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Tyrrell_McAllister comments on What Bayesianism taught me - Less Wrong

62 Post author: Tyrrell_McAllister 12 August 2013 06:59AM

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Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 11 August 2013 05:13:34AM 2 points [-]

The evidence to raise it to consideration comes from the fact that someone took the time to advocate it, not the anecdote.

Yes, it may be that the mere fact that a hypothesis is advocated screens off whether that hypothesis is also supported by an anecdote. But I suspect that the existence of anecdotes still moves a little probability mass around, even among just those hypotheses that are being advocated.

I mean, if someone advocated for a hypothesis, and they couldn't even offer an anecdote in support of it, that would be pretty deadly to their credibility. So, unless I am certain that every advocated hypothesis has supporting anecdotes (which I am not), I must concede that anecdotes are evidence, howsoever weak, over and above mere advocacy.

Comment author: Watercressed 11 August 2013 03:48:50PM 2 points [-]

Here's a situation where an anecdote should reduce our confidence in a belief:

  • A person's beliefs are usually well-supported.
  • When he offers supporting evidence, he usually offers the strongest evidence he knows about.

If this person were to offer an anecdote, it should reduce our confidence in his proposition, because it makes it unlikely he knows of stronger supporting evidence.

I don't know how applicable this is to actual people.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 11 August 2013 07:19:28PM *  1 point [-]

I don't think this is necessarily valid, because people also know that anecdotes can be highly persuasive. So for many people, if you have an anecdote it will make sense to say so, since most people argue not to reach the truth but to persuade.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 11 August 2013 04:26:43PM 1 point [-]

I agree that it is at least hypothetically possible that the offering of an anecdote should reduce our credence in what the anecdote claims.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 13 August 2013 10:10:24PM 2 points [-]

... For example, if you told me that you once met a powerful demon who works to stop anyone from ever telling anecdotes about him (regardless of whether the anecdotes are true or false), then I would decrease my credence in the existence of such a demon.