Well, everything that does NOT meet the gold standard of Repeatable Observations
What do we actually mean by Observations?
Observations are not just what our eyes can see; instruments enable us to detect
much more than our own senses can register. Also, many instruments provide that most
valuable form of Scientific evidence: quantitative data (numbers).
And, what do we mean byRepeatable?
Well, the collection of data could be made at differenttimes - you could do an experiment
today and gather some data then repeat the same experiment tomorrow and gather more
data, or, the collection of data could be made simultaneously but by different observers.
For example, something like a solar eclipse could be observed at the same time by
people in different locations around the world or using different types of detector.
Being repeatable means Scientific evidence is REDISCOVERABLE at any time.
In all of the above examples the observations will have been repeated and may or
may not corroborate each other. Important Scientific claims must be corroborated
- other Scientists repeat the investigations and gather their own data independently.
That’s how we get the strongest evidence.
If the phenomenon is not naturally observable (like starlight for example), experiments
can be set up to enable the necessary observations to be made. Observations that
cannot readily be measured, like beauty for example, provide qualitative data - much
less strong evidence. Actually, many of these qualitative observations can now be
assigned a numerical value - beauty is about symmetry, but there are still areas
which some people claim as evidence that Scientists do not accept as convincing.
Take ‘experiences’ for example. People have told me stories such as, ‘I had a terrible
headache and, later, my mum told me that was exactly the same time as when her appendix
burst!’ To them, this ‘proves’ they have telepathy with their mother! Well, I’m
sorry but that is just a coincidence; there’s nothing remotely like repeatable observations
there. Headaches are so common we should have many more cases of such ‘telepathy’!
In any case, experiences die with the person; do you think the experiences that stone
age men had are important today?
Evidence exists in perpetuity since it can always be rediscovered.
Then there are the occasions where someone claims to have witnessed something like
a ‘healing’ in church which involved a pastor ‘laying on hands’ and the person falling
down. Before a Scientist could accept this sort of anecdotal evidence we would need
to repeat the exercise with randomly selected volunteers and under controlled circumstances.
Until that is done we must consider the likelihood that these events may be staged
by accomplices, the result of the impressionable being hypnotised, or some other
form of trickery. You’d be surprised the lengths people are prepared to go to especially
if there’s a chance of earning a buck! (see right)