Belief based on evidence vs. authority, and the appropriateness of extrapolation

January 7, 2009 | By | Reply More

Richard Dawkins once wrote a letter to his ten-year old daughter, explaining the difference between belief based on evidence versus authority.   This letter addresses the appropriateness of extrapolating from evidence in making solid scientific conclusions.   The title of this article from a book of Dawkins’ essays entitled “A Devil’s Chaplin,” is “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing.”

And I do believe that any reasonable ten year old who keeps an open mind can see the difference.   After all, we do informal science all day every day.  The problem for some of us is when we start discussing the undeniable reality of humans as animals, thus highlighting our kinship with “lower” animals and suggesting that our creation was natural (and is ongoing).

Understanding this basic point made by Dawkins doesn’t require great intelligence.   It requires intellectual courage.  It requires that one quits screwing around with the burden of proof when testing propositions.


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Category: Evolution, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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