The nature of evidence

#1
http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-final-word-on-evidence

In several posts last month Dr. Torley and I led a spirited discussion on the nature of “evidence.” See here, here, here and here. Those discussions revealed there is a lot of confusion about this topic. This is especially the case when it comes to the purpose of evidence. Many of our materialist friends seem to believe that unless evidence compels belief it does not count as evidence at all. Worse, they seem to believe that merely by advancing an alternative explanation for some proposition, they have caused all of the evidence for the explanation advanced by their opponents to magically turn into non-evidence. This is simply not the case.

Let’s go back to the dictionary. Evidence is “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”

The critical word there is “indicating.” To be evidence a fact need merely indicate that a proposition is true. It need not compel belief in the proposition. As I stated in one of my posts, a jury trial is a good example of this. In every jury trial both sides submit evidence to the jury. But in every jury trial only one side wins. Does that mean the losing side’s evidence was not evidence because the jury did not believe it? Of course not. Again, evidence “indicates.” It does not compel.
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A word of advice to our atheist interlocutors. You are entitled logically to say to a theist, “In my judgment your evidence is unpersuasive.” But you cannot logically say “I have defined your evidence as non-evidence merely because I found it unpersuasive.”
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Why am I belaboring this point? Because I hope our arguments with atheists on this site will be challenging and interesting. And responding to stupid arguments like “there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God” is tedious and boring.
 
#2
Skeptics on this board (and elsewhere) do lean heavily on this built up Skeptical rhetoric regarding what should be scientifically deemed evidential, and polemically pollute the waters with predictably absurd rationales in order to dismiss perfectly good scientific data. I think they do take advantage of this not so clear area within science - what constitutes good observable, empirical data.

So far, all my encounters at this website have produced nothing but Skeptical talking points that come right out of Rational-Wiki. Almost the same kind of critical thinking one would find from some bible thumper believer quoting from his faith in the King James bible to prove God existed. I have found extreme resistance to looking at some of the actual research in question (even to the point of dishonesty), and a condescending attitude to those of us who are far more versed in the scientific research involving psi or ndes.

The Skeptics on Wikipedia simply rely on the tried and true church methods of banning and ex-communicating anyone who disagrees with their materialistic creed. And have burned many people's Wikipedia biographies at the stake. When Dawkins talked about a brand of militant Skepticism that he wholeheartedly endorses - he isn't kidding about it one bit. Alex remarked in one of his more recent interviews that part of the reasons he believes the Neo-Skeptics/Atheists are so militant is because they are reactionary - to some of the irrationality of the other side of the coin: bible-thumping fundamentalism in religion. And I can see his point. But the irony here - is that the Dawkins/Harris/Dennett Wikipedia crowd have fallen into the same fundamentalism trap, and as far as I can tell, have left reason and common moral decency behind in their pursuit of their religious faith i.e. reductive materialism. They just think they are now the "Chosen People" like every other religious cult in human history has believed. The problem is when a religious cult becomes radicalized and is forced upon the rest of the populace ... When tolerance and reason is no longer practiced.

My Best,
Bertha
 
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#3
http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-final-word-on-evidence

Many of our materialist friends seem to believe that unless evidence compels belief it does not count as evidence at all. Worse, they seem to believe that merely by advancing an alternative explanation for some proposition, they have caused all of the evidence for the explanation advanced by their opponents to magically turn into non-evidence. This is simply not the case.
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They often try to rationalise that approach by "invoking" Occam's razor. Which is, of course, total bollox.

Regarding matters of PSI and such; one can of course use indications and evidence as guiding-tools for further investigations and experiments. It doesn't hurt anybody to have that stance and approach. But in cases of, lets say, physics and construction - there you better have hard cold proof of what you propose will work and function safely. I wouldn't want a "jury" to decide if we should build a bridge out of concrete or prayers, where they claim there is "evidence" that prayers will solve every problem, and that we should take a leap of faith when we drive of the cliff onto the "prayer-bridge" - (just figuratively speaking, to make a point - I dont mean that someone think we should build bridges out of prayers ;))

I know that Victor Zammit thinks PSI should be judged in a court of law, in front of a jury. And then, from their ruling, state that any given area of PSI is proved, and should be regarded as a fully understood part of science, just because a jury felt convinced. Pretty preposterous if you ask me.

I believe though, that there is enough collected evidence, indications, personal experience, and first-hand recollections, in the field PSI that warrants further investigations and hypothesis. But I would not risk my life, or put all my faith in, imagining that I know exactly what's going on, and state that I have final proof for my claim, in any area of PSI, just because I have indications and evidence.
 
#4
I can help translate what is meant by "no evidence".

Evidence is “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”

Table 4 in Why Most Published Research Findings Are False gives us an indication of what kinds of facts or information indicate whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

Some kinds of information, when indicative of the idea (e.g. a 'positive' exploratory research study) still only manage to be true or valid one time in a thousand. Other kinds of information, when indicative of the idea (e.g. well-designed, well-powered confirmatory studies), manage to be true or valid 17 times out of 20. And this is the source for the levels of evidence which form the basis or an evidence-based approach. As you move up the levels (from Level V to Level I), the kind of information which supports the idea begin to increase the likelihood that the idea is true or valid. "Bias" refers to the ability of different kinds of information to produce false results, so the risk of bias decreases as you move up the hierarchy.

https://www.essentialevidenceplus.com/product/ebm_loe.cfm?show=oxford
https://www.essentialevidenceplus.com/product/ebm_loe.cfm?show=grade
http://hiv.cochrane.org/sites/hiv.cochrane.org/files/uploads/Ch08_Bias.pdf
http://handbook.cochrane.org/chapte...a_for_judging_risk_of_bias_in_the_risk_of.htm

You will notice that the 'evidence' on which an idea is weighed is based on the highest level of evidence available (since that is your strongest indicator of whether the idea is true or valid). And you will notice that ideas for which there is no experimental support or which are based only on undocumented stories or case series, or expert opinion, don't even make the cut and are true or valid less than one time in a thousand.

