Is the concept of 'evidence' inherently subjective, and how does that impact the definition of 'faith'?

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Claiming that something is 'evidence' of something else requires a mind observing, interpreting and coming to that conclusion. Isn't this a subjective process? If so, does this mean that the concept of 'evidence' is inherently subjective?

At the same time, faith is sometimes defined as "belief in the absence or in spite of evidence". But, if evidence is subjective, wouldn't distinguishing between faith-based and non faith-based beliefs also be subjective?

Spirit Realm Investigator

Posted 2020-11-08T18:22:09.867

Reputation: 331

Absolutely yes! Please see my question on sense data and facts above which essentially is the same query as yours. Regards, – None – 2020-11-08T19:28:47.927

1You are never going to get rid of "subjectivity." But "evidence" is a social construct, so it must be demonstrable to subjects forming a consensus and presumably bounded by some empirical limits or "common sense." Faith-based beliefs can also be intuited or accepted on faith in authority, as with the Bible. But unlike many religions Christian beliefs have a historical character with names, dates, etc., and are often accepted as historical evidence. Locke, father of empiricism, accepted the Gospels on the "legal" basis of four correlated eyewitness accounts. – Nelson Alexander – 2020-11-08T21:04:49.017

The concept of 'evidence' is not subjective, we share it, what counts as falling under it might be. Then it might not, when there are social standards for what counts. All beliefs are tautologically faith-based because "faith" is a synonym of "belief". If you mean "faith" in some less generic sense you should specify what that is. Religious faith, for example, is characterized as something maintained even in the absence of evidence (however that is defined). – Conifold – 2020-11-09T00:04:04.690

3A review of all your questions on this forum recently seem to be in the same orbit - trying to make everything observed to be based on faith, and not on evidence (direct perception) or inference or the testimony of competent people. You seem to be trying to make an argument to equate 'science' with faith. I see only sophistry. – Swami Vishwananda – 2020-11-09T07:09:14.797

@SwamiVishwananda Given your rather, um, interesting perspective of philosophy, such as your belief that methods of logic and argumentation have little relevance to philosophy, it doesn't surprise me that you'd imagine that the enthusiastic OP has any regard for you what see at all. How about offering answers instead of perching on the Add Judgemental Comment button? Stack Exchange prefers Q&A to Q&Snark.

– J D – 2020-11-09T22:43:57.690

This question involves electing presuppositions about 'evidence' and 'faith', and it might help if you narrow their meanings. I'd take this to refer to empirical evidence and faith as a source of knowledge akin to that either divine revelation or credence in religious doctrine even within the context of natural theology. You might also be interested in NOMA.

– J D – 2020-11-09T22:49:07.253

Answers

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People often confuse the meaning of the word "evidence". They say an observation is "evidence for" a theory or "evidence against" a theory, as if theories are tested in isolation.

Proper scientific analysis requires that there be multiple theories, and that experiments are performed to distinguish between theories. In this case, any observation is either "evidence that theory A is better than theory B", "evidence that theory B is better than theory A", or is neutral on the two theories.

Thus, one does not look at a black crow or a yellow pencil and claim either is "evidence for the theory that all crows are black." For an observation to be evidence, there must be multiple theories to compare the observation against.

Thus, when comparing "all crows are black" to "all crows are not black" or even "87% of crows are black", then observing the color of a crow will definitely be evidence favoring one or more of those theories over the others.

"Compelling evidence" is a set of observations that exclude one or more theories as very unlikely. Thus, looking at a single crow and seeing that it is black is compelling evidence to exclude the "all crows are not black" theory, but it is not compelling to distinguish between the other two. It would take observation of dozens of black crows to provide compelling evidence against the "87% of crows are black" theory.

Whether a set of observations is "compelling evidence" is subjective in the sense that different circumstances call for different levels of exclusion. For this reason, scientists often clarify their evidence with phrases like "This experiment excludes theory Y at 95% confidence-level."

Sometimes scientists explicitly list which theories they are comparing in their experiment, and sometimes they simply mention the "null hypothesis." In any case, "evidence" is a set of observations that helps us to distinguish between multiple theories.

user3294068

Posted 2020-11-08T18:22:09.867

Reputation: 737

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To the first question, yes. What counts as evidence for one person might not count as evidence for another person. As such it is subjective.

To the second question, no. Because the reference for what counts as evidence to distinguish between faith-based and non-faith-based belief is always the person having that belief. "A is evidence for B" might be subjective, but "Person C sees A as evidence for B" is not subjective.

kutschkem

Posted 2020-11-08T18:22:09.867

Reputation: 628