An assertion is still not evidence of whatever it asserts

Sigh. I thought it was only theist trolls who did this… who spammed atheist groups with links to articles, the titles of which claim “indisputable proof of god” or “NASA confirms everything in the Bible is true”, when the articles themselves simply assert the claim by a third party. But they’re not the only ones…

Before I get to the one I’m referring to, let’s get one thing straight: An assertion, by definition, is a forceful statement of your belief (or fact). In other words, it is a claim made forcefully. The claim is not evidence of itself. Regardless of who makes the claim, how emphatically they assert it, and how tempted you may be to believe them because they are a figure of authority or someone you respect… a claim repeated is still only a claim.

With that in mind, look at this meme that was posted to the snopes Facebook group recently:


What do you see? I see some text with a few images. The text makes a claim, not even a very good claim… The Republican FBI? Russian diplomat confirms???

90% of dentists prefer Sensodyne toothpaste…

I know this is true because it was stated on television by a man wearing a white coat!!!

I commented to that effect, and obviously sensible people agreed (because the group is made up primarily of skeptics) but not everybody did. I was accused of having an agenda, where no amount of evidence will convince me… An agenda, in Africa? (Sorry but I can’t help but think of a sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life… “A tiger, in Africa?”)

The person had posted a video before that, so I reminded him that I was commenting purely on the meme and left it at that. Anyway, it doesn’t matter… A video from a source that’s a proponent of your conspiracy theory, where a statement is made by a man who is some sort of authority (to you) and repeats what you want to believe, is just a repetition of the claim. It’s an argument from dubious authority and also is just another example of the claim being asserted. That’s not evidence. For fuck’s sake, don’t people know this?

I don’t know if the Russian connection with Trump is true or not, although I have not seen any evidence that suggests it to be so. But asserting the claim doesn’t make the claim true.

4 thoughts on “An assertion is still not evidence of whatever it asserts

  1. We live in an age where the theory of misinformation rules. Facts are a thing of the past. Assertions assertions assertions! Say it often enough & loud enough and idiots will believe it. Nothing else really matters as far as the masses are concerned. If this sounds elitist…….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep… post-truth was word of the year last year for good reason.

      What I find interesting is that people in general seem to have a lower standard for acceptance of evidence when it confirms something they want to believe. So it means we can all pay attention to it as we are all prone to confirmation bias. It’s normally those on the right who have a reputation for their acceptance of fake news, but here I was argued with by someone on the left who assumed that I had some kind of agenda when not accepting his “evidence”… Yet all his evidence was, was some guy in a video asserting exactly what he wanted to believe. (i.e. No better than my toothpaste advert example, or someone who believes in god because his priest believes – as that’s “evidence” enough for him.)

      So it was obvious in this case, but I’ve also noticed cases where skeptics have shared articles that confirm what they want to believe, without fact-checking. (Caught myself doing that once or twice, and I’ve had to learn to be more critical and be especially vigilant when fact-checking stuff that confirms my preconceptions.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Adult religious people, who believe in magical thinking and don’t grasp what logic means, are like toddlers/children.

    When debating with those bastards, always have in mind this Bible verse, Jerome: 6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Matthew 7:6 (New King James Version)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It always seems to come down to this:
      They think they know that their god is real. This assumption lies at the heart of all their arguments. It’s an assumption that’s so deep, they don’t even know they make it. The theists who debate, are the ones who are incapable of debating. They have no idea how useless they are.

      I have a philosophy professor in my FB friends. He’s a brilliant writer – better than me. But he doesn’t write about his religion, even though he believes. Clever theists know that it comes down to faith. They don’t debate and they respect atheists. Too bad there are so few of them.

      Liked by 1 person

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