The absence of evidence theory

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Karl Salmon is a former Jamaican Foreign Service Officer, who served in the Jamaican Consulate General, Miami, FL and Jamaican Embassy, Geneva Switzerland, before emigrating to Canada and currently working in Project Management. His interest in writing began at 14 years old when he wrote the poem "Eventide" to reflect on the senseless fire in 1980 that took the lives of 146 senior residents. He is an amateur and leisurely writer who pushes the boundaries to engage readers on various and sometimes uncomfortable topics.

By Karl Salmon

I recalled as an 8-year-old child in Jamaica holding my mother’s hand while walking along the side of a water drain 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 pondering her 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 child’s curious madness, I contemplated the urge to test her assurance.

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

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, Church of God, Pentecostals, and Methodists; as well as the Rastafarians.

Religion is fundamental to Jamaican life. This can be seen in many 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 he 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) fraternity. I always struggled with the notion that a God who was regarded as omnipotent: knows everything, sees everything, hears everything, has the power to give and take life, would somehow allow the atrocities during these terrible times, and even significant setbacks in life, to continue without intervention.

If you ask the older generation, you would be given the explanation 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 some great reward awaits you.

Something just did not smell right in this kitchen.

Does the absence of evidence mean 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 the absence of evidence necessarily means that there is evidence of absence. However, I do believe that extraordinary assertions require extraordinary proof to substantiate existence.

Here is an example.

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. The fly could very well be in a place outside of your vision. However, if one should proclaim that there is an elephant in the room, this is an outrageous assertion and the failure to observe the elephant creates 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 immediately see clear evidence if, in fact, it existed. In the other, little justification is expected or demanded to prove its insignificant existence.

Let’s say you are searching for that pot of gold and you didn’t 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 the 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 Christianity is a benevolent concept (created by man). Christians will likely argue the parenthesised. The commandments, number 5 -10, as recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, are the pillars created with the intention for healthy good living on earth.

Nothing wrong with that.

Where Christianity went awry, the “genesis” of their failure, was the commandments 1-4 and the Bible author’s decision to embellish the narratives of history, while elevating the stature and work of Jesus, who many believed to be an ordinary benevolent man.

Exaggerated proclamations ran amok: having Jesus walk on water; the immaculate conception; multiplying bread and fish; turning water into wine; parting the sea; casting demons out; healing at will, taking life at will; able to stop evil only as he sees fit; jealous and angry God; heaven if you follow him, burning hell if you don’t. All pronouncements with the intent to present the image of a deity to be feared and worshipped, rather than loved and relied on. These cruel hyperbole, no surprise, eventually lead to desperate prayers from ailing 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 God’s will.

Cruel, absolutely cruel.

On a sarcastic note for the menfolk, 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 conceived miracle.

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