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Anecdote vs. fact - Comments

DavidXanaos's Avatar Comment 1 by DavidXanaos

Thats indeed a very interesting point.

My opinion on the Mather is that in the past when our species evolved the only means of propagating informations was through speech, so basically through anecdotes. Thats today still true for children and in booth cases if the person don't takes the word of an other person for true by default it can lead to putting oneself in danger. Do you really have to test it out yourself that orange red berries are poison? Or a more modern example do you really have to check that electricity will stop your hart if applied (in)properly? Of cause no, but what you can do today that in the past wasn't possible is to get confirmation from independent sources, you also can apply your reason and knowledge ans assess the probability of a statement. But on th other side you can only be an expert on a small range of things and those you can not verify everything your own. We are doomed to rely on other people telling the truth. Or wen can belie in conspiracy theories and trust no one.

So assuming by default that the other person is not lying is anchored at the base of our social interaction protocols.

Also I think it is likely that first there was language and than there was lying, so the parts of our brain that take informations from other peers at face value are older than parts that enable us to communicate invented informations and the parts that assess the correctness of transmitted informations are the newest.

So what we need to compensate for this hardwiring is s proper education in the childhood that would teach people to think sceptically always apply reason and have a good scientific knowledge.

David X.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 17:40:24 UTC | #873198

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 2 by Mr DArcy

Not exactly on topic, but related, I have been told by numerous different sources that the speed of light in a vacuum, is approx 300,000 km / second. Now I've never set out to disprove that, but I would like to think that if I took the trouble and invested in the correct equipment etc, I could actually measure the speed of light for myself. I could "test" those anecdotal claims about the speed of light.

When it comes to anecdotal stories about a man walking on water, feeding 5000 with a loaf and a fish, ressurecting the dead, including Himself, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of Jesus, this probability approaches very close to zero.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 19:02:40 UTC | #873233

Vicar of Art on Earth's Avatar Comment 3 by Vicar of Art on Earth

Speculation

The scientific method is new and carries information and testing over time and over culture. The capacity for thinking in a scientific way is not wired into us like the capacity to learn a language. As we become a primate that lives in urban herds there could be selection for individuals who think in a critical fashion.

Stories or information that goes along with the folkways is easier to understand. Critical thinking takes work and takes an environment that appreciates that.

How different classes discipline children is a clue, I can't remember the study or if it is still used, pointed to spanking as being used more the less resources the parents had and reasoning with children became more important up the economic/education scale. If your world view is getting a job, keep your nose to the grindstone, and don't make waves, you are not going to promote questioning or non practical explorations in your children. Not being different is a virtue, whereas being a creative studious sort is reinforced were there is the prospect of work and status requiring thinking to achieve.

The real answer to the question is the principals of salesmanship and advertising. In the 60's in high school a teacher asked us what was the difference between different brands of table salt. None, it was all about the packaging.

Khrushchev may have asked Nixon this question.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 19:13:24 UTC | #873238

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 4 by KenChimp

How far do we carry the flag of "Fact not Anecdote"?

What if a co-worker indicates, "On my way to the office, I was nearly run off the road by some idiot talking on their mobile phone while driving!"

Do I declare "Facts, please, not anecdote." Or "Yeah, right. And monkeys might fly out of my butt!"

Do we demand evidence only when someone is making a scientific claim through anecdote? An example would be, "I saw a grouping of lights in the sky last night that I cannot explain. I think it was a space ship of extra terrestrial origin!"

Or are we to extend our demand of facts into other spheres of experience. If so, which ones, if any, do we avoid demanding facts for?

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 19:32:39 UTC | #873248

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 5 by Schrodinger's Cat

'Anecdotal' is not a swear word. The fact is that whilst one may not be able to discern anything from an individual anecdotal report, one can form a reasoned inductive probability based upon multiple cases.

That probability may not tell you anything about the phenomenon, but it will at least give you greater confidence that there is a phenomenon to be explained.

A good example would be ball lightning. If one person tells you he has seen a mysterious ball of light hover above the ground, pass through a window, and disappear in a shower of sparks......you can perhaps dismiss this person as hallucinating, unreliable, and so on. But, if you get multiple reports.....all describing the phenomenon in a similar manner....then you can start to build up a possible scientific hypothesis and a far greater confidence that there is a real physical phenomenon.

