Why Medicine Must be examined with Legal and Scientific Eyes

“How surprising it is to observe that one truth in one era is a falsehood in another” Miller.

It has always stricken me how much “official standards” in medicine are based on falsehoods and dogmas, in reality, I have the evidence that over 50 percent of what is taught in mainstream Schools of Medicine is either dogmatic, misleading or irrelevant.

One of the reasons for this dogma-rich field is that most Schools of Medicine don’t have courses in evidentiary science, not even Naturopathic Schools like Bastyr in Seattle (1).  In this Page, after a few introductory remarks (Section A), I will delve into a few forms of evidence that can help us to better understand the health sciences. (Section B). Thereafter, I will look into Holistic Science and conclude with a discussion on truth seeking. (Section C)  For greater details on this subject, please see the Institute’s Research workshop.

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Section A

Introductory Remarks

“A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence” Philosopher David Hume 

When i first heard a Medical School’s Dean remarks about the fast pace of medical research (See quote above), it dawned upon me that medicine is really not a fixed science, still searching for itself, it’s true nature, its fundamental principles. Then  when i heard Miller’s statement on how bizarre it is that during one era, one truth is compelling and fought for while in another era, that same truth or belief is fought against. This statement applies for all “exact”, social and health sciences. It reflects the relativity of knowledge and on why we should be humble by realizing that we actually know very little, notwithstanding some usefulness of the scientific method, an inquiry process that was articulated by Bacon in the 16th century.

 Evidence in relation to Beliefs and Reality

In simple and general terms, evidence guides us toward what is true or real and away from what is false. We seek to believe what is true by holding beliefs that are well-supported by the purported evidence one seeks to invoke. Most humans are of good faith, they do seek to avoid believing what is false by not holding beliefs that are not well-supported by the evidence. But one obstacle is that they don’t necessarily have the preliminary scientific education to be able to ascertain the truth about some claim. For example, in 1896 medical science learned that distinctive clustered white lesions called Kopliks spots are a reliable early symptom of the measles. With this knowledge, doctors who see Kopliks spots have reliable evidence of the measles. However, a person seeing Kopliks spots who has no knowledge of their medical importance does not have evidence of the measles, even though this lay person and the doctor are observing the same evidence. If that person had a bad week, he or she may attribute that lesion sign to punishment from Above, without linking the lesion to viral infection from perhaps a neighbor. As this example illustrates, the extent to which someone is in a position to gain new information on the basis of particular pieces of evidence typically depends upon that person’s background knowledge.

Before the process of biological evolution was discovered and described by Charles Darwin and others, evidence for the diversity of life favored divine interpretations. For exemple, the belief of crop circles have often been supported by divine interpretation or even alien intervention. In this realm, Conspiracy theories, fringe theories, and pseudo-scientific explanations are sometimes proposed as alternative explanations of certain bodies of evidence.

The hallmark of a scientist and rational thinker, especially in the field of the health sciences and medicine is or should be the utmost respect for evidence. This is one reason why Clause Bernard is regarded as one of the fathers of modern medicine, because for his, the biggest enemy in medicine was unfounded suppositions, thus his invention of the double blind experimentation method thanks to which incorrect conclusions can be minimized. Then, like now, too many scientists are convinced of their belief system. That’s often the case when their  reasoning is impeccable. But correct reasoning based on incorrect evidence  results in incorrect conclusions.

Section B

Generalities on both Legal and Scientific Evidence

Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion (in science) or  allegation (in law).

 This support may be strong or weak. The strongest type of evidence is that which provides direct proof of the truth of an assertion. At the other extreme is evidence that is merely consistent with an assertion but does not rule out other, contradictory assertions, as in circumstantial evidence. (   )

( m  )  Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact—like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need for any additional evidence or inference.

On its own, circumstantial evidence allows for more than one explanation. Different pieces of circumstantial evidence may be required, so that each corroborates the conclusions drawn from the others. Together, they may more strongly support one particular inference over another. An explanation involving circumstantial evidence becomes more likely once alternative explanations have been ruled out. Circumstantial evidence allows a trier of fact to infer that a fact exists.[1] In criminal law, the inference is made by the trier of fact in order to support the truth of an assertion (of guilt or absence of guilt).

In law, rules of evidence govern the types of evidence that are admissible in a legal proceeding. Types of legal evidence include testimony, documentary evidence,[2] and physical evidence[3]. To these three major types of evidence can be added subsidiary forms of evidence.Types of evividence Forensic evidence, Digital evidence Personal experience Scientific evidence Testimonial Physical evidence Trace evidence Relationship evidence

Relationship evidence describes a particular class of circumstantial evidence – evidence of events and interactions between witnesses (often the accused and the complainant) extraneous to the offences charged. The admissibility of this type of evidence derives from common law principles that stand outside the direct operation of the Uniform Evidence Acts (1)


(1) 
Sally Dowling, ‘Symposium to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the NSW Evidence Act 1995’ (2015) Banco Court, Supreme Court of NSW

The parts of a legal case which are not in controversy are known, in general, as the “facts of the case.” Beyond any facts that are undisputed, a judge or jury is usually tasked with being a trier of fact for the other issues of a case. Evidence and rules are used to decide questions of fact that are disputed, some of which may be determined by the legal burden of proof relevant to the case. Evidence in certain cases (e.g. capital crimes) must be more compelling than in other situations (e.g. minor civil disputes), which drastically affects the quality and quantity of evidence necessary to decide a case.

