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Burden of proof and proving a negative
Posted 12/17/16 , edited 12/17/16
With all these accusations of Russian hacking and fake news afloat, Lala wants to discuss the burden of proof and proving a negative.

How would someone prove a negative?

Where does the burden of proof lie?

At what point is it fair to make a conclusion, and at what point should people be skeptical?

Lala thinks that a standard of proof should be set.
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Posted 12/17/16
to prove a negative you have to know everything. Arguments like "is there a god" cant be dis proven because we dont absolutely know everything. Did the russians hack? It is more than likely they do but to what extent nobody knows. Either way as far as the election is concerned they would have to hack every states voting booths. So it is unlikely.
Posted 12/17/16

loganthered wrote:

to prove a negative you have to know everything. Arguments like "is there a god" cant be dis proven because we dont absolutely know everything. Did the russians hack? It is more than likely they do but to what extent nobody knows. Either way as far as the election is concerned they would have to hack every states voting booths. So it is unlikely.


The CIA concluded that the Russian's hacked the election based on the observation that it resembles the patterns of previous hacks. How would Russia disprove this claim? Lala thinks it's kind of one-sided and unfair.
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Posted 12/18/16
The CIA says one thing about it being the russians, wikileaks says another thing about them coming from a disgusted dnc whistleblower. One of them has a 100% track record, I'd say some proof is needed.
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Posted 12/18/16
I think "burden of proof" is kind of silly and based on a misunderstanding of how beliefs should work. Beliefs are supposed to be probabilities between 0 and 1, not certainties like "true" and "false".

The more evidence you have for something, and the more likely it was to begin with before you even looked at the evidence, the more likely it is that something is true. We have math for that,and there's no term in the equations for "burden of proof".

Okay maybe a frequentist will have a term for burden of proof, but that's basically the problem with frequentists.

In situations such as courts of law, we find we have to set rules and standards around these things because humans are irrational, treacherous and stupid and can't be trusted to use math right. But the accusation that the Russians hacked the election isn't going to go anywhere whether they did it or not, so we should really only pay attention to the question of how likely it is that it's true, not whether we should collectively believe it's true or stuff like that.

Personally? Depending on exactly what you decide "the Russians hacked the election" means, I think it could be anywhere from a 60% chance to a ~0% chance. i.e. probably they hacked into some computers with the intention of influencing the election result, but it's almost certain they did not decide the election.
Posted 12/18/16 , edited 12/18/16

Rowan93 wrote:

I think "burden of proof" is kind of silly and based on a misunderstanding of how beliefs should work. Beliefs are supposed to be probabilities between 0 and 1, not certainties like "true" and "false".

The more evidence you have for something, and the more likely it was to begin with before you even looked at the evidence, the more likely it is that something is true. We have math for that,and there's no term in the equations for "burden of proof".

Okay maybe a frequentist will have a term for burden of proof, but that's basically the problem with frequentists.

In situations such as courts of law, we find we have to set rules and standards around these things because humans are irrational, treacherous and stupid and can't be trusted to use math right. But the accusation that the Russians hacked the election isn't going to go anywhere whether they did it or not, so we should really only pay attention to the question of how likely it is that it's true, not whether we should collectively believe it's true or stuff like that.

Personally? Depending on exactly what you decide "the Russians hacked the election" means, I think it could be anywhere from a 60% chance to a ~0% chance. i.e. probably they hacked into some computers with the intention of influencing the election result, but it's almost certain they did not decide the election.


Lala thinks it's unfair to make an official statement about a country based on 0-60% probability and unsubstantiated evidence. It may be possible, but the reality is that it's either 0 or 1. Either Russia hacked or didn't hack. How would Russia defend themselves against the accusations by the CIA, if the claims were in fact false? Is the "burden of proof" still silly, even in the case of political accusations and not something in the realm of religion and God? It's even more unfair because the definition of "hacking" is left ambiguous from the beginning.
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Posted 12/18/16
Really just depends on who you want to believe. Also by what standard is
"burden of proof" measured?

Seems like an exercise in futility more than anything.
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19 / M / Temple of Yaoiism
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Posted 12/18/16
Simple, if you can't prove it, it doesn't exist
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Posted 12/18/16

loganthered wrote:

to prove a negative you have to know everything. Arguments like "is there a god" cant be dis proven because we dont absolutely know everything. Did the russians hack? It is more than likely they do but to what extent nobody knows. Either way as far as the election is concerned they would have to hack every states voting booths. So it is unlikely.


One is a philosophical argument the others is provable with evidence. I tend to put the philosophical on those that push it is there a god prove it through scientific means please. Belief is a wonderful thing but it is not proof.