The point being that many of the esoteric phenomenon where science can indeed make a statement of some sort about veracity are in fact based primarily on anecdotal evidence. Thus, even the most sceptical researcher of ghosts admits that people do experience what they perceive to be ghosts. There is a 'real' phenomenon, though scientifically the most convincing explanation is that there's a common psychological cause. Nevertheless, to argue that ghosts are simply 'all in the mind' and dismiss the anecdotal reports is precisely to miss the anecdotal evidence pointing to a common psychological cause.

Thus, anecdotal evidence is at the very least a source of valuable insights into human psychology. And given that people are not always mistaken about what they have experienced......for example ball lightning, sprites, earthquake lights, and a great many other anecdotal reports with real scientific backing.....one has to wonder why the mere mention of the word 'anecdotal' gets such bad press among scientists.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 19:46:13 UTC | #873254

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 6 by Schrodinger's Cat

I'd like to be able to quantify this phenomenon with a record of how many individual facts it takes to make someone see that another person's anecdote is not reliable. This would have to include the relative strength of each fact and how well the person knows the story-teller. I suspect the relationship between the two has some scale to it or measurable effect upon the efficacy of the anecdote's being believed.

My sister, who has known Uri Geller for some time and visited his house numerous times ( he buys her art...she's not there as a 'believer' ) , told me of one ocassion when she was absolutely certain Geller had bent a spoon without touching it. The spoon, so I was told, fell on the floor......and continued to bend significantly while lying there.

Well...being of scientific mind, I threw every question I could at this. Was it just a peculiar angle the spoon was seen from ? Was she distracted ? Etc etc. The trouble is that my questioning led to almost a sort of ' so you're calling me a liar ?' response.

The problem with anecdotal evidence is not just that one was not there.....but that one cannot be certain that one would not oneself have been deceived even if one had been there.

I have an anecdote from Professor Arthur Ellison, in which he describes an incident in which he and Arthur Koestler and one other, were all witness when Geller bent a Yale key that was placed flat on a table with Koestler's thumb on the big end. Ellison swears blue that he saw this happen.

I hate having to rely on someone else's one-off report.....no matter how reliable that person may be and no matter how much they may swear blue that they know what they saw. There's a particular annoyance that comes from reading or hearing of such things. I think James Randi expresses it quite well in some of his articles.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 20:18:55 UTC | #873267

Sample's Avatar Comment 7 by Sample

It looks like you have two related, but nevertheless seperate ideas here.

  1. Information is persuasive.
  2. Not all information is factual.

I'm going to guess that humans are wired to initially give a modicum of relevance to anything perceived by their senses whether it is ultimately determined to be true, false, or unknown. From there, you have your work cut out for you quantifying the variables that address what position an individual ends up with.

Mike

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 21:23:43 UTC | #873297

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 8 by QuestioningKat

This is an interesting question. I recall hearing a comment somewhere mentioning that people will not listen to your advice unless they first know that you care. This makes sense to me. People want to feel acknowledged and that you are listening to them as a person. Spew off cold and impersonal facts and you have created a wall of separation. You are on one side playing the expert and they are on the other side as the inferior.

People prefer to talk WITH you rather than be talked AT. When anecdotal evidence or a story is told the person is connecting with you at an equal level because you are sharing your life's story or experience. Sharing anecdotal evidence builds trust. In some situations, the experience could be personal or emotional and the listener recognizes that the storyteller risked being vulnerable by telling what they feel is true or deeply felt. This temporarily puts the listener in the role of caretaker or superior. The listener has control over the information and could belittle the storyteller, but most will empathize and be respectful.

Remember when people were planted on messages boards and then they would share some testimonial about a product? I think advertisers were onto something. People prefer friends over teachers or an authority figure.

I think listening to facts over anecdotal evidence may also have something to do with the person being highly regarded or considered as an authority by the listener. Someone low on the totem pole may have a great idea or information and it will be overlooked, but give that same idea and info to someone more dominant or respected and people will listen. I have had this happen numerous times. I distinctly recall a couple of times I commented on something and five minutes later someone in authority reiterated what I said with a little more pizzazz and everyone suddenly listened.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 23:37:07 UTC | #873359

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 9 by QuestioningKat

This is why I think people are hooked on theism. Someone tearfully tells their story of how God worked wonders in their life and an atheist comes along as says "That time of the day is well documented as being light with traffic. This type of condition is highly treatable if attended to within the first few hours of showing symptoms." There is something socially inept and inconsiderate about the factual response in certain situations.

