Home > skepticism > Many Bads or One Good?

Many Bads or One Good?

The podcast “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” (aka SGU) often presents thought provoking material. In a recent discussion I realised there is a factor which exists in many peoples’ deductive process which might be leading them to wrong conclusions. That is that many bad examples of evidence supporting an idea don’t equal one good example.

Its an extension of one of the skeptic’s mantras: many anecdotes do not equal data. In other words, when you see piles of interesting factoids that is not the same as one really good source of information.

So where does this apply? Well almost everywhere actually. It applies to believers in the paranormal, religious people, and deniers of scientific facts (many people belong in all three categories, of course).

So let’s look at some examples. There are thousands of reports of UFOs but every one of them is either lacking in details, can be better explained by a conventional phenomenon, or has been shown to be a hoax. If there was one really good example with real physical evidence that would be far better than the thousands of weak anecdotes.

Some of the best examples of UFO events have been ridiculously easy to explain in conventional terms. The famous Roswell Incident would be a classic example of this. Look at the facts and its hard to believe anyone ever took the story seriously.

The same applies to religious beliefs. It doesn’t matter how many people think Jesus is real to them, how many silly stories about miracles there are around, or how many unsubstantiated stories exist in an old book, that still doesn’t mean as much as a single piece of real evidence. And all the alleged “real evidence” like the Shroud of Turin has been shown conclusively to be fake many years ago.

Which brings me to another point. Belief systems where the best evidence is revealed as fake should be treated with great suspicion. The Shroud of Turin is supposed to be good evidence that the Jesus myth is true. But it is fake, which throws a lot of doubt on the Jesus story too. Then there’s the fake burial caskets, the fake entry in the historical writing of Josephus, the list goes on. None of these prove Jesus didn’t exist but they should be ringing serious alarm bells to most people.

So the SGU is right again (as it usually is). Lots of poor quality junk does not equal one single piece of good objective evidence. Believers in UFOs, ESP, gods, alternative medicine, creationism, and other junk should re-examine their beliefs with that in mind.

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