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Author Topic: Evaluating the Niku hypothesis: conflicting strategies for testing hypotheses  (Read 68849 times)

Gary LaPook

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We know that some of the aluminum found on Gardner DID NOT come from the Electra. Using Occam's razor we can cut right to the chase because the source for that other aluminum is the simplest explanation for ALL the aluminum found on the island. 

gl
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Andrew M McKenna

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In the absence of all other "evidence", I'd agree with you, but with the post loss radio signals, the discovery of the castaway, the anecdotes about "airplane parts here when we arrived" and the lack of zinc chromate on the parts we're talking about, and not even including the 7 site material, I'd say that there is reason to think that at least a few of the parts found on Nikumaroro are from the the aircraft that we know went missing in the area, and that was suspected of having landed on one of the islands down there.

You and Malcolm like to look at each idea in a vacuum as a way to pick it apart, but there is a bigger picture that emerges when you try to put them into a context with other information.  Occam's razor has to cut across all the lines of evidence to come up with the simplest explanation that satisfies all of the evidence / known circumstances, not just one.

Not that I expect to sway you, Gary, just keeping you on your toes.  :-)

Andrew
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Monty Fowler

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You and Malcolm like to look at each idea in a vacuum as a way to pick it apart, but there is a bigger picture that emerges when you try to put them into a context with other information.  Occam's razor has to cut across all the lines of evidence to come up with the simplest explanation that satisfies all of the evidence / known circumstances, not just one.

I believe Andrew has nailed it.

LTM, who will put away his own hammer now,
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Malcolm McKay

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I
You and Malcolm like to look at each idea in a vacuum as a way to pick it apart, but there is a bigger picture that emerges when you try to put them into a context with other information.  Occam's razor has to cut across all the lines of evidence to come up with the simplest explanation that satisfies all of the evidence / known circumstances, not just one.


Not quite an accurate assessment Andrew. The analysis of each artifact needs to be done individually at first. That enables one to assess whether it is right to consider it as being related to other artifacts one has concluded are part of the major event one is investigating. For example if one was examining the artifacts collected at the Seven Site and one of these was clearly of a material not available in 1937 like 1960s era plastic or had a date stamp of 1952 on it, or some other feature which clearly show them to be dated to a period after 1937, then one would automatically and quite sensibly not include it with artifacts that one was considering as proof of the Earhart/Nikumaroro hypothesis.

Therefore if one is seeking to prove that certain artifacts clearly have a relationship to Earhart or Noonan this can only be established by first examining each artifact in the light of what I outlined in the first paragraph. Now a central issue in the Earhart/Nikumaroro hypothesis is that none of the artifacts so far found which can with some accuracy be shown to have, at least, been available to Earhart or Noonan in 1937, can with any certainty be shown to have been exclusively available to the pair alone, and not to other people who visited the island in the period from the wreck of the Norwich City through to the Loran station and the occupation of the PISS settlers. That is the key problem.

It follows that by creating a hypothesis based on the selected items, each of which cannot stand alone as being solely attributable to the presence of Earhart or Noonan, one is not producing a convincing or in fact particularly honest argument. Accordingly if the Nikumaroro hypothesis is to be proven as correct then it is absolutely necessary that each item must be examined separately rather than have its possible association with the hypothesis tainted by other items simply thrown in as make weight to build up a circumstantial case. After all you only need one artifact to be shown to have incontrovertible associations with Earhart and Noonan and their postulated stay on Nikumaroro and you have demonstrated your case.

Therefore by treating each artifact or argument separately both Gary and myself are in fact doing you a service rather than being divisive. A hypothesis that is shown to be proven correct after rigorous assessment is the goal - not some half-baked idea that cannot stand on its own two legs without the help of unsupported conjecture.         
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Leon R White

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"It follows that by creating a hypothesis based on the selected items, each of which cannot stand alone as being solely attributable to the presence of Earhart or Noonan, one is not producing a convincing or in fact particularly honest argument. Accordingly if the Nikumaroro hypothesis is to be proven as correct then it is absolutely necessary that each item must be examined separately rather than have its possible association with the hypothesis tainted by other items simply thrown in as make weight to build up a circumstantial case."

Malcolm, can you explain this in a bit more detail?  I'm not sure I follow the "association of items standing alone not being solely attributable" phrase.  Should they be taken independently or together?

