Tag Archives: evidence

The Absence of Evidence

Chris Wallace, of Fox News, interviewed Senator Kennedy of Louisiana during his Sunday morning talk show. Wallace was very specific. He pointed out that the entire Intelligence apparatus of the US government concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. And Ukraine did  not.

He pointed out that any Ukrainian interference claims had been debunked. He was clear.

Kennedy responded that he did not know. He said it COULD have been Ukrainians, but no one knows. Could have been.

When Wallace pointed out that there was NO EVIDENCE to support that claim, Kennedy responded (trying to be clever, I think), the the “absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”. Just because there is no evidence a crime has been committed does  not mean a crime has NOT been committed. Just because there is no evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election does not mean Ukraine did NOT interfere in the 2016 election.

Now, it is hard. No, It take that back. It is IMPOSSIBLE to argue with that line of reasoning. What isn’t there isn’t there but that doesn’t mean it might not  be there.

Senator Kennedy got me thinking. Always a dangerous situation. So, let’s take a look back at other moments in history and revisit them.

The Holocaust. No one, well, there are a few, claims the Holocaust did not occur. But did it? Some people say it didn’t. And even  if it did occur, who was behind it? There is evidence that the Nazis and other Germans were responsible. But could it have been someone else?

In the 1930s there was a tribe in Kenya called the “Kikuyu”. Never did the Kikuyu issue a statement of support for Jews. NEVER. We know that in later years the Kikuyu rose up and fought the British who had colonized Kenya. It was called the “Mau Mau” uprising. Is it possible that the Kikuyu were anti-Semitic? There is no evidence contradicting that idea. So, it is POSSIBLE that the Kikuyu, not the Nazis, were actually responsible for the death camps. They hated whites. Jews are white. The Kikuyu were violent. The camps were violent. The “absence of evidence ” should not stop us from pointing out the obvious: The Kikuyu COULD have run the death camps.

The US Civil War. From 1861-1865 the US was engaged in a great civil war. No one denies that fact. But who was really responsible and why was it fought? There are a few ideas and some that have supporting evidence. Was it to protect the institution of slavery? Evidence for that. Was it to break up the union? Evidence of that. Was it to maintain states rights? Evidence of that.

However, is there something else at play? Perhaps. Keep in mind, I have NO EVIDENCE that the following happened. Nevertheless. Follow me.

Baseball was just becoming popular in the 1860s. A few teams were starting up, playing teams from other towns. But how could baseball grow into a national past time? The baseball team owners needed a war. This would divide the nation and make people more loyal to their own towns, hence their own teams. (Even today, some misguided fools support the Detroit Tigers!)

So, the team owners got together and hired some southerners to attack Fort Sumter.  They hired Jeff Davis, Robert E Lee, Jeb Stuart and others to go to war with the north. It is POSSIBLE that even A. Lincoln was in on the plot. I have NO EVIDENCE but it is said by some that he owned the rights to the Chicago White Sox. WHITE !!! Racism!!!

So, was Abe Lincoln the person who started the Civil War for his own personal profit? I have NO EVIDENCE of this. But Like Senator Kennedy said: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The DNC Ukraine Connection in 2016. Now we get to the juicy one. What was the connection between the Ukrainian government and the DNC server hack. The US intelligence services have investigated and found NO EVIDENCE. So what?

According to GOP sources, here is what happened. The DNC paid Cloudstrike to hack the DNC computers. So , they paid to have themselves hacked. Now , a reasonable person may ask why they would do that? Easy.

The DNC had their own computers hacked and damaging emails released by Wikileaks because they wanted to undermine the Trump campaign. The DNC wanted Trump to be elected so they could then IMPEACH him ! A clever ploy.

To hide their plot the DNC shipped their server to the Ukraine. And kept it hidden. You may ask why they just didn’t dump it into the Atlantic Ocean. Silly people. If they dumped it there would be NO EVIDENCE that they hacked themselves. By hacking themselves and blaming it on Putin they could then undermine the Trump administration. Simple.  Of course, there is no evidence of this, but recall.

The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Which leads me to my final example. Or fact. Or whatever.

Is Senator Kennedy a child molester? I want to be very clear about this. I am not accusing Senator Kennedy of being a child molester. There is NO EVIDENCE that he is a child molester. No one, to my knowledge has ever accused him of being a child molester.

Kennedy is a male. An old white male. We know that some old white males are child molesters. That is indisputable. Also, Kennedy would undoubtedly DENY he is a child molester. But isn’t that EXACTLY what a child molester would do? Do I have EVIDENCE? No, but then has the FBI ever investigated him for child molestation? I don’t know. Perhaps the entire Fox interview given by Kennedy was designed to throw the FBI off the trail. To hide his crimes. Who knows? Could be.

Remember that Kennedy himself has said: “Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence“. Right?

 

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Fake Bias

It’s the next thing. The next attempt to confuse, confound and discombobulate the American voter. It is what I call “Fake Bias”.

It goes like this.

All news is biased. Everyone is biased. Everything is biased. So, you cannot believe anything. Anywhere. Ever. It’s all just someone’s opinion. One source is just as good as another source.

Like the wife who is caught in “flagrante delicto ” with the neighbor in bed. Her husband walks  in. The evidence (so to speak)is staring him in the face. He accuses her of infidelity. The neighbor is right there beside her. “There is no one here,” she says. “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

When I taught school I noticed that in the last 15 years or so a new attitude had developed about “experts”. During discussions some students often fell back on the attitude that all opinions are equal. All hold equal weight. “It’s just an opinion”.

According to the Oxford dictionary definition: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

So, to some extent the kids were correct. Everyone’s opinion may be based on , well, just nothing at all.

