In part, error owes its existence and its long “life” to ambiguity.
The more empirically words are defined, the more words lose their ambiguity, and to speak metaphorically, error finds that the shadows in which it hides have been diminished. When terms are defined empirically, error is more easily exposed.
For example, the word “cause” – to be a scientific term, any term, including the term “causation,” must have the EXACT same meaning every time it is used.
Try to define the word “cause” empirically so that it means exactly the same thing in these two cases:
- HIV causes acquired immunodeficiency (of course it does not – it is merely a contributor). The term “acquired” is meant to exclude all genetic sources of immunodeficiency.
- The motion of the 8 ball was caused by a collision with the cue ball.
I have used the second example to define the terms “cause,” “driver,” and “contributor” empirically. #2, restated, “The motion of the 8 ball was driven by a collision with the cue ball, with contributions from a number of phenomena, including air resistance and the friction of the table.”
As noted, HIV is one contributor of many to the development or “acquisition” of immunodeficiency, where “acquisition” excludes all genetic sources, including those genetic defects with slow penetrance. Among the many contributors to the development of immunodeficiency are a toxic lifestyle (such as those of the first AIDS patients), exposure to toxic substances, consumption of toxic substances, poor stewardship of the body – including inadequate nutrition and poor quality sleep -, cancer (a huge contributor to immunodeficiency when it is present), and so many other things contribute to outright immunodeficiency.
Once a single contributor is established to any effect, causation is out the window.
Measured empirically, the degree of immunodeficiency makes it clear that none of us is completely immuno-sufficient, and our immuno-sufficiency merely decreases after HIV infection gets out of control. When terms are properly defined, the error of Robert Gallo et al. has nowhere to hide. His error derives sustenance from ambiguities in the current use of the terms “cause,” “acquired,” “immunodeficiency,” even “HIV” with all of its strains and quasi-species, and ambiguities in the exact degree of immuno-sufficiency of the patients prior to an infection with the virus(es).
A second example. Anselm’s error re existence.
Defined empirically, to exist is to be imperfect, and in EVERY way imperfect.
If something is perfect, eo ipso, it does not exist, and its existence is impossible, at least
by THIS definition.
Now Anselm has at least one more reply: to define things empirically is to exclude god from possibility. God is a noumenon, as Kant would say, and is not knowable by or through phenomenology (including the scientific study of phenomena).
Yes, and I agree. But that implies that god does not exist in the way that we know existence empirically. Thus, while I might entreat an enemy to show me mercy, I would not expect success by entreating god for mercy in the same way. I would not expect that prayer would be efficacious beyond what can be explained by chance.
Pullo and Forculus – go figure, in the fictional TV series, “Rome,” at the exact moment that Pullo is praying to Forculus to unlock his prison cell, a guard unlocks his prison cell, and gives Pullo the opportunity to redeem himself from the crime of striking a superior officer. Even with the laws of probability at hand, I would have a tough time convincing Pullo that his prayer was not efficacious.