On the other hand,

Scientific evidence consists of observations and experimental results that serve to support, refute, or modify a scientific hypothesis or theory, when collected and interpreted in accordance with the scientific method.

In philosophy, the study of evidence is closely tied to epistemology, which considers the nature of knowledge and how it can be acquired.

Burden of proof

The burden of proof is the obligation of a party in an argument or dispute to provide sufficient evidence to shift the other party’s or a third party’s belief from their initial position. The burden of proof must be fulfilled by both establishing confirming evidence and negating oppositional evidence.

Conclusions drawn from evidence may be subject to criticism based on a perceived failure to fulfill the burden of proof. Two principal considerations are: On whom does the burden of proof rest? To what degree of certitude must the assertion be supported?

The latter question depends on the nature of the point under contention and determines the quantity and quality of evidence required to meet the burden of proof.

In a criminal trial in the United States, for example, the prosecution carries the burden of proof since the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Similarly, in most civil procedures, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof and must convince a judge or jury that the preponderance of the evidence is on their side. Other legal standards of proof include “reasonable suspicion”, “probable cause” (as for arrest), “prima facie evidence”, “credible evidence”, “substantial evidence”, and “clear and convincing evidence”.

In a philosophical debate, there is an implicit burden of proof on the party asserting a claim, since the default position is generally one of neutrality or unbelief.  Skeptims.

Each party in a debate will therefore carry the burden of proof for any assertion they make in the argument, although some assertions may be granted by the other party without further evidence. If the debate is set up as a resolution to be supported by one side and refuted by another, the overall burden of proof is on the side supporting the resolution.

In a criminal case, this path must be clearly documented or attested to by those who handled the evidence. If the chain of evidence is broken, a defendant may be able to persuade the judge to declare the evidence inadmissible.

Presenting evidence before the court differs from the gathering of evidence in important ways. Gathering evidence may take many forms; presenting evidence that tend to prove or disprove the point at issue is strictly governed by rules. Failure to follow these rules leads to any number of consequences. In law, certain policies allow (or require) evidence to be excluded from consideration based either on indicia relating to reliability, or broader social concerns.

Evidence in science

In scientific research evidence is accumulated through observations of phenomena that occur in the natural world, or which are created as experiments in a laboratory or other controlled conditions.

Scientific evidence usually goes towards supporting or rejecting a hypothesis.

One must always remember that the burden of proof is on the person making a contentious claim. Within science, this translates to the burden resting on presenters of a paper, in which the presenters argue for their specific findings. This paper is placed before a panel of judges where the presenter must defend the thesis against all challenges.

When evidence is contradictory to predicted expectations, the evidence and the ways of making it are often closely scrutinized (see experimenter’s regress) and only at the end of this process is the hypothesis rejected: this can be referred to as ‘refutation of the hypothesis’. The rules for evidence used by science are collected systematically in an attempt to avoid the bias inherent to anecdotal evidence.

Forms of Evidence

Evidence appears in many forms. These include: physical evidence, documentary evidence, and testimony, along with experimental results and reports, statistical evidence, historical research, experts, authorities, hearsay, rumors, and gossip. It is difficult to assess the reliability of various forms of evidence, and to draw conclusions when faced with conflicting evidence. The next sections of this course establish various criteria useful in assessing the relative reliability of various forms of evidence.

Evaluation Criteria

Each piece of evidence is a glimpse of reality as seen through a fog.

We examine evidence searching for clues that will tell us more about the world we live in, and to help us investigate and answer specific questions we may have. Certain forms of evidence will provide more relevant, more revealing, and more reliable information than others. Evidence is gathered when an observer examines an object or event and reports on the findings. When interpreting evidence it is important to consider what is being learned about the object, the observer, and our own biases in making those interpretations.

Separating the signal from the noise is important when interpreting evidence. The signal is that portion of the information that is relevant to the problem at hand. The noise is information that is irrelevant, unhelpful, and often a distraction. Signal-to-noise ratio is a precise term in science and engineering that is sometimes used informally to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange.

Relevance

The courts have deliberated at length on the relevance of various forms of evidence. These principles can be usefully extended to more general cases where the relevance of evidence has to be evaluated during any exploration, discovery, investigation, decision, or dialogue.

In a U.S. Federal[12] court of law[13], evidence is relevant if:

1it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and

2the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

Relevancy is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence but exists only as a relation between an item of evidence and a matter properly provable in the case,[14] or more generally, relevant to the determination that is being made, or the question that is being explored. The essential question in determining relevance is: does the item of evidence tend to prove the matter sought to be proved?

Relevant evidence represents signal—the helpful information, irrelevant information represents noise—unhelpful distractions. Focusing on relevant evidence while dismissing irrelevant information increases the clarity of the investigation. Irrelevant information is a distraction to be avoided; however, sometimes a detail that seems irrelevant at first can later provide an insight that becomes a key to the solution.[15]

In U.S. Federal Court cases even relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value—importance in seeking truth or deciding facts—is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.[16] In the general case, efforts to prejudice, confuse, mislead, delay, or waste time are unhelpful because they distract and mislead decision makers from arriving at thoughtful conclusions.

