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That Which Can Be Asserted Without Evidence Can Be Dismissed Without Evidence

That Which Can Be Asserted Without Evidence Can Be Dismissed Without Evidence

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Published by Adam McSweeney

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Published by: Adam McSweeney on Nov 23, 2012
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Adam McSweeney Per. 7 10/17/12 000315 W.C.

1,519 “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”(Christopher Hitchens) Do you Agree? To understand the statement “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”, one must first consider the assumptions made by Christopher Hitchens. Should all assertions made without evidence be dismissed immediately and without any further consideration? While seemingly straightforward, we tend to take the meaning of “evidence” for granted. Upon careful consideration, we are able to realize that while evidence is indeed much more subjective. This uncertainty over what constitutes “evidence” is almost a prerequisite to determining which particular assertions can be dismissed, and indeed which particular assertions should be dismissed.

While evidence can be accepted as being any particular event or phenomenon that indicates a particular conclusion, evidence becomes subjective depending on particular context. For me, I am much more willing to accept evidence that is well argued, even if it is not necessarily true. As new theories are put forward, their acceptance is largely contingent upon the quality of evidence. However, the use of evidence as the litmus test for theories validity is not entirely accurate, as many theories one thought to be incorrect have been proven, and vice versa. Thus, while I agree with Christopher Hitchens insofar as while evidence certainly makes the dismissal of unsubstantiated theories and ideas possible, the subjectivity of evidence means that these “unsubstantiated assertions” are not always incorrect, and the assumption that unsubstantiated need to be dismissed is fundamentally flawed.


1886. Throughout history. 1Eight suspected anarchists were put on trial for the bombing and all received guilty verdicts in what would become one of the most infamous trials in American history.cityofchicago. On May 4th. Cityofchicago. Thus. http://www. Theories like Einstein’s theory of relativity have been proven and supported by numerous studies and research. thus I agree with Christopher Hitchens that assertions can be dismissed with like responses. "Act III: Toils of the Law". and thus the conclusion drawn. Conversely. In the same way a researcher attempting to disprove Einstein would need to acquire massive amounts of evidence to support his claim.2 Among supporters of the 1 ^ "Originally at the corner of Des Plaines and Randolph". an assertion with no grounding in previous research is much less reliable. the bombing of a peaceful labor protest incited a violent 8 hour strike.org/dramas/act3/act3. Carl.chicagohistory. http://www. While the subjectivity of evidence may affect its perception. the opposite is true of baseless assertions. Presentation of evidence to support either of these assertions would have to be met by equal evidentiary claims. but also determine why all of the supporting research is incorrect. there have been examples where the conclusion following the dismissal of assertions has proven to be incorrect. This incident would come to be known as the Haymarket Square riot. simply having some form of logical grounding makes that particular claim much more reliable. The Dramas of Haymarket. A simple claim that “global warming is a hoax” is literally as valid as the claim “global warming is not a hoax”. anyone who wanted to disprove Einstein’s theory would need to not only disprove the theory itself. unless supported by evidence. 2 Smith. Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University.htm 1 . it was held that all of the defendants had been convicted without evidence.One particular strength of the widespread use of evidence based theories in the scientific community is that it creates a standard that must be met for a particular theory to be validated. For years.org.html.org/Landmarks/S/SiteHaymarket.

