Ford, Kavanaugh, & Evidence: A Woman’s Claims vs Lady Justice

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

October 2, 2018

Question

Dear Tim,

My heart hurts with this whole Ford vs Kavanaugh deal. Something I can’t wrap my mind around is how 99% of people are 100% sure they know what happened. It’s a scary thing for me to consider either possibility and the precedent each sets:

1) an innocent man’s life/family/career is destroyed because of a false accusation

2) a victim of sexual assault gets no justice and is called a liar because she can’t produce evidence

I watched both testimonies. Both seemed sincere. But both cannot be true. There is no such thing as “my/your/his/her truth.” Truth is just truth. And we may never know what that is in this case.

I’m not suggesting that I’ve got this all figured out. I don’t. And despite what so many seem to think, they don’t either. Yes, it seems blatantly obvious that the timing was calculated. The left has no regard for justice for Dr. Ford. My heart is broken for her as well as for Kavanaugh and his family.

I simply urge everyone to consider Micah 6:8 — “Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.”

With that said, how would you suggest we should seek justice in this confusing matter?

– Karah


Tim’s Response

Well said, Karah! I love that your emotions are engaged AND you also desire to think logically and rationally about this issue. Far too many people seem to be only reacting emotionally to this situation. On the other hand, I might be accused of not being emotional enough at times! Be that as it may, your commitment to logic is clear when you wrote: “I watched both testimonies. Both seemed sincere. But both cannot be true. There is no such thing as ‘my/your/his/her truth.’ Truth is just truth. And we may never know what that is in this case.”

Amen to that, Karah! Contrary to Senator Booker’s continual comments that Ford was telling “her truth,” there is no such thing in an objective sense. Statements are either true or false and statements that are true correspond to reality. So the question raised is this: since Ford and Kavanaugh are making mutually exclusive claims, whose claims are corresponding to reality and whose claims are false? The fact of the matter is that someone is either lying or mistaken, but as you noted, “we may never know.” Does this mean we just throw up our hands and give up? Not if we care about truth and justice.

Although we are not in a position to know events of the past with 100 percent certainty, we can know the past with high degrees of certainty. We can also reach conclusions as to what probably did not occur. This is exactly what historians and philosophers do when providing evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus. Can we prove that Jesus rose from the dead with 100 percent certainty? By no means! Can we know it probably happened? Yes!

Historian Michael R. Licona provides the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus here. [1]

With that said, at this date of publication (maybe things will change tomorrow), what sets the resurrection of Jesus apart from Ford’s claims is one thing: EVIDENCE!

Before continuing, let me back up a bit. I left the Republican Party years ago (during the Bush era) because I became disillusioned with some of his policies. I became a free-thinking Independent, so although I still lean conservative, I hope I am able to think rationally about the Ford/Kavanaugh debate because I am not a Republican or a Democrat and I have voted for both parties in the past. Moreover, I am trying really hard to see things from the perspective of those who disagree with me.

With that said, there are multiple reasons to be suspicious of Ford’s claims. What should immediately grab everyone’s attention is the fact that the very people she has offered as witnesses reject any knowledge of such events (a party or attack) under oath — including her close lifelong friend (this is huge)!

Witnesses who verify a claim are vital. For example, one line of evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus is multiple corroborating witnesses of this historic event. Many of these witnesses were willing to affirm under penalty of death that Jesus did rise from the dead![2] Ford has zero corroboration and this includes the people she said should be able to support her claim, but they do not. This alone should be enough for a rational person to be highly suspicious of Ford’s claims.

Moreover, Ford cannot remember hardly any of what would be considered “important details” about the alleged event (this is odd but does not prove it did not happen). What is striking, however, is that although she cannot remember the important details that would support her claims, she does say that she knows one thing about it with “100 percent certainty”: Brett Kavanaugh groped her nearly four decades ago and these four other people were there.