Leon
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Malcolm McKay

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"It follows that by creating a hypothesis based on the selected items, each of which cannot stand alone as being solely attributable to the presence of Earhart or Noonan, one is not producing a convincing or in fact particularly honest argument. Accordingly if the Nikumaroro hypothesis is to be proven as correct then it is absolutely necessary that each item must be examined separately rather than have its possible association with the hypothesis tainted by other items simply thrown in as make weight to build up a circumstantial case."

Malcolm, can you explain this in a bit more detail?  I'm not sure I follow the "association of items standing alone not being solely attributable" phrase.  Should they be taken independently or together?

Leon

All I am saying is that if an individual artifact itself cannot be linked incontrovertibly to Earhart or Noonan then its incorporation in the hypothesis proof is of no value. Simply adding together a number of such items of questionable association may create a superficially satisfying circumstantial case but in the end without any items which have undeniable provenance then the hypothesis remains just a hypothesis not an answer.

Also if one is able to find an item with demonstrated provenance one then should not corrupt its probative value by using it to demonstrate that other items that lack provenance are given provenance unless there are exceptional correlations between them to support that. For example if an item is found with a clear provenance that shows it was either Earhart or Noonan's and was introduced to Nikumaroro in 1937 by them, that then should be sufficient to demonstrate that the hypothesis is demonstrated to be correct. But to then bring in other items that superficially appear to be related to the pair but lack any incontestable associations just to pad the story adds nothing and would serve to taint the proven items in the eyes of people seeking to dispute the case.

So to demonstrate the provenance one needs it is necessary to test each item separately. An item with demonstrated provenance needs no cosmetic embellishments or faux associations to prove its value. It is not an unfriendly or negative process it is simply finding the truth.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2012, 11:00:13 PM by Malcolm McKay »
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C.W. Herndon

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All I am saying is that if an individual artifact itself cannot be linked incontrovertibly to Earhart or Noonan then its incorporation in the hypothesis proof is of no value..... 

......For example if an item is found with a clear provenance that shows it was either Earhart or Noonan's and was introduced to Nikumaroro in 1937 by them, that then should be sufficient to demonstrate that the hypothesis is demonstrated to be correct.......


Malcolm,

Are you changing your position here??  Now you are saying that it has to be proven that an item "was either Earhart's or Noonan's and was introduced to Nikumaroro in 1937 by them".

Previously I was under the impression that to meet your standard of proof an item had to be shown to belong to one of the castaways. It appears that you are now stipulating other criteria must also be met in order to qualify as proof of the hypothesis. You seem to be changing horses in mid-stream, so to speak.
Woody (former 3316R)
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Leon R White

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Not intending to be argumentative . . . but I have a question or two.
Malcolm,

I think I understand your statement: "For example if one was examining the artifacts collected at the Seven Site and one of these was clearly of a material not available in 1937 like 1960s era plastic or had a date stamp of 1952 on it, or some other feature which clearly show them to be dated to a period after 1937, then one would automatically and quite sensibly not include it with artifacts that one was considering as proof of the Earhart/Nikumaroro hypothesis.
That is, if the facts don't support your hypothisis, you discard them? Or are you saying you don't claim they support your hypothisis? They may be true, valid, and evidence, but not useful in the assessment of the hypothisis? This would suggest that proving or disproving an hypothisis is not the same as finding the answer to the problem. I don't think that sounds right, somehow, but I'm not making the connection somewhere.

If the cup had incontrovertible DNA proof from AE, it might suggest a different tack altogether, say she lived with Japanese soldiers in the philipines until the 1950's before leaving only to die on Nika.

We know that some of the aluminum found on Gardner DID NOT come from the Electra. Using Occam's razor we can cut right to the chase because the source for that other aluminum is the simplest explanation for ALL the aluminum found on the island.

If I follow Gary's statement above, then if some of the blood at the murder scene isn't the victim's then none of it is? (Because to introduce additional sources of blood without evidence of their presence is to sort of imagine, based upon no fact, that someone else was there.)  But if I assume all the blood was the victims then I don't need to examine the other blood to confirm this?  I think I've got this turned around the wrong way.  Is the point that when 'theorizing' (and not evidence gathering) you don't include unnecessary components if the initial situation can be explained without them?

Lastly, Newton's 'restatement' of occam reads something like this: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."  But are we agreeing that the intention of occam and ptolemy and others was more generalized then just regarding "natural things?" I'm assuming the answer is yes. 

