[Sca-cooks] Questions on coffee

Celia des Archier CeliadesArchier at cox.net
Sat Jan 30 19:16:32 PST 2010

Bear said: 
> The first known appearance of the tale of Kaldi is in De 
> Saluberrima potione Cahue nuncupata Discurscus (1671) and, to 
> my knowledge, does not have an Islamic source.  

Emphasis by snipage mine: 
> This suggests 
> that the tale is a fabrication, a fantasy, of the author, 
> Antoine Faustus Nairon.  The story is definitely considered 
> apochryphal.

> The problem with the story of Kaldi is that the observations 
> and the conclusions are inseperable, the argument is the 
> thing and its source is questionable making the observations 
> (goats eating coffe berries and
> dancing) unreliable.
> Since the coffee addicts I know don't 
> react like Kaldi is alleged to have reacted to the coffee 
> berries,

Again... Emphasis mine: 
> I have further reason to doubt the veracity of the 
> observations.  
> My opinion is the story is bogus.  Maybe 
> we can get Mythbusters to test it.

{Just as an aside... Mythbusters might be able to test whether or not goats
who ate (modern day) coffee beans got hoped up and danced around, but the
results would nto be scientifically conclusive for several reasons, but
primarily because it is impossible to "reproduce" an experiment which is not
properly documented, therefore you can't scientifically refute results which
weren't quantifiably measured.  Even if we assumed that the story was true,
we'd have no way to scientifically conclude that today's goats (what breed)
responded to today's coffee beans (what species, in what volume) the same way
that the goats sited in the "legend did") 

That said... I agree with everything you've said above, but none of what you
said is the same thing as what Urtatim said, "That whole dancing goats and
their goat boy herder story is complete fantasy..."  Everything that you've
said, which is properly qualified and stated, is logically supportable.  Your
first statement is that there's no contemporary source to support that the
legand occurred, and that *this suggests* that the story is a fantasy.  Your
next statement is easily verifiable fact... even accepting just that internet
sources as all valid, any of them which are in any way reliable concur that
the story is "considered apochryphal." and your final statement, that being
unable to test the observations is valid reason to consider the story
doubtful, all are very logical, and are a very rationalist perspective. 

But they are all very different from saying that the story is (definitively
speaking) untrue or fabricated, or from saying that if we can't reproduce it
today then it is impossible. 

Which is the crux of my point about keeping your minds open, while at the same
time not ignoring data. 

> The other side of the coin is losing perspective and closing 
> off avenues of research by producing theories that do not 
> take into account all facts in evidence or creating theories 
> without enough research to make a circumstantial case for 
> their validity.

I certainly agree that the other side of the coin is problematic as well,
although I don't see it as "closing off avenues of research"... Often a flawed
theory can lead to discoveries of its own by looking at data in an
unconventional way, but I can easily agree that clinging to theories which do
not reasonably evaluate existing evidence can create bad science, bad
research, and bad scholorship.  However I see a lot more problem with
scientists, academics and researchers who are unwilling to understand that "I
can't observe it" or "I can't quantify it" or "I can't reproduce it" is not
the same thing as "it doesn't exist" or "it's not true"... Who don't
comprehend that a negative is not proof, and who therefore have trouble
keeping a mind open enough to permit them to embrace the potential for later
discoveries.  Such thinking is not, IMNSHO, scientific thinking... It's the
same kind of limiting thinking that flat earthers have. 

I'm not asking that people *believe* or *accept* theories that are not
supported by fact.  I'm asking them to recognize that not having a proof for
something is not the same thing as *disproving* it.  Understanding this
improves your scholarship, it does not damage it. 

> I have a similar beef with inadequately supported flights of fantasy 
> masquerading as fact.

Agreed... And I'm not asking now, nor would I ever ask you to accept
"inadequately supported" (to replace your semantically loaded language with
less semantically loaded language) to support weak theories. I'm simply asking
us to recognize that assuming something is untrue simply because we can't
prove it to do is just as much a logical fallacy (known as an "appeal to
ignorance") as the flip side of the coin, assuming something must be true
because it cannot be proven untrue.  In both of those situations the better
approach, academically speaking, is to weigh in on whichever side that you
believe is best supported by the data but to *reserve judgment* to some
extent, and to remain open to new data and new interpretations of the existing
data.   And that's the side that you've taken.  I'm not arguing for weak
research... I'm simply arguing for being a little less absolute.

In Service, 

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