Sunday, December 20, 2009

Doggerel #218: "You Don't Know!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This line is often used to set up a textbook argument from ignorance: We don't know how X happened, therefore we know it's supernatural/aliens/whatever. As I've said to a few people who have used this technique, you can't put "I don't know" into an evidence locker. The lack of knowledge cannot be used as evidence for a positive hypothesis.

That's the short of the general form. Sometimes it gets downright ludicrous and appears to be stretched into the specific: "Some guy on the internet who calls himself Bronze Dog doesn't know, therefore we do know it's supernatural!" "Some specific expert doesn't know, therefore we know it's aliens!"

Science is a process of arriving at objective conclusions, and that involves making the experimenters, arguers, etcetera irrelevant to the interpretation of the data. It doesn't matter who is saying "I don't know." Just because something allegedly stumps the experts doesn't mean that you have free reign to declare you know the answer without evidence. If the people familiar with all the relevant theories and data don't know, you probably don't know, either, unless you have access to information the experts currently lack. If you do, I would suggest you present it instead of playing rhetorical trickery.

A major source of irritation this doggerel causes is that quite often, we do know. It's not very often that we stumble on true anomalies. Many arguments of this sort are centuries old and passed on by uncritical word of mouth.

The bigger irritation, I find, is that even if we don't know what caused X, it's a victory for no one. Just because science doesn't have all the answers doesn't mean that you can smugly make one up and defend it on an absence of evidence. Without evidence, you can't know, either.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

No Christmas post, just the same old... Bronze Bronze Bronze..

I do have a interesting rambling, but it really only counts for people who are computer literate (and most likely more skilled then anyone here what I seen).

I decided to buy a bunch of computers for the local school (its dedicated for poor families with children), and managed to find some really cheap all in one computers, and man I got a shock....

It turns out that the computers used Celeron A.. .Yes, I shit you not, we are talking about the ORIGINAL Celeron released by intel, many pissed of people and anger we can all remember, what a piece of shit.

For you not knowing, the Celeron A did not have any L2 cache with a rather pathetic 16k of L1 cache which made it, well, useless in many ways.

It is rather weird they sold these instead of the Mendocino version which as we who knows, simple ruled, the last of Intels glory I guess before they got overun by our friends at AMD.

So these computers, dirt cheap, for some reason use these backwards piece of shit Celeron A's instead of the equally priced Mendocino, I dont know what the company did or why they even exist as they pretty much got whiped out after Intels original release, being the laughing stock of the world, but alas, who knows, maybe they got them for free? (its the PPGA version they run at 333, they claim).

So my choice is to buy these, a stock of 10 was my plan, or skip it and find real computers using real cpus rather then nintendo style "hardware", but they are cheap,. the kids can use them for educational purpose, you can surf, play some games and Office works impressivly fast on them using a watered down version of XP, so I kind of decided it anyway. Its just sad about the cpu's, just a silly extention of say 128 or 256 on-die would make a HUGE difference, the delays is very noticeable and annoying, WEIRD I tell you, but this is what you get outisde america.

I guess the kids wont whine, but I was hoping they would be usefull for a longer time and they could really cream them a bit if better settings..

Bronze Dog said...

Decemberween-related posting will come, when I feel like typing up a rant on Bill O'Reilly and the imaginary "war on Christmas."

So, anyway, why so off-topic?

themadengineer said...

I can't prove that Bronze Dog didn't create the world last tuesday as a practical joke, but I'd feel kind of stupid if I seriously entertained the notion.
(And anonymous...those computers would make excellent servers. Listening all day for a needed signal to spring into action....)

James K said...

There's a Bayesian rebuttal to this Doggrel too.

Knowledge is probabilistic. Based on the information you have, you can estimate the probability a particular proposition is true.

If you have little information your priors matter more, but your probability spread must be wider than it would be if you had more information. If ignorance makes you confident, you have a problem.

Valhar2000 said...

Gabe, if that's you, I am starting to find your erotomania profoundly disturbing.

Jason said...

Hey Anonymous, what's with the barely literate and quietly seething foray into the desktop processors of yester-year?

The fact that you would consider anachronistic knowledge of Intel's budget CPU range, circa 1999, a litmus test for identifying people as, "more skilled then anyone here what I seen,” is hilariously revealing.

You’re unlikely to convince anyone that you have serious technology ‘chops’ with stories about rebuilding desktop PC’s from 10 years ago, and I can only assume that was your intent here.

This whole post reeks of Gabe.

Jason said...

Now, back on topic, I sometimes get a, "You Dont Know!" argument that takes the form of a classic argument from ignorance, coupled with the arrogance of ignorance.

That is, “I Don’t Know So You Couldn’t Possibly Know!

The unspoken assumption is that my antagonist is clearly the most intelligent person alive and wont even entertain the idea that someone else may be well read and/or have paid attention in high school. People can be arse-holes.

Anonymous said...

I meant Celeron (its the Mendocino we called A depending on range). Like I said, this is irrelevant if you are a newbie/wannabee in computer science, I just thought it was interesting.

I bought 10 of them this morning , came down to about $900, a worth Christmas present for the kids I thought.


Bronze, O'Reilly is a truly screwed up character, it wouldn't be to hard to writing a rant about him, kind of under the belt isn't it :)

Bronze Dog said...

Yeah, but as a skeptic, I have to take a stand against garbage. We're the garbage men of the intellectual world, after all. Someone has to do it, or we'd be up to our necks in insanity.

MWchase said...

"this is irrelevant if"

That's a pretty little 'if', there.

Dark Jaguar said...

