Mon | Dec 5, 2016

The absence of evidence theory

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Karl Salmon, Contributor

I recalled, as an 8-year-old in Jamaica, holding my mothers hand while walking along the side of a canal known in Jamaica as a gully. My curious mind wondered to ask: Mama, if I slipped and was falling into the gully, and I cried out to Jesus to save me, would he reach down and save me? My mother paused as if she was either pondering the right response or the repercussions of her response. She then reassured me: Yes, Jesus would reach down and save you. I stared down at the 30-foot drop and the jagged concrete surface below, and in a moment of a childs curious madness, I contemplated the urge to test her assurance.

I never did yield to that temptation, but thereafter began an investigative journey into the scripted wonders and signs of Christians beloved Creator and his Son.

most churches per square mile

According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile than any country in the world. Most Jamaicans are Christians. The largest denominations are the Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, and Methodists; and there are Rastafarians.

Religion is fundamental to Jamaican life, which can be seen in the references to biblical events in everyday talk.

Even Natty Morgan, the notorious gunman who ruled the late 80s with ruthlessness and fear, never left the holy book from his side and was eventually killed in 1991 by the police, with the Bible firmly secured in his back pocket. I guess it stood to reason that throughout my childhood in the 70s and adolescence in the 80s, it was a rite of passage for me to become indoctrinated into the religious (Catholic) way of living. I somehow always seemed to have struggled with the notion that someone who was regarded as omnipotent knows everything, sees everything, hears everything, has the power to give and take life would allow the atrocities during these terrible times and even significant setbacks in life to continue unabated.

If you ask the older generation, you would unanimously hear that God was either punishing you for some wrong you committed some donkey years ago, or he was testing your love for him, for which a great reward would await you. Something just did not smell right in this kitchen.

Is absence of evidence, evidence of absence?

Evidence of absence is evidence of any kind that can be used to infer or deduce the non-existence of something. I do not believe that absence of evidence necessarily means that there is evidence of absence. However, I do believe that extraordinary assertions require extra ordinary proof to substantiate existence.

Here is an example:

clear evidence vs justification

If someone were to proclaim that there is a fly in the room, ones failure to locate the fly does not constitute irrefutable evidence that the fly does not exist. However, if one should proclaim that there is an elephant in the room, the failure to observe the elephant could create a justifiable argument that the elephant does not exist in this room. The difference between these two cases is that in one, we should expect to see clear evidence if in fact it existed. In the other, because the proclamation is not so magnified, little justification is required to prove that the fly indeed exists.

Lets say you are searching for the pot of gold and didnt find it, does that prove that there is no pot of gold? Perhaps not. But the more you look in places where that pot of gold ought to be, and in times and circumstances where this pot of gold should most likely be, the more confident you become that there is no such pot of gold. Extraordinary assertions require extraordinary proof to substantiate existence.

It is my opinion that evidence, not faith, is a more convincing argument that supports belief. Absence of positive evidence leads to doubt. Just ask a police officer, a lawyer or a judge which one he or she uses to establish guilt, innocence or even burden of proof. Then ask them if they would consider using the other.

I believe that religion is a benevolent concept (created by man). Christians may argue the parenthesised. The commandments, number five-10, as recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, are the pillars for a healthy fulfilment of good living on earth. Nothing wrong with that.

Where Christianity went awry the genesis of their failure were the commandments one to four and the Bible authors idea to embellish the narratives of history while elevating the stature and work of Jesus, an ordinary, benevolent man.

Exaggerated proclamations

Exaggerated proclamations ran amok: having Jesus walk on water; the immaculate conception; multiply bread and fish; turn water into wine; part the sea; cast demons out; heal at will; take life at will; able to stop evil, but only as he sees fit; jealous and angry God; Heaven if you follow him, burning Hell if you dont. All pronouncements with the intent to present the image of a deity to be feared and worshipped rather than to be loved and relied on.

These cruel hyperbole (no surprise) eventually lead to prayers from desperate souls to have some of these miracles performed on them and on their suffering loved ones, only to be told in despair, when their prayers were not answered, that it was Gods will .

Cruel, absolutely cruel!

On a sarcastic note for the men folk, the next time your partner becomes pregnant and both of you know that it is not your child, I would love to be that fly in the room when you fall on your knees and praise the Lord for this immaculately concepted miracle.