A further farrago of fascinating factoids and fulminating fatuities.
Roger Knights points me to this Wikipedia entry on "Consilience":
In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is very strong on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.... [emphasis added]
Consilience requires the use of independent methods of measurement, meaning that the methods have few shared characteristics. That is, the mechanism by which the measurement is made is different; each method is dependent on an unrelated natural phenomenon....
As a result, when several different methods agree, this is strong evidence that none of the methods are in error and the conclusion is correct. This is because of a greatly reduced likelihood of errors: for a consensus estimate from multiple measurements to be wrong, the errors would have to be similar for all samples and all methods of measurement, which is extremely unlikely. Random errors will tend to cancel out as more measurements are made, due to regression to the mean; systematic errors will be detected by differences between the measurements (and will also tend to cancel out since the direction of the error will still be random). This is how scientific theories reach high confidence – over time, they build up a large degree of evidence which converges on the same conclusion.
This line of reasoning is often used to support psi and postmortem survival. Though I personally think that some of the evidence for both is very strong even on its own, there's no question that the existence of multiple sources of evidence, derived from various channels of investigation, strengthens the overall case. Yet you'll still find Skeptics who insist that looking at "the big picture" is invalid, and that the only scientifically respectable approach is to pick the evidence apart on a case-by-case basis.
Please note: I am not saying that working on a case-by-case basis is wrong — only that it shouldn't be the exclusive approach. Individual cases should be evaluated in light of the larger pattern that emerges from all the research. For instance, if a medium of a hundred years ago describes the dying process in terms that are remarkably similar to the descriptions given in NDEs today (see Greg Taylor's Stop Worrying ..., pp. 139ff, for an example), the two cases reinforce each other and strengthen the argument for the veridicality of both mediumship and NDEs.
The Atlantic is running a story that claims that, statistically speaking, 2015 was the best year in recorded history for the average human being. I assume that the statistics are correct, yet somehow the story doesn't ring true for me. Personally I don't feel as if 2015 was the best year in history. Is this simply because the media tend to focus on violence and disaster (the explanation usually given), or is there a deeper reason?
I think it's because the "average human being" means someone living in the developing world — which is where a large majority of the human race can still be found. (According to one site, there are 1.2 billion people in developed countries, and 5.9 billion in developing countries.) And for people in the developing world, 2015 may well have the best year so far, at least for those lucky enough not to be living in war-torn hellholes like Libya and Syria.
Most, if not all, readers of The Atlantic, however, are First Worlders. For us, things may not seem so rosy. The middle class is squeezed and, by some measurements, shrinking. Governments seem unresponsive to our concerns and invested only in catering to powerful lobbies and elitist interests. Our boom-and-bust economies give us no confidence that whatever modest personal wealth we've accumulated will last. Our electorates are increasingly polarized and driven into the arms of extremist candidates on the right and left. Oddball issues like transgender rights for first-graders make headlines. There is a widespread conviction that we are on the decline economically, socially, morally, militarily, and politically, and that the next generation will be worse off than we are.
In the face of this fin de siècle attitude, The Atlantic's statististics offer cold comfort. Somehow I suspect that a 5th century Roman version of The Atlantic would have hyped A.D. 475 as the best year in history for the average person. And for the vast multitudes of Visigoths and Huns, it may have been.
Rome fell in 476.
Cyrus is one of the very few Americans to have visited North Korea. His varied travels, documented on his Facebook page, make fascinating reading.
Finally, this dose of holiday cheer:
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!