So, how does one justify Newton's own work on the laws of motion and gravity.  His breakthrough seems to have been that he connected seeminly unrelated but observable behaviours with a single explanation.  How would he be able to do that if he didn't consider things that seemed unrelated?  I would say that perhaps Mr. Newton was arguing that once you have a provable hypothisis or theory, you don't need more data, although until that time you're free to run around and watch apples, pears and dead parakeets fall until you work it out.  I don't think he can have it both ways, but then he was young (under 25) and went on to many years of mathematical analysis of religous texts.

So what is the correct process for gathering data and making a hypothisis?  Do you get a little data, make a guess, gather more data, except for that data that doesn't support your hypothisis, until you've proven your hypothisis? Or do you gather all data and try to sort it out to see what it suggests? Or do you gather lots of data with no hypothisis and try to make a hypothisis after you've reviewed all the data?  And how does this relate to solving the initial problem as it was defined? 
Some people have gone to the moon by working this out, but at the moment I'm not clear how this is intended to be applied.

And I suppose that the problem statement may be source of the issue.  If you can get a problem statement with a binary answer ("The dog ate my Muffin, true or false?)  it seems to work better then the question "Where is Muffin?"

The assumption that AE crashed in 1937 has, literally, NO supporting data of any kind.  The belief that she disappeared in 1937 has not been proven, but is a different problem to solve.  The assertion that she died in 1937 after crashing, (having a compound set of criteria), while sounding good, is even more complex to establish.  She could have crashed or not, she could have died or not.  Since 100% of the data to date is heresay, the application of systematic analysis would seem to be an exercise only.  BUT - somehow things get proven or disproven and mankind moves forward (if you can call this forward).  So, it would really help if you could clear up how this is supposed to work, whether or not anyone bothers to do things that way.

Thanks

Leon

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Malcolm McKay

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Are you changing your position here??  Now you are saying that it has to be proven that an item "was either Earhart's or Noonan's and was introduced to Nikumaroro in 1937 by them".

Previously I was under the impression that to meet your standard of proof an item had to be shown to belong to one of the castaways. It appears that you are now stipulating other criteria must also be met in order to qualify as proof of the hypothesis. You seem to be changing horses in mid-stream, so to speak.

I'm sorry but I don't see the difference in meaning between your first and second takes on what I said. All I have ever said is that an item must be demonstrated to have been introduced to the island by Earhart or Noonan in 1937 to prove that they were there. I think that would be the general consensus on what would constitute proof of the hypothesis. As to belonging to the castaways I could have added that this would exclude salting the island with items sourced from elsewhere to falsify a proof - but as I cannot conceive why anyone would do such a dishonest thing then I felt that it needed to be left unsaid as irrelevant.
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Malcolm McKay

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Not intending to be argumentative . . . but I have a question or two.
Malcolm,

I think I understand your statement: "For example if one was examining the artifacts collected at the Seven Site and one of these was clearly of a material not available in 1937 like 1960s era plastic or had a date stamp of 1952 on it, or some other feature which clearly show them to be dated to a period after 1937, then one would automatically and quite sensibly not include it with artifacts that one was considering as proof of the Earhart/Nikumaroro hypothesis.
That is, if the facts don't support your hypothisis, you discard them? Or are you saying you don't claim they support your hypothisis? They may be true, valid, and evidence, but not useful in the assessment of the hypothisis? This would suggest that proving or disproving an hypothisis is not the same as finding the answer to the problem. I don't think that sounds right, somehow, but I'm not making the connection somewhere.

If the cup had incontrovertible DNA proof from AE, it might suggest a different tack altogether, say she lived with Japanese soldiers in the philipines until the 1950's before leaving only to die on Nika.

We know that some of the aluminum found on Gardner DID NOT come from the Electra. Using Occam's razor we can cut right to the chase because the source for that other aluminum is the simplest explanation for ALL the aluminum found on the island.

If I follow Gary's statement above, then if some of the blood at the murder scene isn't the victim's then none of it is? (Because to introduce additional sources of blood without evidence of their presence is to sort of imagine, based upon no fact, that someone else was there.)  But if I assume all the blood was the victims then I don't need to examine the other blood to confirm this?  I think I've got this turned around the wrong way.  Is the point that when 'theorizing' (and not evidence gathering) you don't include unnecessary components if the initial situation can be explained without them?

Lastly, Newton's 'restatement' of occam reads something like this: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."  But are we agreeing that the intention of occam and ptolemy and others was more generalized then just regarding "natural things?" I'm assuming the answer is yes. 