What are you talking about exactly? "Nintendo style hardware?" I happen to know exactly what hardware is used in Nintendo's current batch, and I can date it back to the NES. They never used the Celeron.

Further, Intel is still on top. AMD had a small lead for a while but currently Intel is still basically deciding how the market goes. Their current x86-64 multi-core line is pretty much king.

I've been working with computers and building them myself since the old 286. Ever had to manually set voltage jumpers?

Poor schools have to buy cheap computers, and they have to buy them from the lowest bidders.

This is not new. Schools here in America do the same thing. I'm still seeing ancient machines being used, older than Celeron, in some local schools here. It takes a proper education, which sadly boards of directors that determine things like school budgets tend to lack.

When I was growing up, just about every school I went to had the worst possible "computer classes", which amounted to a combination of typing tutors and lessons on how to use embaressingly outdated (and I mean outdated by the standards of the computers AT THE TIME) word processing programs. That's it. The only reason I know what I know is because I had the great fortune to have a dad that worked with computers himself, and he taught me well.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about exactly? "Nintendo style hardware?" I happen to know exactly what hardware is used in Nintendo's current batch, and I can date it back to the NES. They never used the Celeron.

You missed the sarcasm I see. It was a reference to the poor cpu's in the machine in relation to the fact that these specific cpu's was stopped because the company themselve knew it was rubbish and made a far superior and widely known version that we all know and love (if you are old enough).

The fact that you think that there is celerons in nes or that someone would think so makes me assume you are not very bright. Maybe you where joking in the above quote? Lets hope so.


Further, Intel is still on top. AMD had a small lead for a while but currently Intel is still basically deciding how the market goes. Their current x86-64 multi-core line is pretty much king.

I would say you are completely wrong.

Intel "own the market" because of contracts, not because of superior systems. AMD surpassed Intel a long time ago when it comes to quality, and a decent AMD is priced better then any Intel that would be able to compete.

But this is, I admit, subjective on both of our sides. I would claim that AMD is superior showing stats for the processors also in comparison to the price and so on, you most likely would do the same, so "whatever", as they say.

Intel "owns" the market because of size (contracts, power to threaten companies deciding to use amd and so on), not because of better systems.


I've been working with computers and building them myself since the old 286. Ever had to manually set voltage jumpers?

I suspect you where not even born when I used my first computer, I think you do not realize my age here.

"Since the old 286".. sounds rather funny, Maybe since the 86? Or do you wish to discuss Before PC's? Sure.


Poor schools have to buy cheap computers, and they have to buy them from the lowest bidders.

I bought these and gave them to a local school, they do not have money to buy them.


This is not new. Schools here in America do the same thing. I'm still seeing ancient machines being used, older than Celeron, in some local schools here. It takes a proper education, which sadly boards of directors that determine things like school budgets tend to lack.

That I agree is worrying, as the year of the... Tiger I think, is now approaching you would assume Schools should not be forced to use rubbish computers for their students in an Age where Computers are something we DEPEND on.

On a positive note, it could be a good thing for the more "hardcore", and if they have access to a skilled teacher, to truly teach them about Computers (x86 in this case) and use older computers for it as the basic knowledge they would learn would be a benefit for whatever happens in the future, we build on the old.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up, just about every school I went to had the worst possible "computer classes", which amounted to a combination of typing tutors and lessons on how to use embaressingly outdated (and I mean outdated by the standards of the computers AT THE TIME) word processing programs. That's it. The only reason I know what I know is because I had the great fortune to have a dad that worked with computers himself, and he taught me well.

Really?
I met very few people who where "taught" computers by their dad/friends etc.. I never heard that actually, normally people enjoy the various systems, be it a motorola or x86 intel (or the dx33, thats a math processor for you) and they learnt Themselves by using it and learning...

Never heard anyone having their daddy "teaching" them, seems a bit strange to me, the skilled people I know all learnt by themselves, just as me, that is the point of it, to embrace yourself into whatever it is you like, and remember, I was brought up in the 50's, it is hard to explain how different it was to today but I am also of a "young" mind easily embracing new things and adjusting, I know people my age that never touched a computer and can hardly press the buttons on the newest cellphone because it seems like alien technology for them.




Bronze, When is your O'Reailly thumper out?

Dark Jaguar said...

Wait, so you are saying THEY are inferior because YOU bought terrible computers for them? What sort of logic is that?

Dark Jaguar said...

It sounds "odd" to you because you are completely ignorant of how most families actually work. Your idea is that there's lazy moms just stealing money from dads and that kids just basically raise themselves. I did notice the attempt to claim I'm a lesser person because someone helped me. Nice. I would point out you don't know a thing about me. I was taught by my dad, but don't think for a moment that I simply have stagnated since then. I've been keeping up with technology since then, in both past and present. I've learned much about some of the oldest computers, such as Babbage's analytical engine (with programs written by Ada Lovelace).

You may argue that knowing the history of these old computers will be useful, but you're the one laughing at them for having poor quality machines you yourself picked out for them. You knew you could get better and didn't? Why exactly? Is there some stupid lesson you are trying to impart about "working with less" you think they "need to learn"? Is this what you do for a living? Set up computers? And from your limited exposure to a community this provides, you judge them entirely on that? This is why we say your experience doesn't matter. Your experience is less than worthless. Your computer knowledge, sufficient I'm sure. Beyond that, your people skills suck. Knowing how a computer works, knowing that two otherwise identical computers can work in completely different ways JUST because of the software someone installed on them, you still don't "get" that upbringing can be an entirely sufficient explanation without needing to invoke race for why some communities do poorly?

By the way, I DON'T think there are celerons in the NES. I was SPECIFICALLY SAYING THEY DIDN'T!