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 23:55:42 UTC | #873368

inquisador's Avatar Comment 10 by inquisador

comment 2 by Mr DArcy,

When it comes to anecdotal stories about a man walking on water, feeding 5000 with a loaf and a fish, ressurecting the dead, including Himself, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test.

Actually the parable claims there were 5 loaves and 2 fishes. So the tale is easily explained:-

Here is one of those fishes

And one of those loaves?

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 00:16:05 UTC | #873370

raytoman's Avatar Comment 11 by raytoman

The Bible can be found in the Non Fiction part of my local library and on the non fiction shelves of local bookstores. I don't know it's Douai classification but I suspect it's non fiction. There are over 3 billion people who believe in the Bibles' Old Testament and close to 2 billion of these believe in the New Testament.

Advertising persuades nearly everybody of almost anything.

Science is hard.

A few years before I became an atheist (at age 15-16) I saw a fiery ball drop from the sky, bounce off the roof of a house and then disappear. I was about 1.5 miles away. My first thought was (part of) a burning plane but there was no wreckage and no obvious damage to the house.

I asked my Science teacher a few days later what it might have been. He suggested I look up ball lightning in a dictionary. I would probably have believed him but looking it up was proof enough for me.

You see, I never found anything in the Bible I could believe, even though (almost) all my teachers were christian. The Dictionary had entries for many things I could easily test/verify myself so gave me confidence about the rest.

Nowadays the mass media (and of course advertisers) decide what is truth and fact and most people watch TV and read comics and tabloids which typically support their religious beliefs.

Anyway, fewer people are taking Science these days and facts and real truth are a moving picture.

I bet there are even "proper" Dictionaries nowadays with all popular/paid for answers.

Sigh!

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 01:40:10 UTC | #873385

jesusdiedLOL's Avatar Comment 12 by jesusdiedLOL

I think the willingness on behalf of the idiot to believe nonsense stems from the idiot's desire to obtain secret/special knowledge which will only be delivered by another idiot, as he/she will neglect to investigate anything beyond what is seen on tevevision.

Homeopathy, religion, ghosts, 2012 apocalypse, psychics etc are all memes which get passed around gullible minds like wildfire.

The idiot tribe LOVE to shamelessly advocate nonsense to annoy the smart tribe. In the process they fool themselves, and will never understand the plausible explanation anyway.

The dumb tribe don't understand that to be a good skeptic, you need to be a thorough skeptic, not just be skeptical of things in general without thoroughly investigating both sides.

I know exactly how the OP feels here. I get drinven nuts by my girlfriends Mother, who believes all of my nonsense list without any basis, other than "I heard of a lady who said..."

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 05:15:57 UTC | #873418

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 13 by Bobwundaye

Aren't new facts grafted into our current understanding of the world based on how well they correspond with that understanding. And that understanding is not scientific from the start, in that we did not personally test everything we ever heard - we just assumed it.

Therefore, an 18 year old who was brought up an atheist being taught that science explains everything, can easily accept any new evidence/explanation (or at least entertain it) with regards to how evolution unfolded, while finding the idea of an intelligent designer completely ludicrous - especially when someone relates a story of that creator's miraculous working in their life.

On the other hand, an 18 year old who was brought up as a creationist can easily identify and believe a person who tells of a miraculous working, while finding it ludicrous that anyone can believe in evolution. The idea of God (and who that God is) seems so obvious that anyone who doesn't believe it is deemed to be willfully unbelieving.

So, how easily we accept new information (and interpretations thereof) is largely determined by how well it fits into our own worldview.

I would hypothesize that the number of new facts that are presented are not nearly as important as who and how they are presenting them. So perhaps we are misguided in trying to find that number, and should perhaps rather focus on how the facts are presented.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 05:44:50 UTC | #873421

k_docks's Avatar Comment 14 by k_docks

When it comes to anecdotal stories about a man walking on water, feeding 5000 with a loaf and a fish, ressurecting the dead, including Himself, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of Jesus, this probability approaches very close to zero

When it comes to anecdotal stories about life arising from a lifeless soup of chemicals, a 'big bang' from nothing starting the universe without cause, all the miracles required to have all the genetic diversity we see around us today having 'evolved' from nothing in only 3.5 billion years, common ancestry being claimed from species that 'appear' to share common genetics, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of evolution, this probability is so small that it is zero.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 06:52:00 UTC | #873426

k_docks's Avatar Comment 15 by k_docks

How long does it take for recorded history to go from fact to anecdote? E.g. There are already many holocaust deniers only a mere ~60 years on from the event. What about in 500 years?? Or 1000??