So when someone says there is evidence for an idea, it usually indicates that there is a decent chance that the idea may be true or valid - something like one in ten or better (and we can be generous and say that it could be as low as 1in 100). And since even in the setting of some experimental support (where depending upon the kind of design, at best you are looking at 1 idea in 500 which is true or valid), it isn't sufficient to say that information which "indicates" an idea can be regarded as "evidence" for the idea. There has to be some probability threshold below which it becomes overtly silly to make that claim.

But you don't even have to agree on that last point. If we simply got into the habit of referring to probability categories, we wouldn't have to argue over "evidence".

"Ideas which are supported by undocumented stories tend to be true or valid less than 1 time in 1000" and "ideas which are supported by systematic reviews of well-designed randomized controlled trials tend to be true or valid 9 times out of 10" distinguishes between why God is regarded as make-believe and statins are regarded as safe in a way which doesn't make use of belief.

Linda
 
#5

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Why am I belaboring this point? Because I hope our arguments with atheists on this site will be challenging and interesting. And responding to stupid arguments like “there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God” is tedious and boring.
Yes. Many people, so many that I'd say it's become " colloquially ", treat the terms evidence and proof as being similar - even interchangeable.
 
#6
http://www.uncommondescent.com/reli...al-evidence-and-the-reasonableness-of-theism/

Simon Greenleaf, in the opening chapter of his treatise on evidence (where, such of course includes eyewitness testimony and record of same):

Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [--> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.
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Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.
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The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.
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The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.
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By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.
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The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]
 
#8
http://www.uncommondescent.com/reli...al-evidence-and-the-reasonableness-of-theism/

Simon Greenleaf, in the opening chapter of his treatise on evidence (where, such of course includes eyewitness testimony and record of same):

Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [--> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.
...
Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.
...
The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.
...
The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.
...
By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.
...
The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]
http://www.innocenceproject.org

And one wonders how long the courts would convict on the basis of eyewitness testimony without the presence of a victim or any independent corroboration that there was such a thing as a crime in the first place.

Linda
 
#9
http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte...s-based-on-personal-experience-and-testimony/

Everything You Believe Is Based on Personal Experience and Testimony

... everything one knows and or believes is gained either through (1) personal experience (and extrapolation thereof), or (2) testimony (and examination thereof), for the simple fact that if you did not experience X, the only information you can possibly have about X is from the testimony of others.

... when anyone says that testimony and personal experience are dismissible forms of evidence, they are obviously using (consciously or not) selective (and logically incoherent) hyperskepticism against an unwanted idea, because everything any of us believe or call ‘knowledge” is gained/extrapolated (hopefully using logic and logical arguments) via personal experience and/or information gained via testimony.


 
#10
...because everything any of us believe or call ‘knowledge” is gained/extrapolated (hopefully using logic and logical arguments) via personal experience and/or information gained via testimony...

We know from recent epigenetic studies that this isn't true... it's possible to for rodent offspring to inherit very specific memories from their father - (for example - a very specific smell) even if the father was killed before the offspring were conceived by IVF.

It therefore seems possible for children to have access to very specific memories which are not their own. In one case offspring recognized a very specific smell to which they had never been exposed.

Not sure whether it has anything to do with your argument, but it's worthwhile pointing out anyway.
 
#11
We know from recent epigenetic studies that this isn't true... it's possible to for rodent offspring to inherit very specific memories from their father - (for example - a very specific smell) even if the father was killed before the offspring were conceived by IVF.

It therefore seems possible for children to have access to very specific memories which are not their own. In one case offspring recognized a very specific smell to which they had never been exposed.

Not sure whether it has anything to do with your argument, but it's worthwhile pointing out anyway.
Is that really a memory or perhaps a genetic tendency to be repelled by a particular scent?
 
#12
Is that really a memory or perhaps a genetic tendency to be repelled by a particular scent?
A highly specific memory... In behavioural studies the fathers offspring now associate a very particular smell with fear. Controls do not. Offspring have never been previously exposed to the specific smell in question. They instantly recognise the smell and associate this smell with fear. Yet this memory is not their own.
 
#13
A highly specific memory... In behavioural studies the fathers offspring now associate a very particular smell with fear. Controls do not. Offspring have never been previously exposed to the specific smell in question. They instantly recognise the smell and associate this smell with fear. Yet this memory is not their own.
I suppose it depends what one means by memory.
 
#14
http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte...s-based-on-personal-experience-and-testimony/

Everything You Believe Is Based on Personal Experience and Testimony

... everything one knows and or believes is gained either through (1) personal experience (and extrapolation thereof), or (2) testimony (and examination thereof), for the simple fact that if you did not experience X, the only information you can possibly have about X is from the testimony of others.

... when anyone says that testimony and personal experience are dismissible forms of evidence, they are obviously using (consciously or not) selective (and logically incoherent) hyperskepticism against an unwanted idea, because everything any of us believe or call ‘knowledge” is gained/extrapolated (hopefully using logic and logical arguments) via personal experience and/or information gained via testimony.


Yes, exactly what I've been saying! Our mind is made up of previous inputs. There is then no need to rely on souls in immaterial realms to make decisions for us.
 
#16
Yes, exactly what I've been saying! Our mind is made up of previous inputs. There is then no need to rely on souls in immaterial realms to make decisions for us.
So how do you explain all the reincarnation evidence that strongly suggests that there were previous inputs prior to the formation of the brain?

Cheers,
Bill
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
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#18
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