What exactly is evidence?
I’ve touched on evidence before but I had not actually dealt with ‘what it is’. I also explored what ‘facts’ were. None of the following means to diminish the value of tangible evidence. In other posts I would have shown what people do with hard evidence when they do get it shoved in their faces. This post is about what they do, when hard evidence is unavailable. I shan’t be dealing with dictionary definitions of evidence, or legal academia.
Evidence is one of those words that rolls off the tongue. Yuh know – “There is no evidence for such a claim.” Recently, I’ve been watching the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. I made various statements about 12 weeks ago that ‘the second wave’ had started but was not seen or recognised by many – especially our leaders. The commonest responses were of the ‘no evidence’ type. One person asked “Are you Messianic”. I responded, “No. I’m greased lightening!” 🤣😂 There was a particularly large set of respondents on the particular thread yesterday. What they couldn’t argue against was that, I had actually said what I said 12 weeks ago – because they had ‘no evidence’ of what I had said. But I did, in the form of screenshots (which I did/could not share because it wasn’t allowed – don’t ask. It’s a crazy online forum, where loads of folk in the public domain attend.)
To one person I responded, “Do you have a liver? Have you seen or touched it? You have no hard evidence that you have a liver, spleen or kidneys. You have inferences about the existence of those organs – – no hard facts. Ooops – I apologise for being irrelevant.” No response came which of course means I am right. Yeah – I know 2000 alternative explanations too. But all this is what got me thinking deeper about ‘evidence’.
I mean, I know I have a liver, spleen and more than one kidney though I’ve never seen or touched any one of those organs in my body. I know I have eyes, earlobes, nose, skin (among other ‘bits’ LOL) because I have seen and touched those. So I have evidence for some of my organs/body parts. So – how do I come to believe in the absence of any tangible evidence that I have liver, spleen and kidneys? As I said to the chap above, I have inferences – or I may have other indirect evidence. But this is the point: people take indirect circumstantial evidence and inferences to mean ‘evidence’.
Inferences are what have been deduced by reasoning. It is nothing one holds in the hands, or ‘sees’, or that the world can see. So inferences cannot be evidence.
I can easily deduce from circumstantial evidence of others that for the vast majority of humans, life is not possible without those organs functioning properly. (Minor exceptions excluded of course). But the deduction would be probabilistic i.e. it is possible for a person to be artificially sustained without those organs, to be alive for a while. Those would be minor exceptions to the big picture. This means that evidence is what is available to the observations of a vast majority of people. They can’t see my liver, spleen or kidneys – nor can I – but they can see some of my common body parts on socially acceptable display. Not unexpectedly I can assert the existence of all the observable and non-observable organs. I wouldn’t be challenged about lack of evidence for my non-observable organs. [So, my seemingly weird challenge to the forum person was just to get a point home].
What’s the point? Quite simply not everything that is asserted need be subject to the availability for inspection, as hard evidence. Therefore the common poo-poohing of arguments with ‘no evidence’ statements, shows underdevelopment of thinking processes i.e. cognitive immaturity.
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