Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Mcanns : Fact and Interpretation

One of the dangerous assumptions about science is that it is believed to be entirely objective and value free. In the Mcann Case it seems that the Portuguese authorities all too readily interpreted the evidence in a way that was conditioned to confirm their prior assumptions. In particular an assumption that the scientific evidence was 'of itself' an unequivocal symbol of 'the truth'.

In philosophical terms it is clear that some real empirical evidence was collected. In other words there was an 'ontological' reality. It was tangible (just) and measurable (to a degree)

Someone, somewhere then placed a subjective interpretation on those facts. The facts did not have any objective meaning, a meaning was placed on them by a human being. One version of meaning was given by the British authorities and it was commendably circumspect and cautious. Another meaning was placed on the facts by the Portuguese authorities and this was astonishingly forthright and over-confident.

How were these two distinct 'attitudes' to the evidence formed? What motivations can we assume pre-disposed the Portuguese official(s) to take the attitude they did? Can we be certain these were benign or might somebody with the power and the authority have reasons for holding the attitude they took ?!!

Kate and Gerry are to be commended for their resilience in being able to resist the persuasive attempts to get them to comply with the Portuguese authority's interpretation of the evidence. The more so given the extremity of the circumstances.

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