We have all heard the adage, “Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Evidence.” Have you asked yourself, “what does that even mean?” Chances are, when you’ve heard it, or even used it, it has been in relation to a topic that you already feel confident is all but impossible to prove anyway. But where did it come from, and why has it become the go-to gotcha phrase for calling someone’s bluff , especially in regarding to conspiracy theory and the paranormal or supernatural? Come to think of it, how do we know when it applies? What exactly makes a claim “extraordinary”?
To do this, I think we need to first understand the phrase itself. Where it comes from, and what it is actually saying. After that, we can explore other aspects of popular thinking which make this resonate so well with the general public.
Now, I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a long time. Exploring cases and beliefs often leads to the inevitable discussion board with the oft repeated phrases “prove it” and “that’s proven false”. I realized that I couldn’t simply pick a single example or event and boil it down to that. We needed to discuss the axiom itself. That “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is often taken as a conclusion to the discussion itself. As though it states a given truth about a claim, establishing it’s impossibility. At least impossibility in so far as the claimants ability to prove anything.
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