On BioScience and Life and Such

Nothing is ever absolutely negative

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

Homer Simpson exclaiming the famous quote
Image via Wikipedia

On a late Friday afternoon

Quality control department:  “You missed the last two samples in this dilutions series”.

Me:  “Yeah, that’s kind of why we use dilution series – to find our detection limit”.

Quality control department: “But, even though very diluted, those two samples were positives. That means this was an error and needs an error-report”.

Me: “Well no, we define a limit where we can be 99,99% certain that we can reproduce a positive result, these dilutions will be well below that limit”.

Quality control department: “But, that means that you can newer be 100% sure of a negative answer”.

Me: “That’s correct, although the concept you are touching upon (the lack of absolute negation/negativity) is valid for any test and consequently, of a philosophical nature”.

Quality control department: “Then we can never give out a negative answer, at least not without saying that there’s a chance it may be positive after all”.

Me: in silence “¤%%”&&¤…doh” and out loud “”Would that be wise ?”.

Quality control department: “We believe so !!”.

Please notice the use of the word “believe”.

So there you go, hit in the face by the same arguments that created the vaccine-autism wars, the ID vs. natural evolution discussion, the religion meets atheism quarrel……..you cannot prove the absence of something, ergo – it must be there. The mother of all fallacies, but impossible to scientifically refute.

I’ll keep trying though.

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