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 07:04:02 UTC | #873430

YXalr's Avatar Comment 16 by YXalr

Some years ago I remember seeing a very convincing documentary (can't remember the subject). I found it convincing because I couldn't really find significant flaws from the arguments presented. I was, however, soon introduced to some actual facts about the subject matter, and suddenly the arguments of the documentary seemed to crumble. This got me thinking about WTC -conspiracy theorists, Zeitgeist-believers, those who believe the moon landing was faked, etc. All these people have been presented with two things:

1) Facts

2) Arguments based on the facts

It seems to me, that most people put all their attention on #2, questioning whether the arguments based on the facts seem valid. If they do, they tend to accept the arguments. The problem is that most people take it for granted that the facts presented are true. As if we're just too focused on the actual arguments to remember to question the actual facts.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 07:16:15 UTC | #873432

Madellen8's Avatar Comment 17 by Madellen8

Dear Graxan,

Aren't those questions of yours still debated within the philosophy of science, under epistemology? I mean there are no simple answers; facts can change, can be influenced by ideology and language, have ethical implications, can appear differently to different people with more facts....on and on.

Haven't you had the experience of a teacher, or politician or salesperson telling you something is fact, but somehow you know it is not quite the whole picture, or there is something fuzzy about the argument. Geez, it happens all the time.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 08:25:29 UTC | #873452

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 18 by Tyler Durden

Comment 14 by k_docks :

When it comes to anecdotal stories about a man walking on water, feeding 5000 with a loaf and a fish, ressurecting the dead, including Himself, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of Jesus, this probability approaches very close to zero

When it comes to anecdotal stories about life arising from a lifeless soup of chemicals, a 'big bang' from nothing starting the universe without cause, all the miracles required to have all the genetic diversity we see around us today having 'evolved' from nothing in only 3.5 billion years, common ancestry being claimed from species that 'appear' to share common genetics, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of evolution, this probability is so small that it is zero.

We have evidence (Cosmic Background Radiation; Red Shift; Hubble; RNA; DNA; Molecular Biology; Geology; the fossil record, and the science of evolutionary biology).

You have nothing.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 08:41:23 UTC | #873458

Jussie's Avatar Comment 19 by Jussie

Rejecting an anecdote swiftly leads to hurting someone's feelings. That's why it's so hard to reject. If one of my familymembers speaks of some paranormal experience they had. I don't say "utter bollocks", but i tiptoe around the subject doing my best to express my doubt without hurting their feelings, or making them think that i think they're loonies.

It's just hard having a good relationship with someone if they don't believe your stories.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 08:47:12 UTC | #873460

Graxan's Avatar Comment 20 by Graxan

Some excellent responses, thanks all.

So from what's been said so far, as a result in not being able to know everything, it seems there is a reliance we have on other people who have a) Specialised(*) in an area of expertise or b) have claim to an experience that is not common-place. Due to social and evolutionary pressures we are programmed to take these pieces of information at face value.

This then, is where errors are able to creep in to the cultural information gathering process. These errors being caused by people's false informational claims, which would include:

The desire to climb in social status, either through claims to greater knowledge and gaining deference from others or through direct misinformation in order to disadvantage others.

Mass-hysteria induced affirmations such as in religious ceremonies or faith healing,

Repetition of misinformation, whether this is known or unknown, as a social bonding tool, e.g. story telling.

Rejection of information causing social problems. (Hurt feelings as mentioned by Jussie)

I think there is some obvious value to the anecdote as it seems that many of these will contain truthful information, but as I mentioned originally it bothers me that if this is a naturally developed method of passing information along then why does it allow for such massive errors?
The answer must lie somewhere in human social behaviours. If you assume for a moment that the anecdote is a pure form of passing along information then something else could be polluting the process, e.g. as I mention above, lying, mass hysteria, control. Etc.

  • The phenomena I most often experience with regard to my own role in ICT is what I call the 'Expert Syndrome'. You will often note that in a group of people, everybody will defer to that individual who has some knowledge which seems to drive in them the desire to artificially expand on their minor amount of real knowledge on the subject to the point that anything they put forward is fiction and immediately obvious as wrong to a real specialist. But, the damage will have already been done.
  • Comment 17 by Madellen8

    I’m not personally sure than philosophy and science can be so tightly interwoven, so all I’m trying to do here is engage in a discussion on an observed behaviour in people. I’m not a philosopher though and have only brief acquaintance with such terms as epistemology etc. I also harbour some suspicion to a number of posters who I’ve come to see as being armchair philosophers, who will always try to bend a fairly logical and scientific discussion out of shape through philosophical jargon. I have to admit my irritation with this (Although it’s not happened yet on this particular discussion though!)

