My father was a scientist. His field was plant pathology, but his interest in life led him to explore a broad range of subjects. In the months immediately prior to his death, he wrote an essay titled “How the World Works.” It was his attempt to clarify some thoughts on issues which had been reverberating around his brain for a lifetime. It was also, in a sense, an examination of the scientific process itself.
Of particular interest to me was a section examining the concept of ‘evidence’. It was a discussion that revolves around questions such as: What is evidence? How do we identify it? What process do we use to identify information or assertions which are advanced as evidence, but really are no such thing?
Not so surprisingly, as a scientist, my father placed a great value upon what is called empirical evidence: things that can be directly perceived using the senses. This does not mean that we cannot infer the existence of things that we cannot see directly. It simply means that we rely on empirical evidence whenever and wherever it exists, as the most reliable source of information. It implies that when we do infer the existence of something we cannot directly observe, that somewhere along the line, evidence that we can see, hear, feel, taste or smell must lead us to that inference.
My father’s essay contains an argument that is much more elaborate, and more elegant than anything I could possibly present here. But the underlying point is very simple. Essentially, he concludes that beliefs for which there is no credible evidence, either to support or deny, are, at the least, a waste of time.
For example, one could theorize that invisible aliens are among us always, but, being inhabitants of another dimension, we cannot perceive them with our senses. This is theoretically possible, but it might not be wise to expend a large amount of energy considering this particular possibility. If I say that I believe it to be true, no one can prove me wrong. But I cannot prove it to be true, either. Therefore, the whole exercise is apparently futile.
I am sure this all sounds trite, and the point may appear obvious when put this way. But such logic is an empty exercise, and of no consequence, only when we do not act on the basis of beliefs which are arrived at by a process similar to the above example. Unfortunately, things that are much worse than a waste of time, can result from the formation of beliefs which are supported by no evidence whatsoever, then go the further step of undertaking decisive action which is guided by those beliefs.
The absurd and frightening truth is that those that have seized power in this country, are asking us not only to believe, but to act on beliefs, which are the intellectual equivalent of the ‘invisible alien theory’ described above.
To make matters worse, corporate media sources are failing to analyze the twisted pretzel logic that this administration serves them daily. In so doing, questionable assumptions which are not questioned become accepted as valid, by sheer weight of repetition. Subsequent ‘evidence’ is then pointed to that can only be considered evidence if we accept as a foundation the questionable assumptions that preceded them. In this way, ideas that are clearly absurd and illogical can become commonly accepted and be discussed as if they were perfectly logical.
For example, the American press, many Americans, and even highly skeptical leaders of foreign countries, such as France and Germany, claim to be awaiting evidence that Iraq possesses ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Apparently, the fundamental, accepted premise is that if and when we are presented with solid evidence that Iraq has such weapons, we will consent to, or participate in, an attack using our own weapons of mass destruction.
Nothing serves to illustrate the absurdity of this discourse more than the premise that discovery of hidden weapons is equivalent to finding a “smoking gun.” The usual event that triggers the search for a smoking gun, is a loud bang, immediately followed by a victim falling over while blood spurts everywhere. If inspectors do find hidden weapons in the desert, they almost certainly will not be smoking. If they were, there would be no need for inspectors in the first place, because we could infer the existence of weapons of mass destruction by observing the mass destruction itself. In effect, we have surrounded Iraq and trained our guns on them, while a search is underway to determine if they too, have guns. If the Bush administration can make enough people believe that they have guns, this logic assumes that we will be justified in using our guns on them.
Another assumption, also unexamined in all of this, is that there exists (and somehow only in the arsenals of certain “evildoers”) something called “weapons of mass destruction.” These are referred to more specifically as “chemical or biological” weapons. These weapons include anthrax and other biological germ agents, as well as various types of poison gas. Nuclear weapons may be included in this category, but only when they are in the possession of bad men that our leaders don’t like. Nice fellows, like Ariel Sharon, can have extensive nuclear arsenals, and so can we, but in our hands, these weapons are acceptable and necessary.