Many informal logical fallacies are classified as fallacies of relevance because the argument relies on premises that are not logically relevant to the conclusion. These fallacies of relevance include:

•The Argument from Ignorance,

•The Appeal to Inappropriate Authority,

•Argument Ad Hominem,

•The Appeal to Emotion,

•The Appeal to Pity,

•The Appeal to Force, and

•Irrelevant conclusions.

Learn to recognize and avoid these fallacies.

Evidence provided by objective sources is more reliable than evidence provided by biased sources.

Scope

The scope of the evidence refers to the range of conditions represented.

“No matter how well a study is designed, its results cannot automatically be applied beyond the population studied.”[24] People are diverse. We vary by age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic origin, education, health status, psychological status, relationship status, fitness levels, stress levels, dietary habits, body type, lifestyle, experience, work habits, and other factors. Cultural, geographic, workplace, and other environmental conditions vary among individuals and groups. Results from studies of one group cannot be reliably generalized to include groups not studied.

Species are diverse. Laboratory studies conducted on mice, rats, or other animals cannot be generalized to predict results in humans. Studies that show promising results in mice must still undergo clinical trial to assess the results on humans.

The environment is diverse. Conditions vary from one location to the next, and studies performed in one location cannot be generalized to other locations. Similarly, the biosphere is diverse. Conditions vary from one species to the next. Studies performed in one species cannot be generalized to other species or other locations. Promising results studied over a short time span cannot be generalized to predict long-range effects.

Studies that rely on large representative samples typically provide more reliable estimates of results in the whole population than those that use small samples or that rely on biased samples.

It is important to distinguish statistically significant results from short term trends or chance. In any experiment or observation that involves drawing a sample from a population, there is always the possibility that an observed effect would have occurred due to sampling error alone. A confidence level is chosen before data collection, and typically set to 95% or much higher, depending on the field of study, to ensure there is less than a 5% probability the results are due to chance or sampling error.

Anecdotal evidence is evidence collected in a casual or informal manner relying heavily or entirely on personal testimony. Although anecdotal evidence is often emotionally appealing, it is very limited in its scope. When compared to other types of evidence, anecdotal evidence is generally regarded as limited in value due to a number of potential weaknesses.

When only one or a few anecdotes are presented, there is a larger chance that they may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases. Similarly, psychologists have found that due to cognitive bias people are more likely to remember notable or unusual examples rather than typical examples. Thus, even when accurate, anecdotal evidence is not necessarily representative of a typical experience.

In summary: evidence with a broader scope is stronger that evidence with a narrow scope, representative evidence drawn from a representative sample is better than a biased sample, and anecdotal evidence is not representative. Evidence drawn from an unrepresentative sample is meaningless.

When only one or a few anecdotes are presented, there is a larger chance that they may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases. Similarly, psychologists have found that due to cognitive bias people are more likely to remember notable or unusual examples rather than typical examples. Thus, even when accurate, anecdotal evidence is not necessarily representative of a typical experience.

In summary: evidence with a broader scope is stronger that evidence with a narrow scope, representative evidence drawn from a representative sample is better than a biased sample, and anecdotal evidence is not representative. Evidence drawn from an unrepresentative sample is meaningless.

Circumstantial

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact—for example a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need for any additional evidence or inference.

On its own, circumstantial evidence allows for more than one explanation. Different pieces of circumstantial evidence may be required, so that each corroborates the conclusions drawn from the others. Together, they may more strongly support one particular inference over another. An explanation involving circumstantial evidence becomes more likely once alternative explanations have been ruled out.

Direct evidence is stronger than circumstantial evidence.

Context

Because each piece of evidence provides only a glimpse of the real world, it is helpful to place each piece of evidence into a broader context. When numbers are not given, ask about the numbers. When numbers are given, ask about the rate of occurrence. Evaluate numbers in the context of the larger system they are part of. When hearing about deaths attributed to cause X, ask how many deaths occur each year due to other causes. When rates are given, ask about the numbers. When percentages are given, ask about the natural frequencies.[26] Draw natural frequency diagrams to understand what is being measured by the percentages cited.

Shark attacks make gripping headlines, and many people fear shark attacks.[27] Putting the numbers in context, however, tells a different story. For example, there were a total of 1,104 shark attacks in the United States (excluding Hawaii) in the 56 years from 1958 – 2014, of which 35 attacks were fatal. That is an average of less than one fatality per year. By comparison, the United States suffered 42,815 fatalities from motor vehicles in the year 2002. Based on these statistics, automobile accidents are approximately 68,000 times more deadly than shark attacks. Using numbers from equivalent time intervals would give a more accurate estimate.

In another example, toddlers killed more Americans than terrorists did in 2015 depending on the exact definitions used.[28]

Establish a relevant context for interpreting each piece of evidence.

Expertise

An expert is someone with a great deal of knowledge about, or skill, training, or experience in, a particular field or activity.

Most of what we learn and come to believe is the result of various experts’ work. Historians have researched original documents, visited sites around the world, and may have interviewed eyewitnesses or examined physical evidence to be able to accurately document historical events. Biologists have examined individuals of various species in depth and have described the characteristics of each species in detail. We rely on physicians and other healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat our illnesses.

Conclusions or opinions offered by experts within their field of study are more reliable than conclusions arrived at by laypeople, or by experts operating outside their particular field.

Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. An area where there is a scientific consensus typically represents the best available evidence on that topic. While there are large areas of expert consensus, research is on-going and experts are always eager to ask the next question to satisfy their curiosity. This results in areas of active research and current controversy.

