07: ... why it is that people in general seem to be okay with the notion/convention that negatives are inherently unprovable, with the unspoken implication being that positives are inherently provable. It just seems to me that the axiom and conventions as such are inadequate; "positives are frequently as difficult to prove as negatives" seems more realistic.
ak: Positives are not inherently proveable, so I agree with your last sentence above. But negatives are always harder to prove, a trick of our language. Simple example - there is no other intelligent life in the universe. How do you prove this? By the time you visit every planet (a daunting task), enough time will have elapsed so that life could have evolved on some of the first ones "checked". And what exactly is intelligent life? Dolphins have language, form communities, etc. (extra-personal awareness); chimps can add and subtract (abstract thinking); my dog loves the sound of his own voice...
07: A simple specimen: _____ did happen V _____ did not happen. I'd really like to understand the dynamic that explains how those three tiny letters cause the former to be availed abundantly with proof while the latter is utterly lacking of same.
ak: This is an easier example than mine. The answer: direct observation of one thing is possible; direct observation of everything is not, again, sticking to broad sense stuff. It is very easy to prove it did not rain in my back yard today, much harder to prove that it does not rain on Mars.
In the medical fields, things are compounded by the fact that we all are different from everyone else in some way. I have no plant allergies; does this prove that allergies are a myth propogated by the multinational nasal steroid conglomerates? Anytime I hear someone talking about "a cure for cancer", I start to tune them out. For something as microscopically personal as abnormal cell growth, nothing - n o t h i n g will ever, EVER "cure cancer". Some things will work on some people; that's as good as it ever will get.
Because of all that person-to-person variability, medical testing is very tricky stuff. The hardest part about a medical experiment is making sure you have any idea about what is going on. Richard Feynman (Nobel prize for figuring out how the electron "works") used to tell a story about a Psych grad student trying to figure out how rats "learn" a maze. The problem was that the rats were learning the maze so quickly that each one was good for only one trial. It came down to sound - the echo patterns within the walls. Had absolutely nothing to do with the goals of the experiment, months of data collection down the drain.
Once some effect is observed, an even larger ($$$) problem is proving it works on a large enough group of people to be a) something real; and b) practical.
Clark and the zapper may be god's gift, but you'll never know it based on her work. Her experimental protocols do not rise to the level of pathetic. In the Zapper Support Forum
, I commented on a posting about real research, and what real research looks like.
But look on the bright side - to the delight of folks around here, it turns out that while proving a zapper works is difficult, proving one doesn't work is impossible.