Nature of Evidence – After the day

Nearly two months after the Nature of Evidence seminar, the buzz of the day has passed and I periodically return to the sound-file. Such richness and diversity of material!

Thirteen people assembled for the day. Each had prepared a brief presentation, and these were delivered in groups throughout the day, separated by open discussion.

I am listening to the sound-file in order to extract themes, but what I am reflecting on right now is the way that people are affected by each other’s positions. There is a quality of respect and attention that contrasts so starkly with what I see so often on Twitter.

Of course this was a group of people who were likely to be respectful of one another’s opinions and sensitivities, but what I particularly notice today is what is said by someone AFTER they have listened to and taken on board other opinions. There is often a softness or slight circumspection that marks these utterances. For example, “This may not apply so much in some of the areas you are working in, but I think that…

So this day was informative through process as well as content. People took care of one another, which is heartening. But I find myself wondering if the validation that opinion can receive from agreement may be less that that which it receives from its ability to demonstrate that it emerges from a process of reflection. For agreement, the message is often simplified, rather as the outcome measures of a quantitative study are simplified. The devil remains hidden in the detail, and the detail has been effaced by the process. Perhaps we are agreeing over that-which-can-be-agreed-upon instead of that-which-needs-to-be-debated.

In this discussion about evidence, there is a difference between the statement “this is about power” and the statement “context is important” (both of which, incidentally, I agree with). It is not that one is convergent and the other divergent, but more that they invite differing qualities of convergence-divergence.

It calls to mind Leonard Cohen’s lyric “There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t“. If those two groups can work together, then we are really getting somewhere!

When presented with “evidence”, I inspect it for evidence of some reflective process that has been able to listen to contradictory positions and that continues to take them seriously.

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