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September 28, 2007

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For the person who reads and evaluates the arguments, the question is: what would count as evidence about whether the author wrote the conclusion down first or at the end of his analysis? It is noteworthy that most media, such as newspapers or academic journals, appear to do little to communicate such evidence. So either this is hard evidence to obtain, or few readers are interested in it.

If you're reading someone else's article, then it's important to know whether you're dealing with a sampling bias when looking at the arguments (more on this later). But my main point was about the evidence we should derive from our own conclusions, not about a Fully General Counterargument you could use to devalue someone else's arguments. If you are paid to cleverly argue, then it is indeed a clever argument to say, "My opponent is only arguing cleverly, so I will discount it."

If you happened to be a literate English speaker, you might become confused, and think that this shaped ink somehow meant that box B contained the diamond.

A sign S "means" something T when S is a reliable indicator of T. In this case, the clever arguer has sabotaged that reliability.

ISTM the parable presupposes (and needs to) that what the clever arguer produces is ordinarily a reliable indicator that box B contained the diamond, ie ordinarily means that. It would be pointless otherwise.

Therein lies a question: Is he neccessarily able to sabotage it?
Posed in the contrary way, are there formats which he can't effectively sabotage but which suffice to express the interesting arguments?

There are formats that he can't sabotage, such as rigorous machine-verifiable proof, but it is a great deal of work to use them even for their natural subject matter. So yes with difficulty for math-like topics.

For science-like topics in general, I think the answer is probably that it's theoretically possible. It needs more than verifiable logic, though. Onlookers need to be able to verify experiments, and interpretive frameworks need to be managed, which is very hard.

For squishier topics, I make no answer.

The trick is to counterfeit the blue stamps :)

Can anyone give me the link here between Designing Social Inquiry by KKV and this post, because I feel that there is one.

> "For the person who reads and evaluates the arguments, the question is: what would count as evidence about whether the author wrote the conclusion down first or at the end of his analysis? It is noteworthy that most media, such as newspapers or academic journals, appear to do little to communicate such evidence. So either this is hard evidence to obtain, or few readers are interested in it."

I don't think it's either. Consider the many blog postings and informal essays - often on academic topics - which begin or otherwise include a narrative along the lines of 'so I was working on X and I ran into an interesting problem/a strange thought popped up, and I began looking into it...' They're interesting (at least to me), and common.

So I think the reason we don't see it is that A) it looks biased if your Op-ed on, say, the latest bailout goes 'So I was watching Fox News and I heard what those tax-and-spend liberals were planning *this* time...', so that's incentive to avoid many origin stories; and B) it's seen as too personal and informal. Academic papers are supposed to be dry, timeless, and rigorous. It would be seen as in bad taste if Newton's _Principia_ had opened with an anecdote about a summer day out in the orchard.

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