Know Jack #70

Does anybody out there read reviews for products, restaurants, movies, books, or places to stay? Anybody know an old home remedy, or ever sat through a lecture or a sermon? Any history majors out there or just plain old history buffs like me? Anyone ever ask another person why they believe what they do? If you haven’t done at least one of these, crawl out from under that rock and join the living.

Each the above questions is aimed at the way we search for information…or if you will, evidence. How many of you take casts of footprints, photographs of customers, sample the ph of the drinking water, record dining patterns of elderly patrons, or categorize patrons of a restaurant before deciding to dine there? Anybody? Go ahead, raise your hand don’t be shy.

Still no one? What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you believe in the power of scientific data? Don’t you value proof?

What? You mean you just take other people’s word for whether or not it’s a good place to eat? 

The stories…let’s call them reviews, of previous diners, is called anecdotal EVIDENCE. Some churches and courts call these stories testimony. Some universities call these stories history. You can call them whatever you like, but please don’t be so unreasoning as to malign their worth. 

The vast majority of what people “know” is supplied as anecdotal evidence. In simple language, they have been told and having no reason to doubt, believed it. Now that somebody may be a scholar, a scientist, or a saint, but the resultant belief…the gained knowledge is anecdotal based. 

There is absolutely no physical evidence to substantiate the existence of the majority of figures in human history. None, nada, zip…except anecdotes…the stories of witnesses.

I’m a writer. Stories are my life. So, it really gets me steamed to hear supposed experts in a field say we need to move beyond stories to “real” evidence and science. What the…? What constitutes real evidence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. 

In my former profession of nursing, “evidence-based practice” is all the rage. In my experience, a close look at the “scientific” studies are honeycombed with patient reports…stories…patients relating their experiences, feelings, and unmeasurable symptoms. This “evidence gathering” is then extrapolated into conclusions henceforth ever spoken of as scientific facts.

There is a very worthwhile movement in America of people who want to know where their food comes from and how it was grown. They want to know for their own health and safety, as well as that of others. Give those folks a gold star and a healthy long life. But, to know the truth independent of a story, they must visit every field and every farm. That is not only impractical, but it is also impossible. 

Facts grow from stories. You can’t check every farm and field. Trustworthy sources and the stories they tell are the best you can hope for.

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