within 5 minutes of being published on Wikipedia.labor movement in the United States and abroad and others. with the editors citing a “lack of verifiability”. careful examination of all mainstream accounts of the trial say the trial dragged on for 6 weeks. Wikipedia refused to acknowledge his findings because they did not to conform to the evidence cited by every other primary source on the topic. While it is true both of these claims are supported by evidence. few actually took the time to investigate the trial itself. that is they both support their conclusions. the trial was widely believed to have been unfair. However. The trial itself was a fairly black and white issue. 2009) p. This 3 Quoted in Stanley Turkel. which indicated that the prosecution team did indeed have substantial evidence against the defendants. so why did it take court 6 weeks to convict the defendants? Further examination of this oddity by Professor Timothy Messer-Kruse yielded the actual transcripts of the trial. However. 1 . The irony of this is the fact that all of the primary sources cite a lack of evidence as the only evidence necessary to pardon the defendants. While Professor MesserKruse cited some of the only first-hand evidence available. In this case. the evidence presented by Messer-Kruse is much more direct and specific. the pardoning of the men was ultimately grounded in little more than guilt over police brutality related to the incident. the revisions were taken down. and even a serious “miscarriage of justice”. and so there was very little evidence that actually proved the men innocent. the acceptance of the more mainstream view goes to show the subjectivity of evidence. which ultimately culminated in the pardoning of the convicted men by the Governor of Illinois in 18933. with the prosecution introducing absolutely no evidence. Yet the circumstances surrounding the trial created the established viewpoint that the convictions were the result of a “witch hunt”. Relying instead on a more visceral reaction. Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators (McFarland. despite the fact that both sides had “evidence” supporting their beliefs. Because many were so quick to condemn the ruling. 121.

and still is. In the world of art. the dismissal of assertions that lack evidence clearly requires more than simply another assertion. and ultimately a little ugly. should. the bright colors and strange structural shapes that make his buildings look like something straight out of Alice and Wonderland. I know for a fact my first impression of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona was that it was strange. or other substantive reasons. Christopher Hitchens was a rabid critic of organized religion. Because critics of the trial attempted to dismiss the “evidence less trial” with no evidence themselves. the phrase “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” is a quote from his book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Yet to the critics who praise Gaudi. The context of this statement endows it with a particular urgency insofar as assertions that are without evidence. Thus. My basis for this was. the context of our situation completely influences our view of a piece of art. In fact. in fact be dismissed. which is why it is generally accepted as being true. my “evidence” is only superficial. However. and the evidence they use to support it. Art is more or less marked by a subjective nature. the fundamental truth of the matter has been re-written. gaudy. which means that any opinion of art and it’s supporting reasoning is entirely tied to the context of the observer. This is especially true of people like me who do not have a particular palate for art.explanation generates a more visceral reaction whenever we learn about the Haymarket riots. this totalizing claim ignores the subjectivity of evidence which can vastly impact the need to dismiss these assertions. The idea that your ideas of art should be disregarded because there is no substantive evidence behind them is completely contradictory to the abstract nature of art. In his life time. and ignores much of the 1 . and therefore may not be able to defend their taste in art with anything other than “just because”.

However. Because our perception of art is based on context. As a result. in such a subjective subject as art. upon closer examination of not only the author’s intent behind the quote. Giles (11 July 2003). I disagree with the assumption that all unwarranted assertions must be disregarded because determining the difference between an assertion and evidence is purely subjective. Thus. None the less. or a lack of thereof. it is virtually impossible to actually determine how to evaluate evidence.religious significance of his work4. is infinitely subjective. The inherent difference between what “can be done” and what “should be done” ultimately make Hitchens’ position incorrect. 4 Tremlett. I ultimately disagree with Christopher Hitchens. our evidence becomes opinions supported by a handful of subjective reasons. The Guardian. 1 . the assumptions posited by the author’s social viewpoints are fundamentally flawed and serve to enlarge the potency of his thoughts. "God's architect on road to sainthood". In the most literal sense of his words. While Hitchens was literally speaking of rejecting organized religion. What might be a well-supported claim backed by evidence to us might simply be nonsense to someone else with a different view point. should my opinions on art be disregarded by a renowned art critic whose assertions are no better supported than mine? Because evidence can vary from situation to situation depending on context. dismissing evidence. UK. Christopher Hitchens was correct in saying that “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. as well as the inherent subjectivity behind the term “evidence”.

UK. The Guardian.org/dramas/act3/act3. Cityofchicago. 1 . http://www.htm Tremlett. "Originally at the corner of Des Plaines and Randolph".org/Landmarks/S/SiteHaymarket. Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University. "God's architect on road to sainthood". "Act III: Toils of the Law". 121. Giles (11 July 2003). http://www.Bibliography Smith. Carl. 2009) p.org.cityofchicago. Quoted in Stanley Turkel.html. Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators (McFarland.chicagohistory. The Dramas of Haymarket.

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