So, how does one justify Newton's own work on the laws of motion and gravity.  His breakthrough seems to have been that he connected seeminly unrelated but observable behaviours with a single explanation.  How would he be able to do that if he didn't consider things that seemed unrelated?  I would say that perhaps Mr. Newton was arguing that once you have a provable hypothisis or theory, you don't need more data, although until that time you're free to run around and watch apples, pears and dead parakeets fall until you work it out.  I don't think he can have it both ways, but then he was young (under 25) and went on to many years of mathematical analysis of religous texts.

So what is the correct process for gathering data and making a hypothisis?  Do you get a little data, make a guess, gather more data, except for that data that doesn't support your hypothisis, until you've proven your hypothisis? Or do you gather all data and try to sort it out to see what it suggests? Or do you gather lots of data with no hypothisis and try to make a hypothisis after you've reviewed all the data?  And how does this relate to solving the initial problem as it was defined? 
.....

The assumption that AE crashed in 1937 has, literally, NO supporting data of any kind.  The belief that she disappeared in 1937 has not been proven, but is a different problem to solve.  The assertion that she died in 1937 after crashing, (having a compound set of criteria), while sounding good, is even more complex to establish.  She could have crashed or not, she could have died or not.  Since 100% of the data to date is heresay, the application of systematic analysis would seem to be an exercise only.  BUT - somehow things get proven or disproven and mankind moves forward (if you can call this forward).  So, it would really help if you could clear up how this is supposed to work, whether or not anyone bothers to do things that way.

Thanks

Leon

I see where you are coming from - yes good points about what appears to be discarding data that doesn't support a deliberately corrupted hypothesis designed to support a preferred explanation, or discarding data that may later rightly contradict the hypothesis but wasn't seen to pertinent at the time the hypothesis was proposed. Either of which would invalidate your final conclusion.

Nothing that dishonest or silly I am afraid. I grant that there might be a possibility however unlikely that Earhart or Noonan survived long enough as castaways or prisoners somewhere to have left DNA traces on a 1950s era plastic cup which was subsequently transported to Nikumaroro and found there and tested. But this even if remotely possible this would be, by any sensible analysis, unlikely so I would not even suggest it unless prefaced by a reference to the abducted by aliens hypothesis, but if the hypothetical plastic cup was found with the hypothetical DNA then one would have to accept it and explore the explanatory path it offered. In an archaeological situation artifacts that are clearly anachronisms are usually set aside while more logical explanations are pursued (an example from real life, I once saw a 20th century cheap metal plate found in a 1st century BC context, the explanation was of course not a time machine or aliens but a simple modern rubbish pit that had been dug through into the layer).

As to the assumption that Earhart crashed or whatever in 1937, well although it is as you say unproven and therefore is therefore only an assumption, it nevertheless is the best take on what the evidence so far indicates. She disappears from view on a flight in July 1937 and from that time onwards apart from a purported sighting as a prisoner of the Japanese and her purported death as their prisoner there is nothing else. The Japanese prisoner hypothesis is one of the hypotheses put forward as an explanation and is widely debated. Possible? yes; probable? possibly; but like the others not proven.

I suppose it comes down to the general observation that all things are possible but once the evidence is in and proven then there is only one definite answer. As to your point  "Is the point that when 'theorizing' (and not evidence gathering) you don't include unnecessary components if the initial situation can be explained without them?", I would say that if you have proven evidence to support your hypothesis then there is no need for the hypothesis to be further embellished with things that are not relevant or proven - that is simply over-egging the pudding.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 07:19:23 PM by Malcolm McKay »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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As to belonging to the castaways I could have added that this would exclude salting the island with items sourced from elsewhere to falsify a proof - but as I cannot conceive why anyone would do such a dishonest thing then I felt that it needed to be left unsaid as irrelevant.

It's completely relevant.

All readers of archaeologists have to trust the word of the diggers about what they found where they found it.  Once an artifact is moved out of its original context, only the word of the digger remains.  There is huge fame and money to be made by counterfeiting discoveries (Piltdown Man, Cardiff Giant, Ninov's falsification of data for element 118), etc.

Of course, this is a two-edged sword.  If it is an anxiety about TIGHAR's work, however tastefully, modestly, and humbly stated, it applies to the New Britain hypothesis, too. 

