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Author Topic:   Absence of Evidence
Tangle
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From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
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Message 1 of 39 (905394)
01-15-2023 12:51 PM


The phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" has always bugged me. We throw it around all the time but I'm not sure we're using it correctly.
If there is no evidence for something where there should be something if the something existed, then that is evidence that the thing does not exist.
In a science context wiki gives the example of drug research
"Evidence of absence and absence of evidence are similar but distinct concepts. This distinction is captured in the aphorism "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." [...] Despite what the expression may seem to imply, a lack of evidence can be informative. For example, when testing a new drug, if no harmful effects are observed then this suggests that the drug is safe.[3] This is because, if the drug were harmful, evidence of that fact can be expected to turn up during testing. The expectation of evidence makes its absence significant.[4]"
When it does apply is when we've not actually looked for the evidence or not looked properly, then it's simply an argument from ignorance.
The argument from ignorance for "absence of evidence" is not necessarily fallacious, for example, that a potentially life-saving new drug poses no long-term health risk unless proved otherwise. On the other hand, were such an argument to rely imprudently on the lack of research to promote its conclusion, it would be considered an informal fallacy whereas the former can be a persuasive way to shift the burden of proof in an argument or debate.[6]
Personally, I find the lack of evidence for an interventionist god where we should find such evidence - such as payer works, miracles happen, god changes the bread and wine into his body and blood at the eucharist, god loves me etc - actually is evidence founded on absence.
Evidence of absence - Wikipedia.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 3:15 AM Tangle has replied
 Message 6 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:17 AM Tangle has not replied
 Message 19 by Taq, posted 01-26-2023 11:14 AM Tangle has not replied
 Message 34 by Stile, posted 01-27-2023 12:24 PM Tangle has not replied

  
Adminnemooseus
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Message 2 of 39 (905396)
01-25-2023 8:14 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Absence of Evidence thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
There is someone around here to promote a topic, despite the lack of evidence of such.
Moose

  
PaulK
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Posts: 17783
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


(1)
Message 3 of 39 (905399)
01-26-2023 3:15 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tangle
01-15-2023 12:51 PM


So let me explain what I think it means. It is a complete absence of evidence, not an absence of some evidence we would expect to find, if the proposed entity was present.
Until relatively recently we lacked the technology to detect exoplanets. That was an absence of evidence, not evidence that exoplanets did not exist. Similarly the Oort Cloud is not - yet - observed, but that is not evidence that it does not exist. (Although Young Earth Creationists have claimed otherwise). Again, the reason is that observation is too difficult.
Or another from this forum. There is no official Roman record of the execution of Jesus. Since we do not have Roman execution records from Judaea covering that time, this is an absence of evidence that is not evidence of absence. The records - the evidence - are absent. If we had a complete set of those records - but the record for Jesus was missing - it would not be an absence of evidence. In that case - where we would have a strong expectation of finding the record - it would be evidence of absence.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Tangle, posted 01-15-2023 12:51 PM Tangle has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Tangle, posted 01-26-2023 4:04 AM PaulK has replied

  
Tangle
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Posts: 9456
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 5.7


(2)
Message 4 of 39 (905400)
01-26-2023 4:04 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
01-26-2023 3:15 AM


