In discussions concerning the supernatural and/or science I have often heard the refrain "But what about Love? I can't show you evidence that she loves me but I know she does." Sometimes people use this as an argument for the existence of a god "God is like Love. You know God exists like you know your girlfriend loves you!". I shall assume romantic Love is meant here.
In this blog post I will address this attitude to Love. Firstly the contention that one can know that someone else loves you without evidence of any kind.
There are many simple things that you might expect if someone loves you:
* They remember important information about you. When you have a job interview they ask you about it afterwards.
* They touch you gently when it is appropriate and linger slightly longer than necessary in such moments.
* They smile when they have emotional contact with you (e.g. a letter from you or a glance).
* They become agitated if something goes badly for you.
* They try to see you as often as possible.
* They do things just for the purpose of helping you.
* They tell you that they Love you without breaking eye contact.
There are also things you do not expect if someone loves you:
* They hurt you physically.
* They don't return your calls.
* They sound bored whenever they talk to you.
* They buy you something generic for your birthday or ignore your birthday altogether.
* They tell you they do not Love you.
In addition there are many subtle clues that you may only notice unconsciously:
* Their body language indicates interest.
* Their pupils dilate and contract rhythmically upon seeing you.
* Their friends treat you with particular attention and possibly respect (depends on the friends of course!).
* They start to take up habits or peculiarities of yours.
The lists are not meant to be exhaustive and each item on it is only a valid piece of evidence if its in the right context. Furthermore some elements are more important than others (some very much so). Never the less if you imagine a situation in which a friend claims their boyfriend loves them without any of this evidence (and with all the negative indications) would you accept her claim that he loved her? Or would you carefully and politely challenge it and suggest that she might be better off leaving him?
There are of course many pieces of evidence that are difficult to pin down precisely. An example would be body language. What exactly constitutes the body language for Love? Here our own intuition may be much more accurate than any scientific test that has yet been devised. But are we making use of evidence filtered through our evolved and culturally expanded instincts to come to those intuitions? How would one know that thats not the case? There are also many instances when the evidence is confusing or misleading but again this is really a matter of establishing the right context and understanding the emotion better (e.g. they may express their love by teasing you and be slightly too enthusiastic).
To conclude: Its sentimental to regard that Love is something for which there can be no evidence and which is ineffable. However, it is much more romantic to realise that the love of a close one is shown to you by their every day actions, their priorities and by the way they treat you. And it is much more poetic to see that their love for you can and is being described to you every day by the way they act around you.
So I ask the reader:
How does this emotional argument fall on your ears?
How do you see this post in light of the post immediately preceding it (God, the supernatural, qualia and the emotional brain)?