Passing over things that don't need to be said in silence is such a beautiful rhetorical ploy.  So, for example, I do not question your credentials as a Ph.D. in archaeology, because I cannot conceive why you would puff yourself up as something you are not.  I take you at your word, without proof, because that is the polite and respectful thing to do.

In other words, I am operating by faith, not by proof.  I believe it is reasonable to do so.  If I was the skeptical type, I'd ask for proof of your claims about your status--proof that could not be counterfeited, proof that is purely objective, and proof that does not rely on taking anyone's word about how they know that you are who you say you are and that you possess the credentials you claim to have.
LTM,

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Leon R White

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Thanks Malcolm, so here's my other question from above:

So what is the correct process for gathering data and making a hypothisis?  Do you get a little data, make a guess, gather more data, except for that data that doesn't support your hypothisis, until you've proven your hypothisis? Or do you gather all data and try to sort it out to see what it suggests? Or do you gather lots of data with no hypothisis and try to make a hypothisis after you've reviewed all the data?  And how does this relate to solving the initial problem as it was defined? 
Some people have gone to the moon by working this out, but at the moment I'm not clear how this is intended to be applied.

What is the correct sequence of process steps in all of this?  The 'usefulness' or 'value' of the artifacts, conjecture, and strategy for next steps seems to depend upon the answer.  I've wondered for some time, if a 7,000 lb plane and a 140 foot person were lost together, why would you start by looking for the smaller item instead of the bigger one?  I'm guessing it is a matter of funding, which would then introduce another process modifier: prioritization of action based on non-problem related criteria.

Something that seems so straightforward is apparently as wimsical as liberal arts analysis of Shakespear's use of the perjorative . . .  I sincerely hope I'm wrong on that, other wise I think we can all get together and vote on the speed of light.

Leon
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Malcolm McKay

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Thanks Malcolm, so here's my other question from above:

So what is the correct process for gathering data and making a hypothisis?  Do you get a little data, make a guess, gather more data, except for that data that doesn't support your hypothisis, until you've proven your hypothisis? Or do you gather all data and try to sort it out to see what it suggests? Or do you gather lots of data with no hypothisis and try to make a hypothisis after you've reviewed all the data?  And how does this relate to solving the initial problem as it was defined? 


For me it has always been bits of all those things. One project the final result was just what the accumulated data indicated, as I saw it. That one started out as a side issue in another project I was involved with and in the process of that I found that detailed research was lacking in the particular area which I was allotted.

In another I noticed that in some interpretations of data there were anomalies that, while not germane to those original interpretations, indicated that there was a previously unaddressed issue that might be worth investigating and it was. One other example is where I quite by accident found that a previously published and accepted explanation for some geographic dispersal of artifacts was in fact wrong because the author had taken a far too narrow focus in geographic terms. However in his defence I might add that I had access to a much larger specialist resource advice and to much greater funding and physical resources.

But then archaeology can be a bit like that, sometimes mundane - just typological analysis using established data; and sometimes serendipitous as some feature is noticed in a new light. Overall however it is about 95% hot dusty digging and 5% excitement.
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Malcolm McKay

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Of course, this is a two-edged sword.  If it is an anxiety about TIGHAR's work, however tastefully, modestly, and humbly stated, it applies to the New Britain hypothesis, too. 

Passing over things that don't need to be said in silence is such a beautiful rhetorical ploy.  So, for example, I do not question your credentials as a Ph.D. in archaeology, because I cannot conceive why you would puff yourself up as something you are not.  I take you at your word, without proof, because that is the polite and respectful thing to do.


And that is why Marty I passed it over as irrelevant because I knew that if I said it, even as a hypothetical case, you would immediately accuse me of casting a slur on TIGHAR and its archaeological work. I would not and did not - I am a little offended that you would even think that I would make such an unwarranted accusation.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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And that is why Marty I passed it over as irrelevant ...

Yes, you "passed over it" in explicit terms.

As I said, it's a great rhetorical ploy.  A classic.

Quote
I am a little offended that you would even think that I would make such an unwarranted accusation.

You're the one who "passed over" the accusation by spelling it out explicitly, though in such a way that you have plausible denial, since you were only mentioning the possibility in the abstract. 

It seems to me--and I can't prove this archaeologically, because this is a metaphysical issue--is that the best way to "pass over" things is to say nothing, rather than grandstanding about what you are not planning to say about the integrity of people who do not share your vision of reality. 
LTM,

           Marty
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« Last Edit: June 24, 2012, 09:36:29 PM by Martin X. Moleski, SJ »
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