Well, I can’t help but notice you didn’t address my question, but now you’re asking me to respond to yours. I’ll come to what I think is the reason for that, in a moment.

You say, “we have no ability to determine the probability of truth, only falsity.” That strikes me as semantic, since “falsity” is meaningless if it’s not opposed to truth. So if you want to say we know only that “The universe is six thousand years old” is more like false than “The universe is billions of years old,” as a linguistic matter that’s going to entail that the one statement is more likely true than the other.

But you think the null hypothesis stands in the way of that. The null hypothesis is that there’s no pattern to detect or relationship between the things being observed. And you’re saying that for all we know, the null hypothesis is always correct. Or you’re asking why we can’t accept the null hypothesis during hypothesis testing.

Of course in some cases we should accept the null hypothesis, when the evidence is insufficient to warrant the alternative judgment that a pattern’s been detected. But one reason to doubt universal skepticism, that we never confirm the probability of any positive generalization, is pragmatic and perhaps also ethical. The skeptic who says we haven’t confirmed any degree of probability of causal relationships in nature is likely going to behave as though she believed otherwise. Life is impossible without assuming there are some causal relationships in the world. To avoid hypocrisy, then, the skeptic should embrace a pragmatic account of inductive knowledge.

And that’s why I suspect you’re having trouble answering my question directly, as to whether we’ve confirmed the higher probability of saying that the universe is billions of years old or that I can’t fly by flapping my arms. You don’t want to exhibit the hypocrisy that feeds into my pragmatic defense of science.

Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your view of science, but that’s what I make of it so far.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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