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Supporting Evidence

Typewriter showing page with text: investigation

My weekends are usually spent cloistered away in my study, working on one project or another. My fiancée laments I spend too much time tinkering with my blog, time that could be better spent ploughing through more of my PhD or even writing a cogent article for here (Muse & Reason).

I remain defiant, contending that tweaking each element of this site, tweaks which will probably go unnoticed, is a productive use of time. My argument loosely follows Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ― Airman’s Odyssey

Thus my quest for minimalism in my publishing platform continues. But this contretemps put me in mind of an important rule when writing:

If you can’t support your case, drop it

That is not to say abandon it. As a child I thought many things I couldn’t support in the face of vehement adult objections. Not until decades later, when I had a thick dossier of supporting evidence, did I return to those thoughts and press them with a new found certainty. A certainty that was based on more than my gut instinct or a ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ philosophy.

I am wholeheartedly glad I didn’t abandon those lines of reasoning, but it was prudent to drop them at the time. Particularly when faced with the withering gaze of the headmaster.

But to return to the point at hand, it is prudent to drop a concept or an assertion from your writing when there is a dearth of supporting evidence. This is particularly the case when straying on to technical topics, which in this age of scientism seems to be just about everything.

The paradoxical twin of this maxim of prudence, is to always be sceptical. A paradox, because scepticism is necessary when the evidence supports your thesis.

This is an ever present issue in the age of the search engine, where a couple of key strokes puts a library of information on people’s screens. In such a soup of ‘source material,’ it is hard to find a topic for which there ISN’T a supporting post or website.

Thus, always go to the primary sources. By that I mean primary sources written by people with a modicum of bona fides.

Check who wrote the article or who is the controlling publisher. Everyone has their biases, and these pervade the work produced. Even for those who are ever watchful and, as Edmund Burke counselled: question their absolute convictions and spend a long time ‘lost in Doubts and uncertainties.’

Finally, having marshalled your evidence and checked your sources, provide this to your readers. Add names of authors, titles of books or links to websites. This will not only allow your readers to check your facts, but it should also build confidence in the work you produce. That it is work, though pervaded by biases, which seeks to establish a verifiable truth claim.

The more you can build this trust relationship, the more people will come back to your articles and value your judgement.

Good night and good luck.


Image by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.

This post is day 084 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. If you want to get involved, you can get more info from 100daystooffload.com.


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