Why is Evidence Important?

When discussing spiritualism, philosophy or religion it doesn’t take long to encounter the apparent impasse of “but concept X might be right”, where the concept is not falsifiable. Most of us with an empirical bent are content to ditch these ideas, because the lacking or counter evidence is often compelling enough. But I want to look at what happens when we don’t, and why a belief contrary to evidence is a no-win risk. To take a belief in something contrary to (or without) evidence is the colloquial (and less misleading) definition of the word ‘faith’. The “risk” we’re talking about can also be hugely variable; it could be as little as some of our time or as much as the welfare of a nation. Either way, I’m going to assume there is something lost by believing in a falsehood, as in reality there nearly always is.

So. We have our belief that is neither provable nor disprovable, as all persistent faiths necessarily are. We have no substantial supporting evidence for this faith, perhaps even evidence against it, but ultimately it is not disprovable. It might be true, the adherents stubbornly insist, and What (as a Liberty University student once fatefully asked Richard Dawkins) if you’re wrong?

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A Culture of Paranoia

The Western ‘Developed’ world likes to think its got everything right. It is, ultimately, ‘ahead’ of everyone else in the world. In some ways this assumption is understandable; although it is still arrogant. Western Europe, North America and so on have comparitively colossal amounts of wealth and resources at their disposal. They are able to offer support to even their poorest, to a luxurious standard by comparison with the most impoverished nations on Earth. Yet the titans of the financial industry, the companies on which this wealth and power is largely built on, deal in the business of offering peace of mind for these already cushioned citizens. They might call it the business of pragmatism, although you could just as easily call it the business of paranoia. What am I talking about? Insurance.

It is literally everywhere. You only have to look at the names on the skyscrapers around you to be reminded that insurance is business; BIG business. How many people know someone that works in insurance? It’s an entire wing of human endeavour with the sole aim of catering for the (individually) unfair nature of probability. At first thought this can seem a noble task, and undoubtably in some cases it is. However, this should not make it big business; not the massive, global juggernauts that we see second only to perhaps banks (with which they are sordidly interconnected). No, I think the reason they are so significant is that we have been conditioned to worry, disproportionately, about What Ifs.

What if you crashed your car? What if you lost your job? What if you ordered a pizza and it didn’t turn up? There’s being prepared, then there’s just pointless worry. It seems there’s hardly an eventuality in life you can’t get insurance for. You’ve got your building insurance, contents insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, income insurance, life insurance, investment insurance; heck, there’s usually an insurance insurance on top if you really want it (no claims protection premium, anyone?). And after you’ve paid the monthly cost of all of those, you might even have a bit left to enjoy this lifestyle you’re fighting so hard to preserve. Continue reading