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 09:22:44 UTC | #873472

    Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 21 by Tyler Durden

    Comment 14 by k_docks :

    When it comes to anecdotal stories about life arising from a lifeless soup of chemicals, a 'big bang' from nothing starting the universe without cause, all the miracles required to have all the genetic diversity we see around us today having 'evolved' from nothing in only 3.5 billion years, common ancestry being claimed from species that 'appear' to share common genetics, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of evolution, this probability is so small that it is zero.

    @k_docks - I'm curious as to how one can be so unaware of modern science (cosmology, biology, geology) in the world today considering the access the general public has to its discoveries, and so I was wondering if you might perhaps give me some insight in to your exposure (if any) to science.

    For example:

  • have you ever visited a natural history museum in London, Paris, NY or San Francisco?

  • have you ever visited a planatarium, or used a telescope to view the night sky?

  • did you take science as a subject during school or college?

  • do you buy/read books on a regular basis on any particular subjects?

  • do you watch any documentary programming on TV/web that deal with the natural world (Attenborough on BBC or Cosmos by Sagan)?

  • Thanks.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 10:17:07 UTC | #873480

    aquilacane's Avatar Comment 22 by aquilacane

    Knowledge is currency. Do you check to see if your money is counterfeit every time you are given change or go to an ATM? No, it looks like good money, so you spend it; unless the money/knowledge is obviously counterfeit/bullshit.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 10:24:26 UTC | #873482

    Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 23 by Ignorant Amos

    Comment 15 by k_docks

    How long does it take for recorded history to go from fact to anecdote? E.g. There are already many holocaust deniers only a mere ~60 years on from the event. What about in 500 years?? Or 1000??

    Holocaust deniers prefer the term "historical revisionists"....60 years ain't bad, it only took the early Christian writers 20 years to start the revising of their so called events to suit their politics and the revision hasn't stopped since.

    But let's look at denial if you like, do you deny that Mohammed rode a flying horse? Do you deny Thor caused thunder with his hammer? Do you deny that Thetans created the Universe? Do you deny that the first man and woman were Ask and Embla? If you do, then why?

    There's a new book just released last week, it would suit you right down to the ground, it's entitled "The Magic of Reality" by Richard Dawkins and I can thoroughly recommend it....shouldn't be too much of a struggle to comprehend, it's for kids.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 11:16:19 UTC | #873496

    Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 24 by Schrodinger's Cat

    Comment 20 by Graxan

    I think there is some obvious value to the anecdote as it seems that many of these will contain truthful information, but as I mentioned originally it bothers me that if this is a naturally developed method of passing information along then why does it allow for such massive errors?

    I think we need to get rid of the term 'reliable witness', and remove the predisposition to things being 'more believable' just because the witness may have been a policeman, or a military man, or even a scientist.

    A classic case that demonstrates just how an entire group of 'reliable' people can get it very wrong is the infamous Rendlesham Forest UFO case. There we had trained military men, generals, etc......people in charge of the nuclear defence of the UK....confuse a local lighthouse for an alien visitation. Many were initially taken in by the story ( and alas some still are ) on the basis of just how 'reliable and professional' the witnesses were. Yet the science journalist Ian Ridpath almost single handedly completely demolished the story and to all extents and purposes proved that all the fuss was over a lighthouse.

    I myself was not 100% sure about the case, until I read Ridpath's excellent step by step refutal of the story. The 'reliable witnesses' were in fact not reliable at all. It turns out that the general in charge was not even sure which of two adjacent bases he was on ! He even got the date of the event wrong in his written report. And so on. The whole case is a superb example of how even the most 'reliable' of people can screw up.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 11:18:10 UTC | #873497

    Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 25 by Mr DArcy

    k_docks says that the probability of evolution "is so small that it is zero."