Beware of the psuedosymmetry of scientific authority when evaluating claims of disagreement or controversy. The psuedosymmetry of scientific authority is a form of false balance that occurs when the mass media incorrectly portrays scientists as equally divided on an issue. In its attempt at journalistic balance or in an effort to make a story more compelling, the mass media can give the public the impression that a single individual or a small band of contrarians represents a large group of scientists which disagrees with another large group of scientists. Such “balance” can give the impression that a scientific consensus has not been reached and that an issue is considered controversial within the scientific community when, in fact, it is not.[29]

Recognized levels of evidence systems generally rank the opinion of a single expert below the results of carefully conducted case studies.

It is important to contrast the conclusion of experts with an argument from authority. It is a fallacy to cite an authority on a topic outside their area of expertise or when the authority cited is not a true expert. This often occurs when famous people such as actors, musicians, or athletes, are asked their options on policy questions outside their professional field. People who have obtained positional power may offer opinions on topics outside their field of expertise

Reliable Sources

“Unpublished findings are not a good basis for making important decisions.”[37] Statements drawn from unreliable sources may be no better.

Evidence is no more reliable than the sources from which it is obtained. Therefore it is important to assess the reliability of the various sources being consulted. The Wikipedia policy on identifying reliable sources provides well-thought-out guidelines that can be used to evaluate source reliability. Brief excerpts of that policy are provided here:

Scholarship material such as an article, book, monograph, or research paper that has been vetted by the scholarly community is regarded as reliable, where the material has been published in reputable peer-reviewed sources or by well-regarded academic presses.

News sources often contain both factual content and opinion content. “News reporting” from well-established news outlets is generally considered to be reliable for statements of fact (though even the most reputable reporting sometimes contains errors). News reporting from less-established outlets is generally considered less reliable for statements of fact. When consuming information provided by a news source, it is helpful to understand their stance toward journalistic objectivity so that you can better evaluate the material they are providing.

Reliable sources are not required to be neutral, unbiased, or objective, but their bias should be know and disclosed to readers. Common sources of bias include political, financial, religious, philosophical, or other beliefs.

Questionable sources are those with a poor reputation for checking the facts, or with no editorial oversight. Such sources include websites and publications expressing views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, that are promotional in nature, or that rely heavily on rumors and personal opinions.

Understanding the editorial policy of the publication can help to assess the reliability of the publication.

Scientific Studies

Scientific studies can be designed following one of several forms, including Randomized Controlled Trials, observational studies that are either retrospective or prospective, and case-control studies.

“In considering the veracity of scientific findings, studies published in a scientific journal should be given infinitely more weight than those that are not…”[38] “A finding should be given more weight if there are multiple confirming instances…”[39] These and other considerations can be combined to form an evidence hierarchy.

Evidence hierarchies reflect the relative authority of various types of biomedical research. Although there is no single, universally-accepted hierarchy of evidence, there is broad agreement on the relative strength of the principal types of research, or epidemiological studies. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) rank above observational studies, while expert opinion and anecdotal experience are ranked at the bottom. Some evidence hierarchies place systematic review and meta-analysis above RCTs, since these often combine data from multiple RCTs, and possibly from other study types as well. Evidence hierarchies are integral to evidence-based medicine.

When evaluating evidence from scientific studies it is helpful to identify the type of study, and determine where that type of study falls in the relevant evidence hierarchy. A levels of evidence pyramid provides a way to visualize both the quality of evidence and the amount of evidence available.[40]

Similar levels of evidence are used throughout evidence-based practices to describe the strength of the results measured in a clinical trial or research study.

Reliable Testimony

Evidence is often in the form of testimony. The reliability of the testimony depends on many factors.

It is important to understand the objectivity of the person giving the testimony, as discussed in the section on objectivity.

Eyewitness reports are more reliable than hearsay, rumors, or gossip, as discussed in the section on authenticity. Because eyewitness testimony relies on human memory, it is often inaccurate.

Eyewitness testimony may be inaccurate due to an eyewitness’s memory being influenced by things that they might hear or see after the event was originally witnessed.

Testimony is anecdotal evidence, and does not provide a reliable basis for generalization, as discussed in the sect in on scope.

Various factors may diminish the reliably of testimony, including: age, mental status, stress, distraction, impairments, intoxicating agents, coercion, viewpoint, and others.

Reliable Methods

Crystal balls, tarot cards, astrology, clairvoyance, divine faith, and revelation are unreliable methods[42] for obtaining evidence, forecasting the future, justifying belief, or making predictions.

Reject these unreliable methods in favor of the most reliable methods known. Scholarly methods, including historical methods and scientific methods are constantly improved to ensure the resulting claims about the world are as valid and trustworthy as possible

. E.O. Wilson describes the scientific method as “demonstrably the most powerful instrument hitherto created by the human mind.”[43] Criminal investigations and forensic science apply scientific methods to reliably gather evidence related to criminal activities. Clinical trials are experiments or observations done in clinical research to gather reliable evidence. These are often designed and performed as randomized controlled trials, generally accepted as the most reliable method to assess proposed interventions. Randomized controlled trials are gaining acceptance throughout the social sciences. Statistical hypothesis testing can assess the degree of confidence in choosing one hypothesis over another.

