Evidence can (alas) be used as Iago uses it in Othello

At a previous post I spoke of metaphors related to a particular object, namely a solid handrail that a person can lean on, when walking up and down the stairs.

Original brackets for handrail. For the reinstalled handrail, we purchased a new set of brackets. Jaan Pill photo

What can be described as comparable to a handrail-bracket that is securely fastened to the wall adjacent to a flight of stairs in a century-old house in Stratford, Ontario?

When we make comparisons, we are dealing with metaphors, in which one thing is said to stand in place of another, for purposes of discussion.

Metaphors as building blocks for embodied mind

There are academics around, who have been branded by others as experts, or have managed to brand themselves as experts, in particular fields of endeavour.

The field of endeavour, that I refer to in this case, concerns itself with the role that metaphors play in language usage and cognition.

My favourite current encounter with such expertise involves reading accounts of how metaphors serve as modular building blocks that enable the embodied mind to engage in scientific discoveries, and other creative and innovative pursuits. I find such accounts of interest, although I note that, at times, authors who write in this area also engage, in their other writings, in polemic discussions in favour of one or another ideological or political position.

Such a crossing-over into polemics tends to diminish the value, of some of the accounts that deal with how metaphors work. In this regard, I much admire the choice (possibly an unusual one) that sociologist Erving Goffman made, when he decided that no-one was going to learn, from his published work, what his political views happened to be. Not every writer is capable of making such a decision, but when it happens, it adds, perhaps, to the over-all value of their academic work.


I belong to a category of people (a category which is not necessarily highly populated) who are strongly attuned to evidence and evidence-based practice; and strongly attuned to scientific research.

I have not always been in such a category, but a day arrived, when I learned of a distinction between people who are data-oriented (that is, have respect for what can be learned through scientific research), and people who are not.

From that point, I began to let data and evidence be my guide, as contrasted to believing whatever appealed to me.

By way of a small example, of what this means in practical terms, I’m aware of studies that suggest that people will benefit tremendously, if they engage in weight-bearing exercises and activities all through the course of their lives.

Thus, when I think of those securely fastened handrail brackets, that do such a great job in keeping a handrail firmly in place, I think of strong tendons, strong muscles, and the like, the product of regular strength training at a fitness facility.

I think, as well, of the value, based on what research indicates, of doing specified strength training exercises with close attention to proper form, rather than swinging weights around every which way, and hoping for the best.

View of interior of Festival Theatre, Stratford, prior to May 7, 2019 performance of Shakespeare’s play Othello. At the bottom of image you can see the thrust stage, which Tyrone Guthrie ensured was in place, for the launch of the Stratford Festival in 1953. Jaan Pill photo


As William Shakespeare (or, alternatively, whoever she or he was, who wrote the plays attributed to him) underlines in his play Othello, not all evidence is believable, as people like Iago like to provide people like Othello with purported evidence that, in the end – when it is, sadly, too late – is found to lack the capacity to withstand scrutiny.

A person can say, “What I say is solid, as solid as a fabled handrail at a century-old house in Stratford,” yet in reality the person may be speaking as Iago would be speaking to Othello.

I am pleased to conclude my current reflections about handrails with a passage (p. 37) from a study by Michiko Kakutani, entitled: The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (2018):

For that matter, the normal machinery of policy making – and the normal process of analysis and review – were routinely circumvented by the Trump administration, which violated such norms with knee-jerk predictability. Many moves were the irra­tional result of a kind of reverse engineering: deciding on an outcome the White House or the Republican Congress wanted, then trying to come up with ratio­nales or selling points afterward. This was the very opposite of the scientific method, whereby data is systematically gathered and assessed to formulate and test hypotheses – a method the administration clearly had contempt for, given its orders to CDC [Center for Disease Control] analysts to avoid using the terms “science-based” and “evidence­ based.” And it was a reminder that in Orwell’s dysto­pia in 1984 there is no word for “science,” because “the empirical method of thought, on which all the scien­tific achievements of the past were founded,” repre­sents an objective reality that threatens the power of Big Brother to determine what truth is.

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