Saturday, July 18, 2009

Incredible claims

"Incredible claims require incredible evidence," can only mean, "claims that I choose to reject willfully and a priori require evidence that I will not choose to reject willfully and a priori." This is entirely a matter of the speaker's intellectual and volitional dispositions. But a speaker's intellectual and volitional dispositions have no effect on the truth, i.e. the reality, of a claim. Thus the the idea that, "incredible claims require incredible evidence," is not relevant to judging the truth or falsity, i.e. the reality or non-reality, of any particular claim.


cricket said...

Who actually says, "incredible claims require incredible evidence?" It makes no sense. Incredible claims certainly require credible evidence, while credible claims as far as they require evidence at all must also rely on credible evidence. Incredible evidence can even cast doubt on credible claims to say nothing of incredible claims.

I have heard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This makes sense. For example a person making the claim that God does not exist would be required to furnish credible evidence, yes, but extraordinary evidence also.

brendon said...

In modern usage 'incredible' and 'extraordinary' are synonyms.

My point is that claims require evidence. Full stop. The usage of adjectives such as 'incredible' or 'extraordinary' are rhetorical tricks used to make statements about one's subjective disposition, viz. the disposition of one's intellect or will, appear to be statements about objective reality. It is a nice, little, distracting hand-wave. It is not substantive criticism or any kind of refutation.

brendon said...


Two more things:

1. You are right about the quote. The original way of stating this is, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." I think it was originally said by Carl Sagan. I have heard it both ways, but 'extraordinary' is probably more typical.

2. After reading my original reply I realize that it may come across as rude. (Or it may not. It is sometimes difficult to tell.) I want to explicitly state that I did not mean it as such, I only meant to clarify my original post.

Anonymous said...


why back away from "incredible claims require incredible evidence"?

i see no reason why such a statement could actuall be deemed somehow risible.

How about if I were to say "incredible jobs require incredible skill"?

It seems your snarky interlocutor is ignorant of the secondary meaning of the word "incredible".