Is it ok to dismiss claims like "If you research it, you will see that X is true" or "If you read this you will see that X is true" or "If you wanted to learn you would read this material and agree with X" based on the fact that I may not have enough time to go trough long arguments and research?

It is not the case that I cannot verify the claim, since I could read the material or do the research, but peole could make this type of claim to try to win arguments. So how do I address claims that are just too hard to verify?

  • 1
    In what context? You're asking if something is OK, but according to what standards?
    – user2953
    Feb 8 '16 at 8:24
  • In the context of an argument. Feb 8 '16 at 8:24

Do you want to be right? Or do you want to live a productive life?

Validating every proof that comes across your table would quickly chain you down, verifying everything. Clearly there are points where we have to make judgement calls as to what to do with the proofs we don't have time to research.

Do all arguments have to be accepted hook like and sinker? Perhaps there is something between "total hearsay" and "formally proven" which has some elements of both. If you can find one that works for you, you can attribute some level of confidence in an argument and work with it. Baysean inference is one which I have found useful, but I recommend you find what works best for you.

If you're in the middle of an argument, and your opponent needs you to fully accept their claim on faith in order to continue, then the onus is on them to convince you that the argument can continue.

The other approach, which I find highly productive, is to try to steer the argument in such a way that the veracity of the final result is no longer dependent on the claim being made. If I claim "blue is red," a highly tricky claim to make, but our eventual goal is to figure out what game to play tonight, you may be able to work around it so that we both agree that, regardless of whether blue is red, the game we'll choose is the same.

If they wont take the time to work with you so you can understand the research behind their claim, and you can't nullify its importance towards the final result, then you're in a region of argument that is quite complex. There's myriad ways to go forward, at least one for every pair of people on the planet who disagree about something (which is quite a few!). However, I have found that, if you break up the problem enough, it often will fall into one of those two categories, and the problem can be solved accordingly.


If an author makes a claim in the context of an academic paper he has two possibilities:

  • Either he himself proves the claim or argues for its truth
  • or he refers to another paper which contains the proof or the arguments.

Comments like "it can be easily shown" should be the exception.

On the opposite, it is the task of the reader to follow the proof or the arguments of the author by careful study. But he is not obliged to develop a proof of his own.

The situation is a bit different in the case of an academic textbook. Sometimes the author does not fill in all details of a proof. Instead he urges the reader to complete the proof as an exercise. But the claims in a textbook do not refer to new results. In general their proofs can be found in other textbooks.

  • When I was writing proofs as a math undergrad, and there was something that I wasn't sure how to prove it, I'd sometimes prepend "It can easily be shown...". Feb 9 '16 at 18:46
  • @James Kingsbery I know, you were not the only person ...
    – Jo Wehler
    Feb 9 '16 at 19:22

One thing you could look for is if person is using 'logical fallacies' which would be a good indication that he ether does not know what he is talking about, or is deceiving you on purpose. Logical fallacies are known methods to make argument seem logical, when it does not necessarily is (sometimes it can be). You can find a list of logical fallacies here.

In regards to research validation you might simply ask a question on Skeptics.SE

Hope this helps.

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