As for Russian hacking until the proof is released and I suspect there is plenty of proof they did hack you don't call on both parties to release a joint statement if there isn't. I have to go on past behavior, do they have a history of this and what do they have to gain from this behavior.

First they have a long and storied history of doing this type of interference with elections not hacking but information warfare. No really it is old KGB this is how they kept nations in their pockets for decades. The are past masters of information warfare. Small changes to documents ones made up totally pushed out through trusted sources or perceived trusted sources.

Second they have the most to gain from this no really it does boil down to money and how much they have to gain. Right now their economy is in the pits because of the sanctions that are in placed on them. Doesn't help that we and the Saudi's are also pumping out oil keeping the price down either.

As for proving a negative there is only one way to do so. Check it verify it with provable evidence if you can't it can't be proven so it shouldn't be believed. No really this is prat of critical thinking. Check it verify it make sure it is true and a fact.
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Posted 12/18/16
It I'd only provable with evidence. Hacking by its nature is not supposed to be found. You can only prove it if you have evidence.
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Posted 12/18/16

LalaSatalin wrote:

Lala thinks it's unfair to make an official statement about a country based on 0-60% probability and unsubstantiated evidence. It may be possible, but the reality is that it's either 0 or 1. Either Russia hacked or didn't hack. How would Russia defend themselves against the accusations by the CIA, if the claims were in fact false? Is the "burden of proof" still silly, even in the case of political accusations and not something in the realm of religion and God? It's even more unfair because the definition of "hacking" is left ambiguous from the beginning.


It sounds to me as though you're only looking at this from your own perspective and not thinking about the bigger picture so that's where I'll start. Nearly all of the information they used to conclude that Russia made attempts to influence the election is classified. Therefore, neither you nor I have the necessary information to draw our own conclusions based on that information, and we're likely not going to get it for several years. So you're talking about the burden of proof and arguing that things are ambiguous, but this information is classified not in order to deceive us, but rather to protect information that could compromise the people who brought it to us in the first place. If you have any interest at all in protecting those people, then for you and me this ultimately boils down to a question of whether you trust the people who have the information to make sound judgments based on the information they have available to them. Yes, there is other information you have available to you that can color your perspective, but that really only affects your inclination to believe the people who have the information you don't have.

From the bigger picture perspective, as long as citizens are so widely split on the issue, your personal opinion holds very little importance. We now get to see our representatives play the politics game. Likely, Trump will take office and continue to make efforts to downplay the evidence while denying claims of Russian involvement. These things will be parroted through news channels that his supporters will trust, he won't lose any voters over the issue, and Russia will never be called to provide any proof to the contrary. If instead Trump sees the evidence and decides it really is a big problem, tensions could rise between the US and Russia, and he still has the option of lying to US citizens while using the information as leverage in political deals. Either way, that still doesn't mean Russia needs to provide proof. Putin could simply allow tensions to rise assuming the big stake he has in this election is the money from his oil trade. He may still be able to work with Trump in spite of the rise in tensions so long as US citizens don't find out that we're deliberately helping our enemies to achieve their goals. For that matter, he may already be well on his way to achieving his goals what with Rex Tillerson's appointment as Secretary of State.
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Posted 12/18/16
Ahem.....

My conclusion is that people are stupid, and there is nothing you can do about stupid.

Did I need to know everything about everything to answer that? No, because people are stupid

But you can't say that, because then you are socially compromised and everyone will hate you.
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Posted 12/18/16
The burden of proof is with the positive claim. The one who makes a negative claim doesn't have to prove anything.

So in the scenario of the Russian hacking scandal. Russia doesn't have to prove that they didn't hack the US, the US has to prove that Russia did hack them.

Simple as that.
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Posted 12/18/16

loganthered wrote:

to prove a negative you have to know everything. Arguments like "is there a god" cant be dis proven because we dont absolutely know everything. Did the russians hack? It is more than likely they do but to what extent nobody knows. Either way as far as the election is concerned they would have to hack every states voting booths. So it is unlikely.


Proving a negative doesn't necessarily require knowing everything. For example, person A accuses person B of stealing his cookies at 7:00am on Wednesday morning. However, person B claims that he was with person C all day on Wednesday so there was no way that he could steal the cookies. So a testimony from person C can easily prove person B's innocence (i.e. proving a negative).

However, this only works for actions. This doesn't work for proving the lack of knowledge or skill. For example, let's say that you don't know how to play the violin. If someone asks you to prove it, how can you prove that you don't know how to play it? Even if you try to show them by playing it badly, they may still think that you are just hiding your ability.
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Posted 12/18/16
To prove that you were hacked requires suspicion and then investigation leading to evidence. Finding out who did the hacking is another story. The greatest hacks never get detected and nobody who hacks wants to be found out.
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