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 by Repeatable?

Well, the collection of data could be made at different times - 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)

OK, WHAT IS NOT GOOD EVIDENCE THEN?

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Many a  Jest Contains a Weird Viewpoint!

 

Daily Show host, comedian John Stewart  said,

 

‘I’m not comfortable with evidence based facts!’

(audience laughter)

 

When asked what he would be

comfortable with, he said,

 

‘A feeling?’

(louder audience laughter!)

In 1995, a Madonna statue appeared to weep blood in the town of Civitavecchia in Italy. The local Bishop said that he himself had seen it weep. Vast crowds came to see and many businesses profited.

 

The blood on the statue was later found to be male! The statue’s owner, Fabio Gregori, refused to take a DNA test!

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