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Reply #228: Right, it should be "you cannot prove some negatives". [View All]

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greyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-20-08 12:42 AM
Response to Reply #202
228. Right, it should be "you cannot prove some negatives".
Excerpt from Robert Stein's "I Am Not a Giraffe, and I Can Prove It":

In writing and discussion, it is sometimes appropriate to explain the difficulty (or even the impossibility)of proving some negatives. It is an unjustifiable stretch to jump to the universal declaration that it is impossible to prove a negative.

We must consider the precision of the definitions, the size of the item for which we seek proof, the size of the universe in which this item is supposed to exist, as well as other considerations.

For example, suppose someone says: I believe that unicorns exist. Although I cannot prove it, you cannot prove that they do not exist. So we must keep an open mind about the subject.

The problems: We would have to agree on a precise definition of unicorn. Next we would have to determine how to test and validate it. Even after we do that, it would still be impossible to prove that there is not even a single unicorn anywhere in the universe.

More, beginning on page 14 of this pdf

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