But some opinions are based on more than thin air or preconceived notions. Some opinions are based on evidence, data and experience. The danger occurs when ALL opinions are lumped together as equally valid. They are not.

Over the last 30 years, intensifying recently, is the attitude that there is something negative about “expertise”. Experts are know-it-alls. They think they are smarter than other people. Obama thought he was the smartest guy in the room. (He usually was). Experts are smartypants and should be put in their place. Aha! The so-called experts were wrong.

This is a sea change from when I was growing up. Back in the 1950s and 1960s we were encouraged to go to school. To become educated. To become an expert in some field.That was the road to respect. The idea that you SHOULD be an educated person with a degree of expertise was encouraged. And respected.

When my students would take the position that “all opinions” are equally valid I would give them some examples to think about.

You feel a pain in your side. You ask your grandmother’s opinion. You ask the opinion of the bagboy at the grocery store. You pay for your gas and ask the gas station attendant what he thinks is wrong. You ask your family doctor  They all have opinions.Do you think all those opinions are equally valid? Do you follow the advice of grandma and eat some chicken soup or do you follow the advice of your doctor and get an X-ray?

Some people have opinions based on evidence and facts. Shall we take a survey of passengers on JetBlue and ask the best way to land the plane? Or should we defer to the pilot in this area? And while this pilot may be a genius in how to fly a plane, he may know nothing about growing corn. Expertise is limited. And specific.

Which brings me back to “Fake Bias”.

There is an attempt by the far right wing to destroy the very idea that news can be “unbiased”. That facts exist. It goes beyond claiming that certain networks have editorial policies that are biased. They do. MSNBC has been anti-Trump and Fox News has been pro-Trump. The bias is clear.

But that does not mean that both sides don’t use facts, even if selectively. And it does not change the fact that news can be factual. The idea that all news is biased is the argument of those who do not want honest, evidence based reporting. Because they cannot justify gun violence, for example, they call reporting of gun violence “biased”. They cannot justify putting children in cages, so they claim that other presidents put children in cages. Bias. Fake.

The end game of the attacks on “lugenpresse” (covered in another post linked below) is to deny the existence of objective reality. If everything is biased then nothing can be believed. A most dangerous attitude. Putin must be as happy a pig in doo-doo. He is getting exactly what he paid for. Fake bias.

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/lugenpresse-testing-the-waters/

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Trump’s Moonies

When  I was in college from 1968-72 there was a guy I knew who was incredibly smart. Probably the most intelligent person I ever met, aside, of course, from yours truly. I forgot his name so let’s call  him Rex.

Rex had a scientific, analytical mind. A good sense of humor. An all around swell fellow.  He liked to talk and debate and discuss. Issues. Not the latest American idol.  (Thank god we had no  American idols back then). No,  he liked to discuss politics and history and philosophy.And he was always open to see things in a new way. If you could show him some evidence.

Then, something changed. One day he showed up with his head shaven.  And in robes. He has joined the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. He was a “Moonie”. He walked around and collected money from people. Like most churches. And like most churches,  the bulk of the money collected found a route to the top. No trickle down economics in this group.

But Rex was no longer Rex. He could not articulate any views other than the approved teachings of the Great Reverend, the second coming of Christ.He could spout the exact dogmas and doctrines of his church, but could not defend any of them using logic or evidence.  He never even tried. It was not necessary. He had found a coherent system of beliefs and no external evidence that challenged that system was going to be heard. He never argued.  He never explained. He simply told us the truth. And asked for money.

Which brings me to Trump’s Moonies.

They have a leader who can do no wrong. Even though factchecks show him to be wrong 65% of the time, it matters not.  The Trump Moonies have closed ears and closed minds. If he says there was a terror attack in Sweden, it must be true. If he says  his inauguration attendance was the greatest ever, any photographic evidence to the contrary is ignored. If he says that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering the downfall of the WTC on 9/11. Then it happened.   If he says the borders are porous, even though under President Obama the USA deported more people than ever before, then the borders are porous. The facts are not important. He is correct. That is all a Moonie needs to know.

The Trump Moonies are blind to any evidence or facts that contradict their leader. They do not argue. They do not demonstrate with evidence. They select a false reality. They create an alternate set of “facts”. They are beyond evidence. Facts are a fungible commodity. Facts do not exist as a thing apart. Facts, in fact, do not exist at all. All news is “fake news”.  Any story that does not fit the religion is a lie. Period. The earth IS flat.

That is why it is a fool’s errand to wait for Trump’s Moonies to “come around”. It is inconceivable that they will abandon their religious dogma in the face of facts or evidence. No matter how badly Trump performs or how he lies or makes a mess of the nation, the Moonies will be blind.

Like my friend Rex they simply will not look. They choose willful ignorance and blind obedience. They have a religion which provides for them a clear vision of the world. Blacks are thugs. Immigrants are rapists. Refugees are terrorists. Welfare is wrong. Abortion is murder. Liberals are evil. Taxes are bad. Climate change is an Al Gore plot. The list goes on. It cannot be debated. It cannot even be considered. There is only one true religion, and they have found it in Trumpism. There is only one savior.

So, don’t expect any changes or compromises. Don’t expect anything other than what you have seen. The magnificent delusion of Trumpism. Now, all join hands and repeat after me, five times a day, on your knees facing Trump Towers: There is no  god but Trump, and Bannon is the messenger of Trump.

 

(I have argued in the past that the Tea Party Republicans are not a political entity, but are in fact a fundamentalist religion. A post from 3 years ago: The Most Holy Church of the Republican Party  ).

 

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