“Deflategate”, Circumstantial Evidence and a philosophical test of consistency
The “deflategate” bombshell has hit. The reactions have manifested and the opinions have solidified. The camps of agreement or opposition have formed.
This, however, is not a hot take on whether or not punishments levied by the NFL are just, or whether or not the New England Patriots “cheated” their way to any amount of victories. This is more about the focus of a particular phrase that dictates the whether or not people believe Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are guilty of any sort of rules violations: “circumstantial evidence.”
Circumstantial Evidence — evidence in a trail which is not directly from an eyewitness or participant and requires some reasoning to prove a fact. It is direct evidence of a fact from which a person may reasonably infer the existence or non-existence of another fact. A person’s guilt of a charged crime may be proven by circumstantial evidence, if that evidence, while not directly establishing guilt, gives rise to an inference of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a backgrounder, most people who question the validity of the Wells Report focus on the nature of the circumstantial evidence used in the report, which centers around a series of text messages.
That shall be the last I mention of the case of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Instead, I will introduce critics and supporters alike to a somewhat similar scenario.
Imagine a relatively normal couple. Things appear enjoyable and fulfilling for the couple from the outside. For quite awhile things were great between each other as well. At one point, the woman* becomes increasingly disinterested and indifferent. She becomes less talkative and more irritable.
Unknown forces begin filling up her schedule. When dinner was once planned with one another every night, she becomes unavailable from time to time. When she is away from home, she is less likely to answer phone calls or text messages.
At one point, she stops spending the night. While they each own their own apartment, she entered the routine of staying over at his apartment on a nightly basis after the relationship developed past a certain point, as many couples do. Now the trend has ceased and she stopped spending the night.
He begins to question the situation. One day, when she fell asleep on the couch, he succumbs to the temptation and grabs her phone to peer through her texts. He discovers an ongoing conversation with what he assumed to be an ex-boyfriend. The messages are flirtatious in nature, containing smiley and winky face emojis and sappy revelations of thoughts and feelings. Included are invitations to come over.
As suspicious as he might be at this point, he refuses to lose faith in his partner. Nonetheless, he needs more solid evidence of an affair. One night, when she again avoids an invitation to stay the night, he drives by the location he believes the ex-boyfriend is living. To his suspicion, he finds her car parked outside. As a final attempt to retain faith, he drives by again early morning to discover the car still parked outside.
There is no direct evidence of an affair. He never directly caught them in the act. She never directly admits to anything. There are, however, text messages. Her car was parked outside his house at night and the next morning. There is no way to know whether or not they actually partook in an affair. To him, however, there is enough evidence to suggest such a thing was going on. This is what the consideration of “circumstantial evidence” to infer a conclusion looks like.
People can be incorrigibly inconsistent with the logic behind their reasoning and their values. Fandom can blind some otherwise reasonable people. Sometimes the best way to evaluate the consistency of personal values and rhetoric is to apply fundamental reasoning to parallel scenarios.
Now I invite you to reevaluate your stance on the use of circumstantial evidence. I will not argue with someone for believing the use of circumstantial evidence one way or another, as long as there is a consistent application of logic. I will, however, debate an inconsistent application of logic towards the idea of circumstantial evidence.
Deflategate is a petty issue in the greater scope of things. Inconsistency is unimportant for anything football. Unfortunately, inconsistency and hypocrisy prevails the reasoning for many people in much more serious issues in national and international politics. May this be a friendly reminder that the fundamentally right idea will always stand up to scrutiny despite the situation.
*(I made the decision for the woman to display infidelity because a large majority of the critics to the Wells Report and the logic behind circumstantial evidence is propagated by a male majority, so it was my belief such a scenario would resonate more strongly with the critics.)