Convergence and Coherence

Reliable methods converge toward a coherent description of the real world. This is the principle of consilience—the unity of knowledge. When evidence obtained from various sources and methods fails to converge, the discrepancies must be vigorously investigated and resolved. This usually uncovers some error in some of the evidence collection as in the example of the faster-than-light neutrino anomaly.

In very rare instances resolving the discrepancy leads to revision of currently held theories or to major breakthroughs. Examples of such breakthroughs include the heliocentric model of the solar system, falsification of the Luminiferous aether hypothesis, continental drift, the germ theory of disease, and the existence of transposable elements in DNA sequences.

Correlation

Two variables are correlated if the one variable tends to increases (or decrease) as the other variable increases. For example, a person’s weight tends to increase as their age increases. Discovering a correlation between two variables begins to provide evidence that one variable depends on the other, but the evidence is not definitive.

Consider this fallacious argument:

As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply.

Therefore, ice cream consumption causes drowning.

It is more likely that children both swim more often and eat more ice cream in the summer heat, and that eating ice cream is not the cause of drowning.

Causation

It is well known, but often forgotten that correlation does not imply causation. Recognizing a plausible mechanism linking the effect to the cause is important, but not essential, for establishing a cause and effect relationship.[44]

Astronomers can confidently state that sunrise and sunset are caused by the rotation of the earth as it orbits the sun. The movements of the earth around the sun are fully described. These movements describe a mechanism that explains sunrise and sunsets precisely as they are observed. Furthermore, this understanding of the earth’s motion is sufficiently detailed and accurate that the times of sunrise and sunset can be accurately predicted for any future date for any location on earth. Similarity, tides are caused by and explained by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth, and modified by local conditions including winds, currents, and flooding.

Explanation

An explanation attributes an effect to some set of more basic causes. Explanations attempt to answer the questions Why does this happen? or How does this work? An explanation often proposes some mechanism to account for a particular set of evidence.

Throughout the ages people have observed the sun rise each morning and set each evening. Curious people have wondered what causes the sun to rise and have sought explanations for their observations. Over the millennia, various explanations have been proposed within various cultures.

In ancient Greece the god Helios was described as a handsome titan crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun, who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night. This explanation failed to account for the motions of the moon, the stars, and the various planets that were observed. Chariot mechanics also remained a mystery.

In a more comprehensive explanation, sunrise, along with the movement of stars and planets were explained by celestial spheres. In these celestial models the apparent motions of the fixed stars and the planets are accounted for by treating them as embedded in rotating spheres made of an aetherial, transparent fifth element (quintessence), like jewels set in orbs. This model accounted for more available evidence than the chariot model; however it failed to accurately account for various astronomical observations being made by Kepler, Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and others.

Today’s heliocentric model places the sun at the center of our solar system, with the various planets revolving around the sun in elliptical orbits. The insights of Isaac Newton accurately explained the motions of the planets using three simple laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation.

Recent more detailed observations challenged details of Newton’s analysis and have brought us the theories of general relativity and speculation on the existence of Planet Nine.

Explanations are incomplete and unsatisfactory unless they adequately account for all of the available evidence. In the sunrise example above we see how more comprehensive and coherent explanations supersede less comprehensive explanations. Explanations continue to evolve until they can coherently account for all available evidence from a global perspective.

When encountering crop circles it is natural to ask, how can their formation be explained? Two possible explanations are alien visitors or pranksters. A narrow examination of any particular crop circle is unlikely to uncover evidence favoring one of those explanations over the other. Broadening the investigation opens questions like: When were the crop circles formed? How did the aliens or pranksters arrive, do their work, and leave? Is there any evidence of their arrival, visit, or departure? Have any aliens or pranksters been seen in town? Why would an alien or a prankster to this? Do we have any evidence of alien visitors or pranksters elsewhere? As more evidence is gathered, it may begin to favor one explanation over the other.

Occam’s razer can be helpful in choosing among several equally possible explanations. The principle advises: among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. It is often best to choose the simplest explanation that fits all the evidence.

Noncontradiction

Aristotle’s law of noncontradiction can be stated as:

“The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously.”

Aristotle says that without the principle of non-contradiction we could not know anything that we do know.[45]

It is important to keep in mind the distinction between the law of non-contradiction, which is true, and the fallacy of false dichotomy. The difference is the distinction between a color that is either black or non-black (e.g. all other colors) and black or white (e.g. excluding all other colors).

Because reality is coherent, various pieces of evidence that appear contradictory are not yet fully understood. The apparent contradiction must be resolved before the evidence can be fully and accurately interpreted. More evidence, a new explanatory hypothesis, or a new interpretation of the existing evidence is needed to resolve the contradiction.

Rhetoric[edit]

Rhetoric is the skillful use of language for the purpose of influencing others.[46] Rhetoric makes use of three primary strategies:

Logos—an appeal to evidence, reason, and logic,

Ethos—an appeal to character and similar values, and

Pathos—an appeal to emotions.

Skillful orators adjust their use of these three strategies to influence their audience as powerfully as possible. It is helpful, although often difficult, to distill reliable evidence from rhetoric. The approach is to strip the ethos and pathos away from the rhetoric and reveal the remaining logos. With the logos exposed, then identify the conclusions presented, the logic supporting those conclusions, the premises used to support those conclusions, and the evidence provided for those premises. In short, has a sound argument been presented?

