Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Evidence! Evidence? Bob Isn't Familiar With the Term!

Evidence, evidence, evidence.  Bob is always claiming that he gives you the evidence.   But when you scratch the surface of Bob's "evidence," you'll discover that Bob is polishing turds.

Let's begin by asking a seemingly simple question:  What is evidence?

One standard definition is rather broad: Evidence is that which is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion.

But how can you be sure of the connection between your evidence and your assertion?

As it turns out, justifiable connections between your claim and your evidence is a matter of considerable debate.  One line of thought argues that one's views should be guided by the evidence, with the evidence examined objectively, not through the distorting lens of dogma, prejudice or bias.  This view believes that evidence is a neutral arbiter, collected prior to the theory, with its accumulation leading to a consensus.

As you have probably guessed, this is the is the scientific method.  For a consensus to considered scientific, you collect evidence through observation and testing.  The evidence is compiled and presented objectively, accumulating into a specific explanation of a particular phenomenon.      

With that in mind, listen to Bob's claim about miracles:

Thus, Bob is claiming that prayer has made tumors disappear.  Bob believes that prayer can have a tangible effect on the sick, healing them of devastating diseases.  This is very important, because Bob gives us an observation that can be tested.  Once we start the objective testing, data about Bob's claim can be compiled.  And the data provides us with a conclusion about Bob's claim concerning the effectiveness of intercessory prayer: Intercessory prayer is a big ol' turd.

A few years back, the Templeton Foundation dropped 2.5 million pounds to determine if intercessory prayer is worth anything.  As it turns out, [t]he study found no appreciable difference between the health of those who did not know they were being prayed for and those who received no prayers.  In fact, 59 per cent of those who knew they were prayed for went on to develop complications.  If anything can be gleaned from this study, its that you shouldn't pray for the sick because you might make them sicker!     

So how can Bob make this wild-eyed claim that prayers have healed tumors?  Obviously, he's not resting his claim on a scientific study.  Essentially, Bob's evidence between prayer and healing is "someone somewhere is claiming something I believe in and you should too."

But when you hear Bob make silly-assed claims like this, ask five important questions:  Who?  What?  Where?  When?  How?

Who is the doctor that Bob talked to?

What is the evidence that the doctor is using to make the claim?

Where and when did this miracle occur?

How do we know that the person with the tumor isn't also receiving effective medical care?

If Bob is pushed into a corner and forced to answer any of these questions, you discover what every rational person knows:  Bob's evidence is shit, polished with a glossy coat of God's Varnish! 

Do yourself a favor:  Stop buying what Bob is selling.  His products are forged with Grade A feces, suitable only for flushing.
If you're interested, here's some further reading on the philosophical problem of evidence.


Pat said...

It’s true that Bob doesn’t understand the term evidence, but, to be fair, there are lots and lots of terms Bob doesn’t understand. Among these, it seems, is also the term documented, which he uses to describe cases in which a miraculous recovery is said to have taken place. At best, these are reported cases, not documented ones. The difference, of course, is that a documented case provides evidence that there was some problem/pathology, that some therapy was administered, and that the result was different from what it would have been if the therapy under investigation hadn’t been administered. So, as in the example you provide, there’s a control group employed to see what would be expected if the therapy under investigation hadn't been used, as well as careful measurements of initial conditions and changes. Reported cases, in contrast, merely record that someone said something, even if there’s no sane person who would believe it. Hence, we have to have documented cases of proposed drugs helping patients in clinical trials in order to them to be approved for sale, whereas we hear of reported sightings of Elvis without thinking there may be something to them.
The difference between reported sightings of Elvis, reported alien abductions, or any of the many other things most of us easily dismiss is that where our own mortality or that of someone we care about is involved, the wish that something could be done is a powerful force, and many people believe that reality can be forestalled, as a way of coping. This applies to religious belief in general, as has been mentioned in several postings.
Given this, some might ask, What’s the harm? Let Bob and his ilk continue promulgating this idiocy for the sake of those overcome with fear or grief. The harm comes in at least two ways. First, as in Bob’s own case, it prevents those experiencing the grief or fear deal with their feelings in constructive way, instead locking them into superstitions to continuously avoid both the initial pain, as well as the subsequent pain of the realization that an opportunity to deal honestly with matters has been lost. So, if someone has died and the end of his life was treated as if it was nothing but a transition into some other life, coming to grips with reality not only requires going through the primary grief, but also coming to grips with having lost the opportunity to talk with the person and deal with him as if, in fact, this was the end. Second, because of the political agenda Bob and his ilk spare no effort in imposing on everyone, this dysfunctional avoidance of reality keeps real care from reaching real people who have real troubles. It’s this second problem that’s especially unforgivable with respect to the right-wing extremists and their allies, the religious basket cases.

Irl Hudnutt said...


Excellent points. Personally, I believe that euthanasia should be a medical option in some instances. But when half-wits like Bob insist, for example, that a hopelessly brain damaged woman can be cured if we just pray hard enough, then he is interfering in the suffering of others. He's not offering a solution or a cure, he's just interfering.

Having observed friends in difficult medical situations, I know that promoting false hope is a loathsome act.

Thanks for contributing!