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When a question is posted in the form of:

Is statement X true about a person Y?

... and the context of the question is "if it's true, it reflects negatively on person Y" (or more generically, person X has an incentive to deny the claim for whatever reason).

In such a case, is an answer which is wholly or predominately based on the person X themselves denying the claim (with zero corroborated evidence presented by that person) rising to a sufficient standard of proof to conclude that the claim is false/hoax?

  • FYI: this post was triggered by a recent post but there are much older examples. – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 20:27
  • @Sklivvz - good point. Frankly, based on your comment to that question, I'd rather have THAT question closed as a dupe of this, since I absolutely hate your answer there (you didn't answer what I asked) yet it was really my fault due to not phrasing correctly (I want to know if that level of evidence is enough for a specific concluion, NOT whether it's OK to introduce that evidence as "valid") – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 20:42
  • Specifically in a recent example, something was declared officially in a summary as a "Hoax" (and my attempts to edit the summary to not be so definitive declared "hostile edit") based primarily on the person denying the claim with no evidence presented by that person. – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 20:43
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It really depends. Certainly it is biased evidence, but it is evidence. What is it contrasted against?

I mean: if there is no evidence that a statement is correct, the statement is extraordinary and there's only a biased claim disproving it, it seems normal to accept the biased evidence.

For example: people claim that they have been abducted by aliens, but have no convincing proof of it. Such claims have been investigated by the government and found unsubstantiated. The original claimants complain of government bias. I'd say that the government statements do have a value here.

Another example: people claim that a Sheikh has said something outrageous, but have no convincing proof of it. Such claims are denied by the Sheikh. I'd equally say that the Sheikh is innocent until proven guilty.

Clearly, it is thin evidence, but it's still better than no evidence. It seems to me a case of "extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence". Or any evidence :-)

On the other hand, calling it a "hoax" requires further proof. There are many reasons why people would claim to be abducted by aliens. Normally, they are not creating a hoax, but maybe suffer from psychological conditions.

  • Your alien example doesn't fit my question - there's no obvious biased reason for a government to lie about existence of aliens (yes, there may be unobvious reasons. But that's subjective and disputable). I was going more or "government denied that CIA killed JFK" - and for that matter, we HAVE had answer which were heavily based on discounting govrnment's denials (e.g. drug running in central America) – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 21:07
  • In case of a Sheik, would you mind (as usual I'll pester you for prescriptive answer :) provide suggested wording of a conclusion that is warranted? E.g. "no proof it isn't a hoax?" else? – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 21:09
  • Further note: this is subjective, but IMHO someone issuing a fatwa that 10 year old girls can marry, does NOT rise to the level of "extraordinary" claim to have issued a fatwa that in case of danger to a husband's life from hunger he is allowed to eat a wife (it only SEEMS extraordinary to you due to your views of gender parity. For that matter, I recall reports of valid fatwas that women were supposed to walk into minefield in front of men in Afghanistan, which is philosophically similar). – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 21:11
  • @DVK sure, and I'd require strong evidence before I believe those as well. The difference is that it's likely easy to find it, if they are true. For the current case I'd simply present the evidence and say "there's no reason to believe that it ever happened". – Sklivvz Apr 9 '15 at 21:13
  • thanks! I'm stealing that phrase for my edit! Precise and non-overreaching. – user5341 Apr 9 '15 at 21:14

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