Evidence and Suspicion

The debate about teleology and non-teleology eventually comes down to demands for evidence. Yet before rushing ahead to satisfy such demands, we should pause, step back, and contemplate the terrain.

Evidence is simply data that are interpreted in the light of previous experience and belief. More importantly, evidence comes in different flavors. For example, the type of evidence that might be used to guide a police investigation may not suffice as “evidence” in the context of a court room trial. In fact, an investigator is likely to look at the data differently from a defense lawyer. The investigator may initially rely on lower standards of evidence to follow up hunches and be sensitive to clues. The lawyer will insist on the highest possible standards to defend his client.

Even though evidence that merely sparks or supports a suspicion is insufficient to effect a satisfactory conclusion to a case, it is an essential starting point for any investigation. For instance, consider the mundane example of a woman who suspects her husband is cheating. She may not be able to prove he is cheating nor is she sure he is cheating. But she could probably tell you a few things that lead her to suspect he is cheating. Maybe he suddenly spends too much time at the office. Maybe someone has been calling the house and hanging up when she answers. And maybe one night he came home late and had the faint smell of perfume on his clothes. None of these reasons allow her to be certain he is cheating, and she realizes this. But her suspicions sensitize her such that she is more likely to recognize clues as clues. So she looks more closely and begins to find more, perhaps a phone number in his wallet. She calls the number and a woman answers the phone. While convinced her suspicions have been borne out, she might recognize her husband is likely to react with extreme skepticism when she confronts him. Perhaps she decides to strengthen her belief further, making it so probable that it will be difficult to deny. So she hires a private investigator to document the adultery with photographic evidence. Thus, the ambiguous data that lead to an initial suspicion ultimately results in a more rigorous attempt to confirm or dismiss those suspicions.

As we all know, the debate about intelligent design is highly polarized and ugly, where many on both sides have staked out extreme positions. According to the pro-ID side, ID is not only science, but also the best explanation for certain biotic phenomena. According to the anti-ID side, ID is without any evidence and nothing more than nonsense/wishful thinking.

To fit this to my analogy above, it’s like a wife who accuses her husband of cheating and the husband accusing the wife of being paranoid/delusional. To settle that emotionally charged dispute, the wife would need to have the photograph in her hand.

But some of us are pro-ID in the sense that we merely suspect there is something to it. For us, we have no photo, just behavior that is odd and other assorted clues. What we would like to do is to investigate, not accuse. Without a suspicion, there can be no investigation. To investigate, you need clues. And without an investigation, where is this stronger evidence needed to move beyond the realm of suspicion supposed to come from?

Thus, when those involved in the Culture Wars tell me that they have a photo of the adultery, I see only suspicious behavior and cannot go along. When the other side claims there is no evidence because there is no photo, I still see the suspicious behavior and cannot go along.

All I can do is simply keep my eye on the Rabbit and see where he goes.

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3 responses to “Evidence and Suspicion

  1. And even with the photograph it may not be true. Even with strong evidence there is a possibility that the event may not be as it seems.


    A reasonable probability is our only certainty.

  2. “What we would like to do is to investigate, not accuse. Without a suspicion, there can be no investigation. To investigate, you need clues. And without an investigation, where is this stronger evidence needed to move beyond the realm of suspicion supposed to come from?”

    So go ahead and investigate. The rest of us have been waiting for years for you to finally get up and do some research.

    Of course, you’ll have to get some kind of theory first, some kind of model as to how and when design occurred, how it was implemented. So far, we haven’t even seen a step in that direction or a plan for research.

  3. Hello Olorin,

    So go ahead and investigate. The rest of us have been waiting for years for you to finally get up and do some research.

    Who is “us?” How do you define ‘research?’

    Of course, you’ll have to get some kind of theory first, some kind of model as to how and when design occurred, how it was implemented. So far, we haven’t even seen a step in that direction or a plan for research.

    When you speak of theories, models, and mechanisms (how?), you seem to be saying that we must use science to investigate. Are you?

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