Paulk writes:
So let me explain what I think it means. It is a complete absence of evidence, not an absence of some evidence we would expect to find, if the proposed entity was present.
The problem with that kind of wording is that we don't have complete knowledge of anything. So if we wish, we can push it into the absurd.
But we do have a lot of knowledge about a lot of stuff now and I think it's safe to say, for example, that if dowsing worked there would be good and sufficient evidence available to show it. Instead there is good evidence that when formally tested under scientific conditions detection is no better than random.
I think at that point we form a conclusion that the absence of evidence is enough to say that dowsing is bollocks. All provisional of course, but as near to certain as we ever get.
Until relatively recently we lacked the technology to detect exoplanets. That was an absence of evidence, not evidence that exoplanets did not exist.
In these sort of cases we do know the extent of what we should see with the technology we have. It wasn't just that there was absence of evidence there was also the absence of our ability to detect it so we could say nothing about it at all.
Or another from this forum. There is no official Roman record of the execution of Jesus. Since we do not have Roman execution records from Judaea covering that time, this is an absence of evidence that is not evidence of absence.
Agreed.
I think rather more persuasive is the argument that if such a character as Jesus actually did all the things he's supposed to have done - been executed by the Romans for it, risen from the dead and caused earthquakes etc etc - we should expect there to be reports of them from those whose writings we do have. We don't have them. It's not conclusive proof, not even close, but it is evidence of absence that can be added to other evidence if we were forced into a binary decision based on the balance of probabilities.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien. I am Mancunian. I am Brum. I am London. Olen Suomi Soy Barcelona. I am Ukraine.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 3:15 AM PaulK has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 7:03 AM Tangle has not replied
 Message 9 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:37 AM Tangle has not replied
 Message 10 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:43 AM Tangle has replied

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 17783
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


(1)
Message 5 of 39 (905402)
01-26-2023 7:03 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Tangle
01-26-2023 4:04 AM


Getting executed - even crucified by the Romans - doesn’t seem to have been enough to get noticed. We know it happened to others, who aren’t identified.
The supposed miracles on the other hand seem to me sufficient to attract attention and I think we can reasonably say that the Gospels are not accurate on that count.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Tangle, posted 01-26-2023 4:04 AM Tangle has not replied

  
Phat
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Posts: 18119
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 6 of 39 (905403)
01-26-2023 7:17 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tangle
01-15-2023 12:51 PM


The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
I know that my statement is controversial. On a personal note, I have been accused (and rightly so) of "ignoring "everything" that Jesus said as well as setting a poor example of what a follower should be/do.
I have also been advised that if I really really DID believe I should logically be unafraid to "give everything up" in order to follow Jesus. My counter-argument is that this implies a double standard between believers and non-believers. My critics would ask why they should be expected to "give everything up" since they do not believe that Jesus exists or is who He says He is.
To be fair, I can see the point of view of my critics. They are in essence asking me why I cling to a belief that I apparently don't even take seriously. They urge me to "just be honest with yourself" and join the peanut gallery of ex-believers.
I could never do that. And yet I am unwilling to give everything up. In essence, I am between a rock and a hard place.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Tangle, posted 01-15-2023 12:51 PM Tangle has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 7:20 AM Phat has replied

  
PaulK
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Posts: 17783
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


(2)
Message 7 of 39 (905404)
01-26-2023 7:20 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Phat
01-26-2023 7:17 AM


Re: The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
I would agree with the title so long as we understand that it is evidence AGAINST Christianity.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:17 AM Phat has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:30 AM PaulK has replied

  
Phat
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Posts: 18119
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 8 of 39 (905405)
01-26-2023 7:30 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by PaulK
01-26-2023 7:20 AM


Re: The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
Not really. If the dogma and tradition of what has been historically taught is examined, several assumptions stand out.
  • Believers are by nature inconsistent. Peter, who had allegedly seen Jesus in action, *still* denied Him three times. Were these tales simply madeup stories, I argue that there would not be so many people who were impacted by the story and through which the story, tradition, and dogma has carried down throughout History to this very day.
  • The evidence of the believers themselves does in fact score a point for my critics. The problem is that you assume that if Jesus were actually real, there would be absolutely no waffling among believers--both those who witnessed Him while alive and those (such as Saul of Tarsus) who claimed to witness a touch by the Holy Spirit. Apparently none of you buy the idea of a Spiritual War or conflict between personified good and personified evil.
    Its hard enough to convince you of the idea of GOD in the flesh (through human character) without trying to also sell you the apologetic defense regarding the introduction of evil into human behavior. You have a few scientific ways out of the belief.

