Sam Harris has been a high priest of leftist culture for a while now (he’s part of the IDW but that has nothing to do with real politics). And his understanding of the Ford/Kavanaugh debacle was predictably foolish. He essentially he broke it down like this:
- Kavanaugh lied about stuff under oath. Harris’ evidence for this was that he knows what “boof” meant in the 80s. Unfortunately “boof” has at least 4 meanings and one of them is the one Kavanaugh used. In other words Harris’ claim is unconvincing.
- Because Kavanaugh wasn’t being tried as a criminal he shouldn’t have been presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence goes beyond due process and isn’t unique to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. The civil standard of preponderance of evidence still relies upon innocent until proven guilty. Its just that the level of proof required is not beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence is a rational baseline for almost any question. It’s virtually identical to the Null Hypothesis utilized by skeptics. Basically unless there is evidence positive belief of any kind isn’t required.
- Bayesian probability analysis of who lied is enough evidence to say that Kavanaugh is probably guilty which meets the preponderance of evidence standard. Whether or not she or he lied isn’t the issue so Bayesian probability about who did or didn’t lie isn’t relevant. She doesn’t need to be lying to be mistaken, and likewise neither does he. It’s entirely possible that he got black out drunk and did this awful thing. If he has no recollection of the event due to alcohol effecting his memory then he isn’t lying, but he would be mistaken concerning his innocence. She also could have misidentified him. That can and does happen. That’s why the statistic about false rape allegations isn’t relevant either. Women don’t lie about being raped or assaulted very often. But the statistic is used as evidence that women like Dr. Ford are accurate in identifying their assailants. But that statistic isn’t about identifying assailants correctly. As is the case with most crimes misidentification of the perpetrator is not uncommon. That’s why the only thing that is relevant is actual evidence. Without evidence there can be nothing to ponder, pre or otherwise. So the problem here is that Harris doesn’t understand what counts as evidence in this kind of situation. This isn’t a scientific question or even a philosophical one. It’s more like a historical question. When people deny the holocaust we don’t engage in Bayesian probability analysis of whether or not it happened. We go to historical sources, documentation, and the massive amount of survivors. If none of these things existed we wouldn’t have any reason to believe the holocaust took place. But there is an inordinate amount of evidence that the holocaust took place. But even if Harris was right about the Bayesian probability he isn’t taking into account all the relevant information. Dr. Ford’s testimony about the second door is never mentioned by anyone on the left. Investigation into the door showed that her testimony about it made no sense and in fact could’ve been a ruse unrelated to Kavanaugh.