If you’re an educated, thinking person with an interest in the world you will I feel sure, be convinced that the Earth is around 4.5 billion years old. Because you are educated, you will have read about the age of the Earth and/or attended lectures by experts on the subject. No doubt the eminence of the speaker or author would have had some bearing upon the degree to which you were convinced, but it would not have been your sole criterion. You will have sought the opinions of other experts, you would have weighed one against the other to see how much agreement or contradiction was apparent, in short; you would have looked for evidence.
Evidence is the foundation upon which the legal systems of sane, free countries are based. Imagine a crazy place where convictions were handed down based purely upon eyewitness say-so; I certainly wouldn’t want to live there! We long ago learned that human beings can lie and are often mistaken; police forces know that eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable, especially when a complex series of events is involved. That is why evidence is far and away the most important part of any legal system, if the evidence is not beyond doubt, the accused will be acquitted. The key to all this, is that the burden of proof lies with the law, the accused is not obliged to prove innocence, the law must prove guilt.
Evidence controls the belief systems of rational beings, any person or so-called authority no matter who or how important, making a claim unsupported by compelling, solid evidence, will have that claim rejected by any thinking person.
It needs repeating; the onus of proof lies with those making the claim. That really means that any claim failing the evidence test is virtually worthless.
It’s worth noting that there’s a whole host of things that have no supporting evidence whatever, not even bad evidence! These follies and sundry doctrines obviously cannot be tested, they are logically therefore, worse than useless! The late Carl Sagan is his book ‘The Demon Haunted World’, makes this point beautifully in the chapter entitled, ‘The Dragon In My Garage’
“‘What’s the difference?” he asks, “Between an invisible, incorporeal dragon breathing flames that can’t be seen, and no dragon at all?”
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the importance of evidence seems to be lost on most people. The media bombards us with lies, misleading advertising and diversions designed to prevent us seeing the truth. Politicians actively encourage us not to think so they can convince us in the absence of evidence, that their policies are correct.
The Iraq invasion is a perfect example of action being taken because of a claim, a claim with almost no supporting evidence, the claim was WMD, which of course, did not exist. But there’s something wrong here; either Bush and Blair are two of the dumbest politicians who ever lived (entirely possible) or they really believed that Saddam had WMD. In the first case, they’re really stupid because they didn’t even have a cover-up plan standing by for when their feeble reason was shown to be false. In the second case, they’re almost as stupid because they must have fallen for a load of bullshit spun by their lackeys and failed to look for the all-important evidence. Of course all the thinking people knew the real reason behind the invasion and even although a majority of us on both sides of the Atlantic were against the war, they went ahead anyway. Another perfect example, this time of undemocratic democracy, the people didn’t want it but the people were ignored.
History has shown that acting without evidence can have dire consequences, the WMD farce has cost thousands of lives but it won’t matter, we won’t learn any lessons from it. Iran or North Korea will be next, the political con-men are probably working on the scam right now, soon we’ll hear the tale and most will be frightened enough to fall for it. I say this because of evidence, the evidence shows that belief in nonsensical falsehood is growing, Christian fundamentalism, Islamic militancy, the New Age crap; all are examples of daft things with no supporting evidence that frightened people with dull, crappy lives are prepared to swallow.
I hope you can forgive my pessimistic stance, but you have to admit; it’s justified.