Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sceptics and the Fordyce Case

Some further thoughts came out of the Fordyce land sighting article I submitted recently. This was prompted by some comments on this blog and elsewhere that suggested Mr.Fordyce saw nothing more than a horse crossing the road. But before we proceed any further and to erase any doubts in your minds, here is a picture of a horse crossing a road.

original link

Unmistakable, really. It's a horse, what more needs to be said? Well, it is put to us that Fordyce saw a horse and so we must examine this proposition. The first question that naturally arises is how two witnesses (Mr. Fordyce and his fiancee) could mistake such a well known animal for any other than what it was? The answer is that they should not. I mentioned previously that I have seen deer as I drove through the same location and there was no doubt about what I saw - common deer. I expect if Fordyce did see a horse then the probabilities will dictate he would recognise it as such and we would have never heard from the man to this day.

I would not even class such a proposition as a species of the critical thinking that sceptics claim to have the upper hand in. I say this for the simple reason that such a proposition is useless without a reason. The proposer must explain the reason why he or she thinks the witness mistook a horse for something completely freakish. In other words, the burden of proof lies with the proposer.

Until then, the proposition is nothing more than guesswork and should not be taken seriously. After all, if the proposer is not serious about explaining his theory, neither should we be serious about receiving it.

Now I am not suggesting that we must de facto accept that Mr. Fordyce saw an outlandish creature, but one often gets the impression with sceptics that any old suggestion will do because it is always going to be more probable than the idea that whatever the witness saw was a monster.

This is not critical thinking and is more a form of the logical fallacy of petitio principii or "begging the question".  In other words, the premise and conclusion are wrapped into one package and presented as a solution. In reality, it is a process which has the end event of the conclusion ("he saw a horse") but what the prior reasoning may be lies behind a thick fog - if it is there at all.

So each proposed explanation must stand or fall on its own merits and not be judged in relation to other explanations. This should be the target reasoning of the "sceptics" but sometimes it is no better than the reasoning of some "believers".

I'll leave the last word to the horse.

1 comment:

  1. The Fordyce case reminds me of a (non-Nessie) related experience I had last year whilst driving through northern England. I passed a large farm and was astounded to see a creature identical to this:

    meandering around. I was absolutely mind-boggled - it looked like nothing I'd ever seen. I puzzled over what it was for the rest of my drive to Middlesbrough, whereupon my friend there told me that the road passed by a large nature reserve for exotic animals. The strange creature had been, in fact, a moulting Bactrian camel. To me, it was a surprise as I'd thought myself fairly familiar with what a camel should look like. However, I'd only been familiar with the more typical dromedary, such as this:

    Now I'm not saying that Fordyce's creature was a Bactrian camel, of course: just pointing out how disconcerting a known animal can be if encountered out of its habitat and especially if its an unfamiliar type of known species. Perhaps Fordyce had a similar experience, ie. he spotted an unfamiliar type of known animal (perhaps *some* type of camel) out of its regular habitat. The question remains, however, what kind of camels or large ungulates might have been in the area at the time and is there any proof of their presence...? At any rate, I'd rather exhaust the known animal theory before trying to reconcile Fordyce's shaggy creature with the more familiar sightings of a waddling, slimy, flippered Nessie. I can't accept that there is a veritable menagerie of cryptids for whom Loch Ness and its environs are a stomping ground.