The Possibility & Plausibility Of Fictional Entities & Animalia Paradoxa

Discussion in 'Cryptozoology: General' started by Yithian, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. Yithian

    Yithian Incredulous Staff Member

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    A genuinely Fortean article here. The ending is a bit whimsical, but I do like the point that the actual world we inhabit might not rank especially highly on the ladder of plausibility, if viewed sub specie aeternitatis.

    Regardless, a great read:

    Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them
    The relative plausibility of impossible beings tells you a lot about how the mind works.
    By Kathryn Schulz

    Consider the yeti. Reputed to live in the mountainous regions of Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. Also known by the alias Abominable Snowman. Overgrown, in both senses: eight or ten or twelve feet tall; shaggy. Shy. Possibly a remnant of an otherwise extinct species. More possibly an elaborate hoax, or an inextinguishable hope. Closely related to the Australian Yowie, the Canadian Nuk-luk, the Missouri Momo, the Louisiana Swamp Ape, and Bigfoot. O.K., then: on a scale not of zero to ten but of, say, leprechaun to zombie, how likely do you think it is that the yeti exists?

    One of the strangest things about the human mind is that it can reason about unreasonable things. It is possible, for example, to calculate the speed at which the sleigh would have to travel for Santa Claus to deliver all those gifts on Christmas Eve. It is possible to assess the ratio of a dragon’s wings to its body to determine if it could fly. And it is possible to decide that a yeti is more likely to exist than a leprechaun, even if you think that the likelihood of either of them existing is precisely zero.

    Continued in depth:
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/06/is-bigfoot-likelier-than-the-loch-ness-monster
     
  2. lordmongrove

    lordmongrove Justified & Ancient

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    There is nothing implausable about the yeti, infact i would be more surprised if it didn't exist than if it did.
    There are other things on that list that may have real, biological origins. The unicorn for example may be based on the antelope Procamptoceras, dragons on huge reptiles and fairies on small hominids or pygmy races. Charles Gould tackles this very well in his essential 1886 book Mythical Monsters.
     
  3. Coal

    Coal Polymath Renaissance Man

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    I read that, and good fun it was. However, for example, the notion that someone will rate levitating an elephant by a foot as easier that 10 feet makes perfect sense. The ability to levitate an elephant at all has a vanishingly small likelihood, but is constant for both options. however the energy required is considerably more in one instance than the other. It's perfectly reasonable to rank one as harder than the other if those are the only two choices available. It's just that both possibilities are so ridiculously [it's considerably more likely your underwear will jump one foot to the left while you're reading this] small in the first place.

    The paper referenced does ask a variety of subjects to chose between (e.g.) the relative difficulty of two spell. However, you're forcing a choice between two abstract options. If the study had included a third option along the lines of "No such thing" I'd give it more credence. Once forced to make a choice, the primary implausibility (which has a likelihood of approximately ['feck-all' * 10^-'very big number']) has to be taken at face value and is constant for both choices - and then secondary factors are then used to estimate the choice. Such as the mass or density of objects being levitated.

    Pfft.:rolleyes:
     
  4. Yithian

    Yithian Incredulous Staff Member

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    See Russell on definite descriptions.

    The present King of France is bald is as equally false as The present King of France can fly as they both fall at the first hurdle of referring to an existing entity.
     
  5. Coal

    Coal Polymath Renaissance Man

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    My point.

    The paper referenced in the newspaper article has experiments in which two choices are presented to the participant and asks which is more likely.

    It doesn't present two overtly stated impossible choices to the participant and then ask which is more likely. In effect the experiments results relies on the belief systems of those who may think such things possible, and then buttresses that with a forced choice. Like I said, a third option "I don't believe in magic" or "neither" or similar would have change the results somewhat.

    So using your example, if the subject doesn't know if there is a King of France or not, will (possibly) infer a King of France is real and therefore the first option is more likely...but...;

    France is a republic. Which is more likely:
    (a) France has no King
    (b) The present King of France is bald
    (c) The present King of France can fly

    ...will probably yield a majority of (a)'s. I suspect the bleedin' obvious might not a publishable paper make. So, pfft. :rolleyes:
     

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