Absence Of Evidence Is Not Evidence Of Absence? 8

Evidence Of Absence?

Evidence Of Absence?

Several famous people have used this phrase in lots of situations. Recently, Neil deGrasse Tyson used it in the following way : “One of our mantras in science is that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.”  This outburst was in defense of a failure of his memory in quoting George W Bush. Tyson got it wrong and after some embarrassing back and forth, finally admitted his error.

In thinking about the meaning of the phrase I realized that the phrase can be nuanced to death. You could spin the phrase to mean pretty much anything.

So, how do you take the meaning?

  • Evidence is evidence, and if there is no evidence to support a theory, there is no evidence. You cannot say that the absence of evidence proves the theory is false. You can only speak of things in the language of uncertainty, i.e., the theory is likely false if there is no empirical evidence to the contrary.
  • If there is no elephant in the room, and if you don’t see any evidence there is an elephant in the room, this lack of evidence means there is no elephant in the room. So, a lack of evidence can be used as evidence of absence.
  • That there is no physical evidence of mental telepathy means that mental telepathy does not exist.
  • There is no evidence mental telepathy does not exist, therefore it exists. This is called an Argument from Ignorance.

Tyson said that the phrase was a scientific mantra. Why would he say that? Maybe his mantra is really, “Everything I say is correct and shame on you for questioning my veracity.”

Everything depends on evidence. In science evidence must be data indicating actual physical parameters. Evidence is measured, counted, photographed, etc.

Of course, there are the ever popular examples as follow:

  1. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, did it make a sound?
  2. If your wife talks to you during a football game, does this mean you are hard of hearing just because you didn’t hear her?

I am guilty of getting into some deep, unfamiliar waters here. This stuff probably comes under the heading of philosophy. I skillfully endeavored to not take philosophy in college. I was more interested in electrons and women, not necessarily in that order.

It is time to stop this article. I have a headache.

Deaths Could Have Been Prevented Reply

I went to bed last night having seen hour after hour of news coverage on the Garner killing in New York City, and more updates on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The similarities are striking, and neither was about race.

Both men were giants, and could handle an average man like a your mom swatting a fly. In the convenience store robbery of Michael Brown, we saw on the store video that he was indeed a giant. He swatted the store clerk like he was flicking a fly off his arm. That’s how big this guy was.

Michael Brown was high on marijuana and stole some packages of Swisher Sweets cheap mini-cigars. They don’t get  much cheaper than Swisher Sweets, and they are often one of the most popular smokes for teenagers, homeless people, and other bums. Maybe Michael Brown wanted something sweet in his mouth to assuage his humongous case of the munchies. Who knows why he did what what he did?

Enter the Eric Garner story. Here, too, is a story about tobacco and a giant of a man.

Eric Garner was involved in the crime of selling cigarettes single. He would buy a pack of cigs at a store, and stand outside that store selling the cigarettes one at a time. There’s a law against this in New York City originating from store owners who sell cigarettes by the package and carton.

So, how much did Eric Garner pay for a pack of cigarettes in New York City, and how much was he charging for each cigarette he sold?

Let’s ask Google and Wikipedia.

According to The Awl’s annual cigarette price check, for which they call delis in each state and ask how much a pack of cigarettes costs, New York clocks in with the most expensive, at more than $14 a pack.

The same package of cigarettes cost about $5.00 in North Carolina. See what the power of government is to tax and change the behavior of people?

Yes. Some changes need to be made in how police subdue people for minor crimes. Some people will always fight the police, and we need to know that they will not die for their bad decision.

The government needs to get out of peoples lives, like telling people what they can smoke, and trying to change behavior. There are always downsides to government policies. The death of Eric Garner is one of those.

Addendum: Take a look at this story in Time. http://time.com/3618279/eric-garner-chokehold-crime-staten-island-daniel-pantaleo/

The medical examiner ruled in August that Eric Garner’s cause of death was homicide. This does not mean murder. Homicide can be justified, and many are. However, it must be remembered that Garner was committing a trivial crime, and although there should have been some punishment for breaking the trivial law, he died. This should not have happened. Garner was fighting off the police while they were trying to bring him down, and a choke hold was used. The officer applying the choke hold killed Garner, but the grand jury looked at the evidence and decided to not indict the cop.

I honestly don’t know what all the evidence is, but I do know that a man should not die because of a street confrontation with the police. Period. The police need better ways to subdue a wild man, even if he weighs 360 pounds and has a record of multiple assaults. The guy was dangerous, but supposedly there are ways to handle this situation without people being killed.