Shouting is not evidence. Displays of passion are not evidence. Repeating unjustified beliefs is not evidence. Righteous indignation is not evidence. Pity is not evidence. Hope is not evidence. Divine faith is not evidence. The extent to which anyone resorts to such drama is direct evidence of their lack of evidence.

Rhetoric cries out for fact checking. The resources provided for fact checking section of this course can provide a starting point.

Other courses in this Clear Thinking curriculum can help you to analyze arguments and determine if they are sound.

Mumbo jumbo

Mumbo jumbo is confusing or meaningless language. It may refer to practices based on superstition, rituals intended to cause confusion, or languages that the speaker does not understand.

Section C

Holistic Science

Holistic Scientists are by nature curious cats who delve or dig deep… with a get lost list….these are the eternal wanders seeking the unfathomable and finding the unexpected…

 

Digging Deeper

Reality is very complex, and evidence often reveals that complexity as exploration of one layer begins to reveal the structure of deeper layers. For example, objects consist of matter, matter consists of molecules, molecules are made up of atoms, atoms consist of electrons, protons, and neutrons, protons and neutrons are made up of quarks, and research is currently underway to examine the substructure of quarks. A set of Russian nesting matryoshka dolls provide a useful analogy. The existence of the inner dolls is only revealed by carefully examining the outer doll, along with the curiosity to look inside.

To gain a complete and reliable understanding of evidence, it is important to expect that the present evidence is revealing only the outer surface of what is often a very deep and complex structure. It is important to dig deeper to get a more detained, nuanced, and reliable understanding.

Studying various examples of science by press conference illustrates the importance of digging deeper, going beyond the headlines, going beyond the press release, and working to understand the peer reviewed studies that report the actual research. A particularly damaging case began in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield held a press conference to claim that the MMR vaccine caused autism. In January 2011, an article by Brian Deer and its accompanying editorial in The BJM identified Wakefield’s work as an “elaborate fraud.”[33][34][35] During this time many parents elected not to have children vaccinated, angry parents of children on the autism spectrum were misled, and vaccine controversies continue today.

In 1912 bone fragments were presented as the fossilized remains of a previously unknown early human. This became known as Piltdown Man, and claims that it was the “missing link” between ape and man drew great attention. In-depth investigation of over a period of more than 40 years uncovered an elaborate hoax.

Headlines highlighting contradictory health or fitness advice are common. Investigate beyond the headlines to read the press release, understand the original research reports, and place the evidence in context to better understand the scope of the research results and determine … what is settled, what is disputed, what is new here?[36]

Cross examination—the interrogation of a witness by the opposing counsel—is routinely practiced in law. The main purposes of cross-examination are to elicit favorable facts from the witness, or to impeach the credibility of the testifying witness to lessen the weight of unfavorable testimony. Cross-examination frequently produces critical evidence in trials, especially if a witness contradicts previous testimony. Cross examination allows the court to dig more deeply into testimony.

Corroboration and Falsification

Biologists  chemo shrinks tumors….This naturally invites the conclusion that “All chemo shrink tumors, provides additional corroborating evidence supporting the claim that “All chemo”

Holistic scientist… falsify  smoke screen…shrink, no relationship to survivability…grow back…

This single observation was sufficient to falsify the claim that “All chemo skrink tumors”.

While every observation of a white swan provides corroborating evidence, a single black swan is sufficient to falsify the claim that all swans are white. This asymmetry illustrates the problem of induction. No number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, since it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Evidence that is consistent with a universal generalization corroborates, but can never prove, that generalization

Discussion

Censorship in many forms prevents access to various evidence. Private conversations, privileged conversations, classified materials, state secrets, taboo subjects, data omitted from reports, unfavorable studies, inconvenient truths, and stories never told are inaccessible to most of us.

Each of us has some approach to discovery, exploration, study, learning, inquiry, assessment, and verification. Together these can be called our individual research methods. Our approaches will determine what questions we choose to explore, what evidence we seek out, how gullible or skeptical we are regarding various forms of evidence, what we decide is true or false, and what we choose to believe or reject.

Each of us has some approach to discovery, exploration, study, learning, inquiry, assessment, and verification. Together these can be called our individual research methods. Our approaches will determine what questions we choose to explore, what evidence we seek out, how gullible or skeptical we are regarding various forms of evidence, what we decide is true or false, and what we choose to believe or reject. We may be passive, learning from whatever we happen to come across and believing what we hear. Alternatively we can become more active in seeking out a broader range of evidence and experiences, investigating controversies, exploring apparent contradictions, comprehending opposing viewpoints, challenging assumptions, and exercising critical thinking.

Our curiosity determines what we explore, the questions we ask, and what we seek to learn. Our attention determines what evidence we will consider most important and what is most influential.

Our world is so large and complex and the amount of information available is so vast, that despite our best efforts, we are all at least 99.9% ignorant. We only ever learn about a tiny fraction of our world.

Confirmation bias is the human tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities

A recursive or positive feedback loop exists between our current beliefs and our confirmation biases that creates and sustains our worldview. In the absence of a worldview and confirmation bias, our current beliefs would be based heavily, if not entirely, on the most recent evidence we have been exposed to. However our beliefs accumulate over time to form our worldview. At the same time our worldview is influencing how we interpret each new piece of evidence. Our beliefs and worldviews inform our confirmation bias, which selects, ignores, emphasizes, discounts, and interprets each new piece of evidence in ways that tend to confirm our existing beliefs.

