This would weigh heavily against the claim that a reporter's word is definitive proof of his claims, but not against the claim I made, which is that it creates a presumption of accuracy. Reporters sometimes fail, deliberately or negligently, to get the facts straight, but so do scientists (Hwang Woo Suk, the discredited stem cell researcher) and scholars (Michael Bellesisles, author of Arming America). In these cases and others like them (Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, Joseph Ellis), critics picked up the burden of proof and presented particular facts strong enough to overcome the presumption.
Peter, are you saying someone who makes an accusation without any ability or willingness to prove such an accusation, you should presume its accuracy? On what grounds? On the grounds that it is an appeal to authority? That's quite a remarkable view. In every one of those cases you cite, independent sources examined the research and evidence because it was available to them, and they could offer it up for public scrutiny. How is that remotely the same as the L.A. Times who refuses to produce their alleged evidence?
I originally wrote:
"You shouldn't lump 'scientists and scholars' with 'journalists with leaked evidence they can't let anyone corroborate'.
You quoted me as saying:
"You shouldn't lump "scientists and scholars" with [journalists] because the former...have a mechanism of corroborating evidence."
And then you responded to this:
So do the latter. Reporters have professional standards and codes of ethics, editors they have to convince, fact-checkers who'll follow up and, perhaps most importantly, competitors who'll get the truth out if they don't. The mechanisms aren't the same, since news is on a tighter schedule than science or scholarship and since reproducibility, so important in the natural and social sciences, doesn't apply to one-time events.
Peter I would rather you quote me with the full caveats that I put into my arguments. Most importantly the one about specific journalists that refuse to reveal their evidence they claim they have. Of course reputable journalists do offer their evidence up for scrutiny to independent parties, but you know that was not who I was referring to.
I originally wrote:
Scientists do not hide their data, they publish it in a public science journal, and subject it to other independent sources to verify the evidence and conduct independent experimentation. You can't say the same for a journalist that publishes information from a leaked source without proof of such evidence.
Once again Peter you didn't give the full quote and quoted me as saying:
Scientists do not hide their data, they publish it...You can't say the same for a journalist that publishes information from a leaked source...
You then responded to this cut-off quote:
Reporters don't hide their data either. By definition, they publish it. Scientists use anonymous sources far more extensively than reporters do. Researchers in medical, biological or psychological fields use confidentially-obtained information almost exclusively, as do social scientists studying criminal behavior, sexual behavior, drug use, gun ownership, drunk driving and so on and on. Nobody calls them liars because of this.
Note Peter I was referring to data specifically in regards to evidence. What I mean is that scientists publish their data and offer the evidence up for scrutiny by independent parties. NOT ALL journalists do the same, and it is ridiculous to equate what the L.A. Times is doing in this case (making hearsay accusations without making first-hand evidence available) and what reputable scientists do (publish all data, methods and results for independent scrutiny). Please don't twist my posts to mean something else by cutting off my quotes.
I originally wrote:
Any critical thinking person should always presume disbelief in the absence of evidence...
Reputable investigators are the evidence in the fields we're discussing.
Absolutely not! Evidence is not someone's word. That is simply an appeal to authority. What makes an investigator "reputable" is his production of evidence for his accusation to independent parties for scrutiny. If such an investigator refuses to do such a thing, there is nothing reputable about it!
To use your own example, what convinced you that Rather was lying about Bush's miliary record? Reputable investigators came up with evidence: Rather's source was a known crackpot, and the documents came from a word processor such as nobody had in 1970. How do you know that your sources on this in turn weren't making it up? You looked at their evidence (including their reputations) and judged them to be reliable.
Because the evidence was held up to public scrutiny! That's what convinces me! If it is a single source that does not produce evidence for others to effectively judge its accuracy, then there is no reason to be convinced. I don't have to be the one actually conducting the independent investigation myself, so long as I have evidence that it has been subjected to public scrutiny, and so long as I know that other independent parties published their findings on the original evidence produced by the accuser.
Imagine Peter if a very intelligent and reputable District Attorney said "I have evidence that Peter is a criminal and guilty of a serious felony." Do you Peter take his word for it or demand to see evidence? Ask to confront witnesses? Ask for counsel and your own independent witnesses in your defense? No rational methodology relies on an appeal to authority alone for what is valid.
Believing that you can only trust what you see firsthand (assuming that you could make practical sense of this) is remarkably similar to believing that honestly-obtained wealth is only what you come by entirely by your own efforts (assuming once again that the notion makes sense) without any secondhand learning and without any participation in the division of labor. You might call it the Robinson Crusoe theory of knowledge.
I don't actually follow your analogy. I trust knowledge that I know is subjected to a rigorous process, a scientific methodology. It is not necessary that I take part in that process of independent verification, corroboration of evidence, or of independent experimentation, so long as I know the process took place and evidence is laid before me that it did take place. I know that if I wanted to devote the time and energy, I could look at the whole process, and could look at the evidence myself. But when I have knowledge that said evidence is out of my reach and anyone else's WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE ACCUSER, then I have plenty of reason to doubt the validity of the accusation.