Evidence: What It Looks Like

Evidence: What It Looks Like May 20, 2013

I wanted to mention here that I’m going to be talking about evidence in a little while, so I thought it’d be useful to take a minute to consider just what evidence is–and isn’t.

Evidence doesn’t care what frame of mind someone’s in. Doesn’t matter if I’m angry, happy, sad, afraid, triumphant, nothing; the facts are not negated or enhanced by my state of mind.

Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Ob...
Updated scene of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing as Force Ghosts in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Pictured here: just a few of the people who don’t understand facts.

Evidence doesn’t change depending on what religion you follow. Obi-Wan was wrong, as much as it pains me to say. The truth is the truth from all points of view, not just from a certain point of view. Whether I’m Hindu, pagan, atheist, or Christian, water boils at the same temperature for all of us. Whether I believe a deity kick-started the universe or not, there’s irrefutable evidence that the Earth is the age established mainstream science (as opposed to fringe pseudo-science) says it is.

Evidence holds up under whatever discipline examines it. That means that descent with modification as a concept holds up great in disciplines as diverse as paleontology, genetics, and embryology. Evidence can be measured in a variety of ways and always comes out consistent, which means that using a dozen different types of measuring tools, we know how old the Earth is (hint: it’s seen a few more than 6000 birthdays).

Evidence starts with observations and ends with a theory that encompasses that evidence, rather than starting with a theory and shoe-horning whatever can be found into that theory. Facts aren’t ignored or warped or even flat-out lied about to make the theory sound plausible.

Can a claim stand without evidence? Well, sure, people can believe whatever nonsense they want, as far as I’m concerned. I’m certainly not going to change my life or condemn anybody based on claims that don’t have evidence backing them up, though. The more important or demanding a claim is, the more evidence it should have, or else what we’re really looking at is a stick being used to browbeat others into submission and agreement.

What I’m describing–the pursuit of evidence to establish a claim’s validity–takes bravery, especially in a culture that idolizes ignorance and holds stubbornness to be a higher virtue than adapability. It can be scary to examine evidence. Well, at first it isn’t. It sure wasn’t for me. I was absolutely positive I was only going to find evidence for Jesus when I delved into ancient history. How wide-eyed and innocent I must have seemed! But very quickly I realized where that rabbit hole was leading me. Yeah, that got scary.

A scary journey is much easier if you have friends along. I invite you to journey with me and see where I landed and what I’m learning even today.

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