    The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894).
    When both religious and non-religious people reach the same conclusions then you know religion isn't the reason.--Percy
    Democrats should not be the only party. Respect the two-party system. -Phat, in December 2022
    We see Monsters where Science shows us Windmills.~Phat, remixed

  • This message is a reply to:
     Message 7 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 7:20 AM PaulK has replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 12 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 8:00 AM Phat has replied

      
    Phat
    Member
    Posts: 18119
    From: Denver,Colorado USA
    Joined: 12-30-2003
    Member Rating: 1.1


    Message 9 of 39 (905406)
    01-26-2023 7:37 AM
    Reply to: Message 4 by Tangle
    01-26-2023 4:04 AM


    Evidence Of The Absurd
    Tangle writes:
    The problem with that kind of wording is that we don't have complete knowledge of anything. So if we wish, we can push it into the absurd.
    We can and we have.
    Everyone has seen the emotionally embarrasing specticle of "holy rollers" and tongue-talking. Everyone has watched well known Pastors, Priests, and Teachers falling and failing morally.
    Not everyone has had the experiences that kept believers believing, however. Apart from the charge of willful ignorance and confirmation bias, there seems to be little explanation of why so few believers join the "ex-christian" peanut gallery.
    To be fair, however, this peanut gallery has a strong and loud voice.

    The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894).
    When both religious and non-religious people reach the same conclusions then you know religion isn't the reason.--Percy
    Democrats should not be the only party. Respect the two-party system. -Phat, in December 2022
    We see Monsters where Science shows us Windmills.~Phat, remixed

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 4 by Tangle, posted 01-26-2023 4:04 AM Tangle has not replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 35 by ringo, posted 01-27-2023 12:30 PM Phat has replied

      
    Phat
    Member
    Posts: 18119
    From: Denver,Colorado USA
    Joined: 12-30-2003
    Member Rating: 1.1


    Message 10 of 39 (905407)
    01-26-2023 7:43 AM
    Reply to: Message 4 by Tangle
    01-26-2023 4:04 AM


    Can I Get A Witness?
    I think rather more persuasive is the argument that if such a character as Jesus actually did all the things he's supposed to have done - been executed by the Romans for it, risen from the dead and caused earthquakes etc etc - we should expect there to be reports of them from those whose writings we do have.
    Keep in mind that at that time, less than 10% of the overall population was even literate and of those even fewer who could write statements. Information was mixed with gossip and innuendo then as it is now. Those who could write were few and far between and had likely never met Jesus personally.
    And then we have the controversy over who actually wrote the Gospels, the motive(s) in writing them, and the whole issue of redactors.
    Which to me is indicative of a story worthy of a smear campaign. In my mind, it is a subjective suggestion that a spiritual war/conflict did in fact exist within human nature. There was a lot of interest in suppressing and changing the story.

    The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894).
    When both religious and non-religious people reach the same conclusions then you know religion isn't the reason.--Percy
    Democrats should not be the only party. Respect the two-party system. -Phat, in December 2022
    We see Monsters where Science shows us Windmills.~Phat, remixed

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 4 by Tangle, posted 01-26-2023 4:04 AM Tangle has replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 11 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 7:56 AM Phat has not replied
     Message 16 by Tangle, posted 01-26-2023 10:25 AM Phat has seen this message but not replied

      
    PaulK
    Member
    Posts: 17783
    Joined: 01-10-2003
    Member Rating: 2.2


    (1)
    Message 11 of 39 (905410)
    01-26-2023 7:56 AM
    Reply to: Message 10 by Phat
    01-26-2023 7:43 AM


    Re: Can I Get A Witness?
    Firstly let us note that your contributions to the thread are more apologetics than discussion of the real issues.
    quote:
    Keep in mind that at that time, less than 10% of the overall population was even literate and of those even fewer who could write statements
    Which is really only relevant to the lack of records of relatively unimportant people. It doesn’t really explain, for instance, why John the Baptist gets more attention from Josephus.
    quote:
    And then we have the controversy over who actually wrote the Gospels, the motive(s) in writing them, and the whole issue of redactors.
    Which is primarily due to a lack of evidence.
    quote:
    Which to me is indicative of a story worthy of a smear campaign. In my mind, it is a subjective suggestion that a spiritual war/conflict did in fact exist within human nature. There was a lot of interest in suppressing and changing the story.
    There doesn’t seem to be much interest from non-Christians in either suppressing or changing the story.

