The phrase is attributed to Marcello Truzzi, founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP):
Truzzi’s quote, from his work, On the Extraordinary: An Attempt at Clarification, Zetetic Scholar, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 11, (1978) echos ideas developed much earlier by various metaphysical philosophers. In his 1832 paper Théorie Analytique des Probabilités, Laplace wrote: “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.” In his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1784), David Hume wrote: “A wise man … proportions his belief to the evidence,” and “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”
But it’s 2016. All that old sk00l thinking is… well… antiquated. In an era where 24-hour news isn’t so much about “facts” as it is about “engagement,” the world of Laplace, Hume and Truzzi is nothing but an irrelevant memory of a more naïve time.
And just when you thought that the American election process couldn’t get stranger, it does.
This week, serious people decided to throw Truzzi’s maxim out the window and just go with whatever the hell sounded plausible. “Extraordinary proof” is so frickin' boooooring.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the theory that Russia is attempting to overtly influence the outcome of American elections seems to rise to the level of an “extraordinary claim.” Sadly, I think that fact has managed to somehow become culturally irrelevant.
As for the evidence, I’ve seen nothing so far that rises to a level that gets it past the whole “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that I think the media used to strive to surpass. It’s filled with weasel words (ex. “likely,” “highly probable”) and - even more damning - suffers from some unflatteringly transparent contradictions (ex. self-congratulatory phraseology describing the investigation’s ability to quickly work their way past the “superb tradecraft” of the intruders while simultaneously pointing out their apparent n00b-like “blunders” - leaving metadata in edited files, etc…)
There is an almost willful blind-spot on the part of the “investigators.” It’s almost as if you can hear them say: “Look at all of these blunders by the bad guys - it just goes to prove that we’re so much smarter, taller, and better looking than them… False flags? No. These couldn’t possibly be false flags. We know false flags when we see them (and we’re lookin' at you, Guccifer 2.0). We’re so smart.”
Having been incorporated into the mainstream political discourse, this is pretty much a done deal. Russia did it. No questions allowed.
But I have questions.
Lots of questions.
Questions that can only be answered by the extraordinary proof that we’re never going to get.
Addendum (July 28, 2016):
My friend Chris Sanders (@chrissanders88) asked me to “cite specific examples” of where I feel the evidence is lacking. Full disclosure: Chris works for Mandiant/FireEye. (I believe it is important to also note that, despite my constant urging, he has been unable to convince them that they should change the company name to FireAnt.) So… here you go Chris. I hope you’re sitting down - and while I’m happy to oblige, it’s important to remember, onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat i.e. it isn’t MY job to make a case… ‘cause I’m not the one making the claim.
Note: Chris wasn’t saying I was wrong… he was just pushing me to develop my argument further.
For the most part, the techinical details making the case that the DNC intruders are Russian aren’t even available (see #1 below). So while I can point out problems in the details that ARE available, the bulk of my rebuttal will be based on pointing out formal logic errors in the conclusions being drawn.
So if your biggest, baddest “proof” (#6 above) rests on a logical flaw (and FYI, it’s known as the “fallacy of the undistributed middle” or in Latin, non distributio medii) then really: What frickin' proof do you have?
Addendum II (July 30, 2016):
I’ve had several people ask me, “Well, if the Russians didn’t do it, then who did?” Unfortunately, I think you’re missing the point here. I’m NOT SAYING that I disagree with the conclusion - I have a problem with the fact that there IS a conclusion with no real evidence to back it up. I"m saying NO ONE HAS PROVEN ANYTHING, so let’s stop going around acting like they have. The media has taken this particular ball and uncritically run with it: AND THAT’S A PROBLEM.