Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

This or that? With us or against us? Black or white? Coke or Pepsi? (Okay, not quite, but still...) Throughout our lives we are conditioned to take a side. That's the foundation of our digital world.  If you can't prove it, it doesn't exist (also popularly known as - False Dichotomy). 

Even when there isn't enough data to decide, the social forces around us 'motivate' us to have a polarized opinion. There is a need to decide.

"What... are you confused or something?" 

No one wants to hear that! As we take preference for one side we quickly develop a liking towards it with moral certainty. Such is our liking for polarized thinking, we seem to believe the 'other' option is ethically bankrupt. Of course being intelligent and evolved creatures, we only trust what we can see. Even though all indicators were telling us otherwise, most banks were very sure of their financial health before the weekend Lehman was allowed to fail. Most of us ignore the possibility of a Chinese collapse

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" ...billions of people use the same statement in different arguments to establish or deny the presence of God.

Even though we understand we often over-simplify things, we never seem to give up our addiction of seeing no more than two sides of the coin. I think there is a need to develop an aptitude for appreciating contradictory logic from an early age. This is nothing less than urgent, given the addition of Asian (and soon African and Arab) dimensions to the Western world. It will help us tolerate ambiguity and advance our reasoning used in the management of companies, nations, religions ... rather than being too keen on declaring some sort of victory, anyhow. 

What do you think?


  1. Not taking a stand, due to lack of data or just not wanting to settle for a half baked solution....would be being neutral for some time.

    Being neutral, or unsure/undecided for whatever amt of time, would make us look vulnerable, at least from where an outsider is looking.

    I think, that is what we detest....coming across as vulnerable to outsiders.

  2. Oh absolutely. It is a PR pain to not have a decision. Even for companies/political parties/ religious bodies .. having "no official comment" doesn't go down very well. And that is understandable too.

    Projecting an image is one thing but if our thought is limited, we will tend to over-simplify things all the time. Most of us are never trained to "think" beyond 2 dimensions. .. for example, look at our opinion on the progress of the Asian world. You will have to really try hard and go beyond the top (and most popular)search results to find a non-polarized opinion.

    I think some progressive business schools have been paying attention to this lately. It requires the students to practice a new method of thinking before forming an opinion... pretty cool, if you ask me.

  3. A very good compiled paper. It is human nature to get involved or take a side of own choice. Difficult to remain neutral. In a movie hall, our soul silently leaves us and gets into the theme of the story. At times this state remains for few hours after the movie. Similarly we offer our opinion even uncalled for.
    However it is possible to remain stable with practice of transcendental meditation. Persons having attitude of appreciating efforts of others also are considered as stable persons. Such people generally remain neutral in difficult situation. I know only person Mudre of this kind, not me or anyone within family or friend circle.