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 10 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:43 AM Phat has not replied

      
    PaulK
    Member
    Posts: 17783
    Joined: 01-10-2003
    Member Rating: 2.2


    Message 12 of 39 (905411)
    01-26-2023 8:00 AM
    Reply to: Message 8 by Phat
    01-26-2023 7:30 AM


    Re: The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
    quote:
    The evidence of the believers themselves does in fact score a point for my critics. The problem is that you assume that if Jesus were actually real, there would be absolutely no waffling among believers
    Wrong. The problem is that I assume that believers should at least manage to be both honest and decent. I’ve seen too many examples to the contrary - lack of honesty in particular - even among liberal Christians.

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 8 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 7:30 AM Phat has replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 13 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 8:43 AM PaulK has replied

      
    Phat
    Member
    Posts: 18119
    From: Denver,Colorado USA
    Joined: 12-30-2003
    Member Rating: 1.1


    Message 13 of 39 (905412)
    01-26-2023 8:43 AM
    Reply to: Message 12 by PaulK
    01-26-2023 8:00 AM


    Re: The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
    PK writes:
    The problem is that I assume that believers should at least manage to be both honest and decent.
    According to the story, Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Was Peter being honest and decent?

    The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894).
    When both religious and non-religious people reach the same conclusions then you know religion isn't the reason.--Percy
    Democrats should not be the only party. Respect the two-party system. -Phat, in December 2022
    We see Monsters where Science shows us Windmills.~Phat, remixed

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 12 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 8:00 AM PaulK has replied

    Replies to this message:
     Message 14 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2023 9:03 AM Phat has seen this message but not replied

      
    PaulK
    Member
    Posts: 17783
    Joined: 01-10-2003
    Member Rating: 2.2


    (2)
    Message 14 of 39 (905413)
    01-26-2023 9:03 AM
    Reply to: Message 13 by Phat
    01-26-2023 8:43 AM


    Re: The Evidence Is The Believers Themselves
    quote:
    According to the story, Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Was Peter being honest and decent?
    According to the story Peter was in fear of his life. I’m not expecting absolute under-any-circumstances truthfulness. Just the level that can be expected from an ordinary person in ordinary circumstances.

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 13 by Phat, posted 01-26-2023 8:43 AM Phat has seen this message but not replied

      
    Theodoric
    Member
    Posts: 8917
    From: Northwest, WI, USA
    Joined: 08-15-2005
    Member Rating: 3.3


    Message 15 of 39 (905415)
    01-26-2023 10:23 AM


    Before Phat drags this off-topic and into apologetics, I want to get a comment in.
    I have a friend that is a "ghost hunter". he truly believes he is talking to and recording ghosts. I have tried to explain to him that even though he is using scientific tools he is not doing science. At times he is finding anomalies but anomaly does not equal ghosts. I have asked why the answer is always ghosts and not demons, aliens or even leprechauns. Another friend and I call him the leprechaun hunter. He takes it as an insult.
    What makes this on topic is that his argument back to me is "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". As I tell him that does not support him and is actually meaningless. All it means is that absence of evidence is nothing. It does not support anything. It is a platitude nothing more.
    Ok, Phat can hijack the thread with his grade school apologetics.

    What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. -Christopher Hitchens

    Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

    "God did it" is not an argument. It is an excuse for intellectual laziness.

    If your viewpoint has merits and facts to back it up why would you have to lie?


      
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