Okay, this is a serious claim, and thus, it ought to be taken seriously. In fact, our nation has taken this claim extremely seriously! However, in the process of taking Ford’s claim seriously, we find that all four people provided by Ford (plus Brett Kavanaugh) — under oath — either say they have no recollection of such a party or deny this event ever happened at all. What is really attention-getting, as I noted above, is the fact that one of these individuals is Ford’s close and lifelong friend. This is enough for a rational person to conclude a probability claim: Ford — although sincere — does not seem credible.[3]

One thing philosophers and apologists are always quick to point out is that “sincerity” does not make a claim or a belief true.

It seems a little “too convenient” when Ford can’t remember anything about this alleged event — except for one thing she is 100 percent sure of: Kavanaugh assaulted her. Countless women who have been raped make it clear that so many details are typically “burned into their brains” for life. These are the details they want to forget. These are the details they try to forget! Sure, it is possible that one might lose their memory due to trauma — but if one’s memory is compromised, then she stands in no epistemic position to state with “100 percent certainty” (Ford’s words) that Kavanaugh groped her almost four decades ago.

I do not make light of Ford’s claims. As a husband of a woman who embraces the #MeToo movement (but opposes the political weaponization of it), I agree that all claims of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. Ford’s claims have been taken seriously (rightfully so), however, after taking them seriously we find reasons to be highly suspicious and conclude that she is either lying or confused. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she thinks she is telling the truth, but based on the lack of evidence on her side and the counter-evidence against her claim, she seems to be drastically confused and mistaken (not to mention being taken advantage of by certain politicians). This is what philosophers and historians refer to as the inference to the best explanation based on all the data.[4]

*Click here to consider the data to this point.

Now, maybe Kavanaugh actually is guilty, but aside from “gut instinct” and subjective emotional feelings, at this point in time we have no rational reason to think he really is guilty of groping a girl nearly four decades ago when he was a teenage boy. Give me solid evidence supporting these claims, and I will gladly change my mind and oppose Kavanaugh with every fiber of my being. Perhaps the FBI will find something supporting Ford’s claims, but if they do not, if one truly cares about truth and justice, Kavanaugh should be a Supreme Court Justice.

No matter if we are discussing “jail time” or a job interview, if all it takes to condemn a person, imprison a person, execute a person, or keep a person from getting a job is a baseless accusation given by someone who “sounds truthful,” then God help us all. For example, think of how easy it would be for someone to say in a sincere voice and with tears in her eyes that she saw a parent abuse his child several years ago. No witnesses, no evidence, just an accusation. Should the government step in and take the child away? Should that stop someone from getting a job — any job?

I hope our kids do not have to grow up in that world.

A woman’s claims of sexual assault should be taken seriously but ought not be assumed true apart from reason and evidence. History has demonstrated that sometimes people — including women — are willing to lie. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual assault. She had no evidence to support her claims. Her claims should not have been believed. Carolyn Bryant falsely, but sincerely, accused Emmett Till of “verbal sexual assault” in 1955. It was her word against his and she had no corroborating evidence supporting her claim. This led to him being lynched and disfigured beyond recognition. This “sincere” woman should not have been believed! After considering all the facts available at the moment (and lack of evidence), I believe Dr. Ford is also a sincere woman who should not be believed.

As Candace Owens has said, “A woman crying on the stand does not mean she’s telling the truth.” We need evidence before reaching that conclusion.

In the end, you are right that everyone ought to remember Micah 6:8 — “Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.” If we truly seek justice, we will not blindly assume mere allegations are true apart from evidence. If we truly love mercy, we will assume one is innocent until proven guilty. If we walk humbly with God, we will be honest about what we do not know with 100 percent certainty and what we do know with high degrees of certainty.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

[1] Johnathan Pritchett points out that if non-Christians believe Ford apart from evidence (based on a blind faith), then they have no reason not to be a Christian when there is supporting evidence (it is based on a reasonable faith):

“I do not know what happened to Christine Blasey Ford. However, what I do know is that there is far and away tons more evidence for the existence of God, Jesus’ resurrection, and the truth of Christianity than there is evidence she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh (and I make no claim as to whether he did or didn’t do it, I am only claiming about amounts of evidence).”

