Re: Open Access to Books?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 03:20:52 +0000

On Sun, 20 Jan 2008, Klaus Graf wrote:

> Is there any empirical proof for this default hypothesis? There is
> only empirical evidence for the contrary. It's purely nonsense to
> state a "default hypothesis" if empirical facts should be given.

I am afraid, Klaus, that you have not understood what is meant by the
default or null hypothesis: To demonstrate [proof is possible only
in mathematics] that the null hypothesis is false you need to provide
compelling evidence to the contrary. The null hypothesis is that vitamin
C does not cure cancer. The evidential burden is on those who think it
does, to provide compelling evidence that it does, not on those who think
it doesn't, to provide evidence that it doesn't. (Most things do not cure
cancer, by default. No one has to give evidence that vitamin C does *not*
cure cancer.) The occasional report that some people who were diagnosed
with cancer took vitamin C and are still alive is not compelling evidence.
The jury is still out on vitamin C. It has been out for a long time.

(Apologies for the shrillness of the example. I did not want to use
miracles or telekinesis, because that would be too exacting and dismissive.
I just wanted to give an illustration of the evidential burden on the
null hypothesis with a case where -- some believe -- closure has not yet
been reached. Another example would be the legal presumption of
innocence until compellingly "proved" guilty: There is no burden to
"prove" innocence: it is the default hypothesis.)

As with vitamin C, it is not sufficient to cite self-selected positive
evidence; it is necessary to do systematic controlled comparisons,
on sufficiently large and representative samples: N books, selected
at random, half made freely accessible online, half not, and then a
comparison of their sales for several years...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Jan 20 2008 - 03:28:54 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:11 GMT