    I hope k_docks never needs antibiotics or any of the other benefits of modern science and medicine. k_docks shouldn't really be using a new fangled computer. S/he should off joining the Amish.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 11:23:35 UTC | #873498

    Jussie's Avatar Comment 26 by Jussie

    Comment 14 by k_docks

    When it comes to anecdotal stories about life arising from a lifeless soup of chemicals, a 'big bang' from nothing starting the universe without cause, all the miracles required to have all the genetic diversity we see around us today having 'evolved' from nothing in only 3.5 billion years, common ancestry being claimed from species that 'appear' to share common genetics, then I realise that any such anecdotes are impossible to test. Then I have to go back to the "probability" that such events might actually have happened. In the case of evolution, this probability is so small that it is zero.

    Only a god or an idiot could seriously put the word 'only' in front of 3,5 billion years. And it almost sounds as if you're saying: "evolution might be the right answer if only there was more time!". But since the probability of you being a god is close to zero, i think i can safely say in the words of Tyler Durden: You sir, are an idiot!

    Take a look around you. See how much change can arise in species in mere generations and then wonder what might happen in only 3,5billion years.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:08:04 UTC | #873539

    Moderator's Avatar Comment 27 by Moderator

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    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:13:44 UTC | #873541

    Premiseless's Avatar Comment 28 by Premiseless

    Comment 6 by Schrodinger's Cat :

    Graxan: I'd like to be able to quantify this phenomenon with a record of how many individual facts it takes to make someone see that another person's anecdote is not reliable.

    Well...being of scientific mind, I threw every question I could at this. Was it just a peculiar angle the spoon was seen from ? Was she distracted ? Etc etc. The trouble is that my questioning led to almost a sort of ' so you're calling me a liar ?' response.

    The problem with anecdotal evidence is not just that one was not there.....but that one cannot be certain that one would not oneself have been deceived even if one had been there.

    This is a great thread. Suppose all knowledge had monetary value. How many here would then be writing essays to cash in, were they given access to the means to do so, rather than sharing thoughts for free?

    Essentially, often this is what occurs - others see personal advantage can be got from information gathered and apply cost to it, for personal gain. Thus is born a market for unpolluted truth and one for deceptions. It may follow that one then becomes a vehicle for truths or one to preserve deceptions (When will Geller reveal his methods?Erm, his ££££ say never.). Humans seek advantage through any avenue open to do so, built upon thousands of years of skillful knowledge - If your lucky enough to be fed from young a truth or a lie for personal advantage therein you are empowered amongst all your competition. It usually won't take you long to conclude "Voila!", and keep shtum, verses the alternative of a life in the crowd!

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:27:59 UTC | #873547

    Dave H's Avatar Comment 29 by Dave H

    Comment 11 by raytoman :

    A few years before I became an atheist (at age 15-16) I saw a fiery ball drop from the sky, bounce off the roof of a house and then disappear. I was about 1.5 miles away. My first thought was (part of) a burning plane but there was no wreckage and no obvious damage to the house.

    I asked my Science teacher a few days later what it might have been. He suggested I look up ball lightning in a dictionary. I would probably have believed him but looking it up was proof enough for me.

    It could have also been a small meteorite. They're hitting the earth all the time, you know. You believe me, don't you? Or you could go look up information on expeditions that go to antarctica with the express purpose of finding meteorites because they're easy to spot on top of the snow. And they find lots just by walking around.

    The more extraordinary the claim, the more evidence required in order for me to believe you. This is the concept of "Sufficiency", as represented by the "S" in "FiLCHeRS".

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:56:00 UTC | #873565

    Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 30 by Alan4discussion

    Does there come a point when the barrage of evidence overcomes the misbegotten belief in something merely told as anecdote? 'Anecdotally' I would have to think yes having observed many instances of people's opinions being swayed in favour of the available facts but then I think of those die-hard believers of the mystical who insist on their own personal 'evidence' as being the be all and end all. So insert whatever you wish here, divination, spirits, gods, healing powers and politics et al; and you see the same behaviour patterns.

    No! For some no evidence will overcome the mental block. We see "die-hard believers" in many forms, with almost incredible levels of denial of evidence.

    I am reminded of a discussion on climate change where a denier dismissed my pasted quote from a Greenland farmer (as evidence that there was farming in Greenland at the present time - refuting a claim there was just snow), as "anecdotal", despite the fact that it was linked to an article in a well respected magazine, about his farm in Greenland together with photographs of the fields, sheep, tractor, hay-bales etc. - This was followed by trolling on for numerous pages of comments still without producing evidence and gratuitously disputing whatever was presented. There then followed the offended, "how rude" (to destroy my vacuous assertions) ploy.

    Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:12:42 UTC | #873591