[2] Mike Licona mused: “Mark reports Jesus’ tomb was empty. What if Matthew, Luke, and John [in response to Mark] all said, ‘Hmmm… we don’t remember anything like that’ Or, ‘We don’t have any recollection of an empty tomb.'” If that were the case then the case for the resurrection would be greatly damaged (added on 10-5-18).

[3] Jacobus Erasmus applied Bayes’ Theorem to the issue:

Let the set of facts be:

(F1) Ford is strongly against Kavanaugh’s pro-life stance.
(F2) Ford cannot recall any important details about the apparent “traumatic” event.
(F3) All witnesses reject any knowledge of the apparent event.
(F4) Based on Kavanaugh’s journal, it is unlikely that he could have assaulted Ford.

Let F denote the set of facts comprising F1 & F2 & F3 & F4.

Let H denote the hypothesis that Kavanaugh assaulted Ford, and let ~H denote the negation of the hypothesis, that is, that Kavanaugh did not assault Ford. Then, the odds form of Bayes’ Theorem may be stated as follows:

P(H | F) / P(~H | F) = [P(H) / P(~H)] x [P(F1 | H) / P(F1 | ~H)] x [P(F2 | H) / P(F2 | ~H)] x [P(F3 | H) / P(F3 | ~H)] x [P(F4 | H) / P(F4 | ~H)].

Now, let us assign generous probabilities to the equation (you may adjust these as you see fit):

P(H) = 0.5
P(~H) = 0.5

P(F1 | H) = 0.5
P(F2 | H) = 0.3
P(F3 | H) = 0.3
P(F4 | H) = 0.4

P(F1 | ~H) = 0.5
P(F2 | ~H) = 0.9
P(F3 | ~H) = 0.9
P(F4 | ~H) = 0.8

Then, our calculation:

P(H | F) / P(~H | F) = (0.5 / 0.5) x (0.5 / 0.5) x (0.3 / 0.9) x (0.3 / 0.9) x (0.4 / 0.8)
P(H | F) / P(~H | F) = 0.009 / 0.162
P(H | F) / P(~H | F) = 0.9 / 16.2
P(H | F) / P(~H | F) = 0.05:1

Thus, the odds of H are 0.05 to 1, which is roughly a probability of 5%. Hence, given the facts, it is highly unlikely that Kavanaugh assaulted Ford (added on 10-5-18).

[4] Senator Collins refers to the inference to the best explanation as the “more likely than not standard” here (10-5-18):

“I listened carefully to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee. I found her testimony to be sincere, painful, and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events of that evening gathering where she says the assault occurred; none of the individuals Professor Ford says were at the party has any recollection at all of that night.

Judge Kavanaugh forcefully denied the allegations under penalty of perjury. Mark Judge denied under penalty of felony that he had witnessed an assault. PJ Smyth, another person allegedly at the party, denied that he was there under penalty of felony. Professor Ford’s life-long friend Leland Keyser indicated that, under penalty of felony, she does not remember that party. And Ms. Keyser went further. She indicated that not only does she not remember a night like that, but also that she does not even know Brett Kavanaugh.

In addition to the lack of corroborating evidence, we also learned some facts that raised more questions. For instance, since these allegations have become public, Professor Ford testified that not a single person has contacted her to say, “I was at the party that night.”

Furthermore, the professor testified that although she does not remember how she got home that evening, she knew that, because of the distance, she would have needed a ride – yet not a single person has come forward to say that they were the one that drove her home or were in the car with her that night. And Professor Ford also indicated that even though she left that small gathering of six or so people abruptly and without saying goodbye and distraught, none of them called her the next day – or ever – to ask why she left – is she okay – not even her closest friend, Ms. Keyser.

Mr. President, the Constitution does not provide guidance as to how we are supposed to evaluate these competing claims. It leaves that decision up to each Senator. This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of “more likely than not” as our standard.

The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night – or at some other time – but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the “more likely than not” standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Court.”

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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