Paul Hughes, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, writes:
> Over the years, I have tried to use language loose enough to take into
> account my limited ability to asses the true nature of reality. Lets face
> it, to be certain of anything we'd have to run an infinite series of
> experiments under an infinite set of conditions. So if someone
> came up to me and asked me point blank "Is the 'Face on Mars
> of ET origin?'. My answer would be phrased something like this:
> "Based on the latest photographs, the evidence supporting the
> ET hypothesis has lessened considerably since the original
> Viking photo's. I admit the coincidence of the 'Mars face'
> and the several 'pyramidal structures' is unusual enough
> no to dismiss it out of hand, but until more compelling
> evidence comes along, I remain skeptical of any ET
What if they asked you to estimate, numerically, the probability that the Face is artificial? Do you think in those terms, or could you attempt to turn your sense of likelihood/unlikelihood into a numerical value? "50-50", "one in 5", "one in a hundred", "one in a million"? Something like that?
Maybe you could even say, based on the Viking pictures I thought the odds were X, but now that we have the Mars Orbiter Camera photos I think the odds have reduced to Y.
I still think this is a more productive avenue for discourse than arguing about the meaning of certainty. That is ultimately just a matter of semantics. Different people have different thresholds for when they use the shorthand of certainty or of "knowing" something. Two people may have exactly the same opinion of the unlikelihood of an event, but one says it won't happen while the other says it is unlikely to happen. They don't disagree, they're just using ambiguous language differently.
If you and others in this dispute could turn your vague statements into numbers, then I think there would be less name calling and more discussion of facts.