The anthrax that killed Americans after Sept. 11th, is presumed to have been stolen from American bio-warfare labs. It has also been widely reported that most of Saddam’s Hussein’s really evil weapons, including his stock of anthrax, and the chemical pesticides which were a key ingredient of Saddam’s famous poison gas, were supplied by US corporations with the knowledge and consent of our government, at a time when we knew for certain that he was using them to “gas his own people.” But now we are expected to accept as logical, that if we suspect the existence of such weapons in the arsenals of our enemies, we somehow have a moral imperative, not only to seize and destroy those weapons, but to conquer and occupy their countries and depose their leaders. Unless the country in question has a big army and nuclear weapons like North Korea. In that case, we talk, but don’t negotiate, with them.
And what weapons will we use to rid the world of “the worlds worst weapons?” Entirely wholesome and respectable depleted uranium ordinance, made in the USA.. Chemically toxic, and with a radioactive half life of 4.5 billion years, these weapons are the most likely cause of the huge increase of cancer and birth defects in Iraq since the they were used indiscriminately in the first Gulf War.
Further, the Bush regime would have us believe that if Saddam were to use his terrible weapons against our invading armies, we would be justified in using our own nuclear weapons against him. In the history of warfare, no single weapon has proved more deadly than a nuclear bomb. We Americans have already used nuclear bombs twice, on a civilian population. But through a long chain of severely twisted logic, we are asked to conclude that we would not only be justified, but that we have a responsibility, to use nukes again, in order to prevent really bad weapons from being used.
These few examples are indicative of a consistent pattern. In the hands of ideologically driven imperialist psychopaths, logic, reason and evidence are mere words devoid of any meaning. The Bush administration uses them to create the pretense of serious intellectual processes, so that they can justify the pursuit of an agenda that is motivated by blind ambition and unbridled greed. The actual “logic” that they employ, is essentially identical to that of the famous Sesame Street character, Cookie Monster. Cookie Monster was motivated by a desire to grab and eat cookies. If he saw a cookie, he grabbed it and ate it, regardless of who owned it. This was his basic nature. But, unlike the Bush regime, he saw no need to explain, justify, rationalize or provide evidence to make it appear that his greed was noble.
Bush, unfortunately, is not a cute and cuddly character on a TV show intended for children. His ambitions will only be realized by mass destruction on a scale that may spiral completely out of control. Should he actually undertake this unprovoked war of aggression, he will certainly kill hundreds of thousands of people, and spread deadly toxins far and wide that will persist in our environment for billions of years. These toxins will be carried by the winds, creating misery and suffering in children and adults, for perhaps thousands of generations.
Most Americans know about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s ludicrous statement that absence of evidence, in the search for weapons in Iraq, “does not mean evidence of absence.” Of course what he meant, was that we should take the fact that no evidence exists to confirm our suspicions about Iraqi weapons, as evidence that confirms our suspicions about Iraqi weapons. Failure to find evidence confirming the existence of weapons in this case may not be conclusive evidence that Iraq does not still possess some of the weapons that we sold them. But by no stretch of the imagination can failure to find such weapons be construed as a rational justification for allowing psychotic warmongers to unleash wholesale mechanized slaughter against a sovereign foreign nation.
And for all of Bush’s tough talk about the necessity for war, it should not be forgotten that he himself, along with Cheney and Rumsfeld, did not seize the opportunity to personally go to war during the Vietnam conflict. It’s further alleged that he went AWOL (away without official leave) for about a year, in 1972-73, before completion of his six year tour of duty in the Air National Guard. It should be a simple matter to confirm or deny these allegations, but unfortunately, the evidence, in the form of his military records, is ‘missing.’ Since an exemplary military record is known to be of great value for any politician, it is logical to assume that, in this case, the absence of evidence, with regards to his military career, provides us with evidence of his absence.