The ways in which children typically come to believe, defend, question, doubt and eventually reject their belief in Santa Claus provides an example.[9] At a young age children may be told the story of Santa Claus as a cheerful, benevolent, and generous man who arrives Christmas Eve bringing presents. Because they consider parents as authority figures, they enjoy receiving presents, and the culture often reinforces the story, the children believe the story without question. Their worldview now includes features that allows for, sustains, justifies, and explains their belief in Santa Claus

. Eventually, however, the weight of evidence against the story becomes inescapable; the child rejects the story, revises his beliefs, and updates his worldview. At this time the parents may have to reconcile with the child, explaining that the fantasy was promoted with the best interests of the child in mind.[10]

A similar awakening may occur as an adolescent learns about friendships, betrayal, human sexuality, romantic relationships, family secrets, the value of education, the job market, office politics, religious dogma, moral virtue, factory farming, death, and many other coming-of-age epiphanies and insights.

In each such case new evidence bears the burden of overcoming presently held beliefs. Presently held beliefs are formed from the evidence accumulated throughout our lives and often form a coherent worldview. New evidence is persuasive depending on the strength of the present worldview—the a priori beliefs—at least as much as on the strength of the new evidence.

In the face of contrary evidence, motivation to protect the current worldview is often strong, and contrary evidence may actually strengthen the person’s commitment their current beliefs.[11] There may reach a point, however, when the accumulation of contrary evidence overwhelms the long-held beliefs, and a sudden shift in beliefs happens. The old beliefs are quickly rejected in favor of some new coherent model that accommodates the new evidence. Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the baby delivery stork, naïve ideals, and other comfortable fantasies are quickly left behind.

Each piece of evidence is one piece of some larger puzzle. It is our responsibility to determine what puzzle it belongs to, how it fits into that puzzle, what portion of the reality puzzle it represents, and what insight it reveals. As we encounter evidence we need to ask: What does this evidence convey about reality? Is the information being conveyed true? Does it tell me more about the observer or what is being observed? How representative is this? To what extent can I draw a more general conclusion from this data point?

Read this paper on How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists.[41]

https://violentmetaphors.com/2013/08/25/how-to-read-and-understand-a-scientific-paper-2/

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference and Precision Notes

References[edit]

1Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

2Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

3Jump up
↑ “This Other Dude Did It!” A Test of the Alternative Explanation Defense, The Jury Expert, July 1, 2009, by Elizabeth R. Tenney, et. al.

4Jump up
An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, chap. 10.4., as cited in the Wikisource entry on Evidence.

5Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

6Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

7Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

8Jump up
↑ Kelly, Thomas, “Evidence“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

9Jump up
↑ If the Santa Claus story is not prevalent in your culture, perhaps some other childhood fantasy can be used instead of this example. The general phases of belief will be similar.

10Jump up
↑ For example, see: Lights, Camera, Christmas!, This American Life, Episode 482, originally aired 12/21/2012.

11Jump up
↑ For examples, see the film Going Clear.

12Jump up
↑ Federal Rules of Evidence › article iv. Relevance and its limits, Rule 401. Test for Relevant Evidence

13Jump up
↑ Other courts with other jurisdictions will have rules of evidence that are analogous and differ in some respects. See, for example: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court#Article_69:_Evidence and: https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/PIDS/legal-texts/RulesProcedureEvidenceEng.pdf It can be instructive to compare and contrast these rules to gain a more complete understanding of relevance.

14Jump up
↑ Federal Rules of Evidence › article IV. Relevance and its limits, Rule 401. Test for Relevant Evidence

15Jump up
↑ For example, the planet Neptune was discovered when irregularities in the orbital path of Uranus that could not be explained by Newton’s laws of gravitation were carefully investigated.

16Jump up
↑ Federal Rules of Evidence › article IV. Relevance and its limits, Rule 403. Excluding Relevant Evidence for Prejudice, Confusion, Waste of Time, or Other Reasons

17Jump up
↑ Dictionary.com, entry for “original (noun)

18Jump up
What is a “foundation” for evidence?, Rottenstein Law Group.

19Jump up
↑ Federal Rules of Evidence › Article VI. Witnesses, Rule 602. Need for Personal Knowledge

20Jump up
↑ Federal Rules of Evidence › Article X. Contents of writings, recordings, and photographs, Rule 1002. Requirement of the Original

21Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449. Chapter 2.

22Jump up
↑ Attie, A. D. (2006). “The Republican war on science”. Journal of Clinical Investigation 116 (3): 552–552. doi:10.1172/JCI28068.

23Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449. Chapter 8

24Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 6.

25Jump up
↑ This material originally appeared at: http://emotionalcompetency.com/evidence.htm and is used here with permission of the author.

26Jump up
↑ See, for example: Using expected frequencies when teaching probability, Understanding Uncertainty, and Simple tools for understanding risks: from innumeracy to insight, Gerd Gigerenzer, September 27, 2003.

27Jump up
Shark attack deaths: How common are they?, USA Today, June 15, 2015, Doyle Rice.

28Jump up
↑ See: Kindergarten, Stop, Snopes, Kim LaCapria, December 17, 2015.

29Jump up
↑ The Skeptics Dictionary, Puedosymmetry entry.

30Jump up
↑ This material originally appeared at: http://emotionalcompetency.com/evidence.htm and is used here with permission of the author.

