even a hypothetical claimant; some agent, for the advocacy of the claim that the invisible dragons do
exist. Who can we go back to and interrogate for evidence? If I am going to be fair, I need to know how the claim arose and why anybody should be convinced by it.
Being a fictitious scenario, I can only guess at, why our protagonist has any cause to even contemplate the existence of dragons, invisible or otherwise, let alone reach a verdict. If I am permitted to assume s/he has access to more or less the same information we have, then I have to accept that invisible dragons are wildly implausible from the outset. However, I am not privy to any knowledge of by whom, or for what reasons the dragons are even being invoked in the first place. Like the theoretical physicist Isidor I. Rabi exclaimed, when the muon was identified, ''Who ordered that
?'' But there is no point speculating, as we know very well that the whole scenario is manifestly fictional, and there IS no actual answer to by whom or how any suspicion of invisible dragons came to pass. So the claim, the justification and the doubt, are all
fictional, hypothetical, fabrications put forward for argument sake, but that just won't do. It's like asking a Judge it they would convict a hypothetical crime suspect, but not presenting the evidence. Courts are inclined to throw out cases which lack evidence to try, but 'real' evidence is meaningless as far a the hypothetical is concerned.
You could have instead, just asked me if I doubt other skeptics such as Michael Schemer. To whit I might reply: "NO! I don't doubt Michael Schemer, but I do tend to doubt the same ideas as he does". His doubting them however, has no barring on my tendency to doubt them, although his reasons for doubting them very likely may. Every proposition of unequivocal fact, has a diametrically opposing counterpart; wherein one statement may be a direct contradiction of the other. Either statement may be adhered to at the expense of the other. That is; to the extent you favour the one proposition you must relinquish the other. It follows that claims don't just stand as independent uncompromising monoliths. They cast shadows and displace their counterparts. It is by no means reasonable to assume that one claim is equally plausible, to whatever counterparts it might displace.
Doubt is the proper approach to take until a balance of probabilities has been established between any proposition and whatever alternatives it may have to contend with. Once that has been established, then we are entitled to hedge our bets and then everybody is a compulsory skeptic whether they know it or not. When you agree with an idea you necessarily contradict it's alternatives. Believers of various ideas, may think they are just believing claims in complete isolation and that no other ideas are compromised by those claims. Their beliefs often times demonstrate complete disregard for contending ideas and relative plausibility. Their whole world-view and justification for it, is wrought on the ill-conceived prejudice that they may choose beliefs, in the same manner they choose what colour shirt to wear, that no other ideas
, are subjugated or contradicted by the ones they choose, nor that any methods are required to sort valid ideas from invalid ones. It's just a case of hopeless epistemological fail.
Another point which comes to mind is the prevarication entailed by substituting a hypothetical protagonist, in the place of an idea, as the subject of my potential skepticism. The point is this: You cant actually doubt beliefs, only claims. Think about what a belief actually is. It is a personal conviction. It may relate to a cold, hard, empirical fact, or it could be speculative opinion over any subjective matter. A claim on the other hand, is a statement challenging the objective nature of the universe and demanding agreement, refutation or intellectual criticism. You can believe whatever you wish
, that's your business, but if you wish to seek agreement with others in the objective nature of reality, then your claims are
required to be the principal subject of the utmost skeptical doubt, unless or until you can show how they stand to reason. For the benefit of the dialectic, all claims must be doubted by default, and all beliefs disregarded as irrelevant. That is how the fallacy filters work. I wouldn't strive to enshrine a claim for any fact which had not been through those filters, so anybody not enlisting the same stringent protocols for their claim is not entitled to enshrine them as fact either. It's the only way demonstrable knowledge has ever been attained. Put that another way, I am no less stringent on my own claims, than I am on those of others.