31Jump up
↑ See http://dhmo.org/

32Jump up
↑ This is an example of Segal’s law, which states: “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”

33Jump up
“Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent”. The BJM 342:c7452: c7452. 2011. doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. PMID 21209060.

34Jump up
“Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud”. NPR. Associated Press. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 201-01-06. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

35Jump up
↑ Rose, David (2010-02-03). “Lancet journal retracts Andrew Wakefield MMR scare paper”. Times Online. London. Archived from the original on 2010-02-03.

36Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 1.

37Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 1, Debunking Myth #6.

38Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 1, Debunking Myth #5.

39Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 1, Debunking Myth #5.

40Jump up
Evidence-Based Practice Research: Levels of Evidence Pyramid, Walden University

41Jump up
How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists, Violent Metaphors, Jennifer Raff, August 25, 2013

42Jump up
↑ For reliability assessments, see for example: “Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions” as reported in Astrology and Science, including the references. Also see the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation.

43Jump up
Wilson, Edward Osborne (March 30, 1999). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Vintage. pp. 384. ISBN 978-0679768678. Page 207.

44Jump up
↑ Seethaler, Sherry (January 23, 2009). Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. FT Press. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0132849449., Chapter 5.

45Jump up
↑ See, for example Aristotle on Non-contradiction, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Contradiction, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

46Jump up
↑ Heinrichs, Jay (August 6, 2013). Thank You For Arguing, What Aristotle, Lincoln, And Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. Three Rivers Press. pp. 432. ISBN 978-0385347754.

47Jump up
So, Uh, Here’s The Full Text Of Sarah Palin’s Bizarre Trump Speech, BuzzFeed, Kyle Blane, January 19, 2016.

48Jump up
Frankfurt, Harry G. (January 30, 2005). On Bullshit. Princeton University Press. pp. 67. ISBN 978-0691122946.

49Jump up
House Science Member Says Earth Is 9,000 Years Old, Scientific American Blog, October 5, 2012, Christine Gorman.

50Jump up
↑ “This Other Dude Did It!” A Test of the Alternative Explanation Defense, The Jury Expert, July 1, 2009, by Elizabeth R. Tenney, et. al.

51Jump up
How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail, Why worldview threats undermine evidence, January 1, 2017, Michael Shermer, Scientific American.

52Jump up
↑ Discourses, Book II, ch. 17, as reported in the Wikiquote entry on Epictetus

53Jump up
↑ Calling Bullshit has been developed by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to meet what they see as a major need in higher education nationwide.

 

 

 

 

Trace evidence is created when objects contact. Material is often transferred by heat or induced by contact friction.

The importance of trace evidence in criminal investigations was shown by Dr. Edmond Locard in the early 20th Century. Since then, forensic scientists use trace evidence to reconstruct crimes, and to describe the people, places and things involved in them. Studies of homicides published in the forensic science literature show how trace evidence is used to solve crimes. Trace evidence is important in accident investigation, where movement of one part against another will often leave a tell-tale mark. Such analysis is of great use in forensic engineering.

Problems[edit]

False positives and contamination by subsequent handling or nearby objects (e.g. mixing of blood from victim and attacker), for example, are problems owing to the presence of many common substances and the necessity of human involvement in the collection of trace evidence. Both can occur with DNA traces and fingerprints, and therefore evidence should be collected, analyzed, and presented in accordance with established guidelines[1]. Partial fingerprints are even more vulnerable to false positives. Samples from accidents or crimes should therefore be protected as much as possible by enclosure in a sealable container as soon as possible, after an incident is under investigation.[2][3]

1 Jump up
^
Curtis, Caitlin; Hereward, James (August 29, 2017). “From the crime scene to the courtroom: the journey of a DNA sample”. The Conversation.

2 Jump up
^
Forensic evidence goes on trial

3 Jump up
^
How far should fingerprints be trusted?

• Mute Witnesses: Trace evidence analysis, by Houck, Max M (Ed),Academic Press (2001).

• Forensic Materials Engineering: Case Studies by Peter Rhys Lewis, Colin Gagg, Ken Reynolds, CRC Press (2004).

v • d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital evidence or electronic evidence is any probative information stored or transmitted in digital form that a party to a court case may use at trial.[1] Before accepting digital evidence a court will determine if the evidence is relevant, whether it is authentic, if it is hearsay and whether a copy is acceptable or the original is required.[1]

The use of digital evidence has increased in the past few decades as courts have allowed the use of e-mailsdigital photographsATM transaction logs, word processing documents, instant message histories, files saved from accounting programs, spreadsheetsinternet browser histories, databases, the contents of computer memory, computer backups, computer printoutsGlobal Positioning System tracks, logs from a hotel’s electronic door locks, and digital video or audio files.[2]

Many courts in the United States have applied the Federal Rules of Evidence to digital evidence in a similar way to traditional documents, although important differences such as the lack of established standards and procedures have been noted.[3] In addition, digital evidence tends to be more voluminous, more difficult to destroy, easily modified, easily duplicated, potentially more expressive, and more readily available. As such, some courts have sometimes treated digital evidence differently for purposes of authenticationhearsay, the best evidence rule, and privilege. In December 2006, strict new rules were enacted within the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requiring the preservation and disclosure of electronically stored evidence. Digital evidence is often attacked for its authenticity due to the ease with which it can be modified, although courts are beginning to reject this argument without proof of tampering.[4]

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