Thursday, May 26, 2016

Scientific evidence and testimonial evidence

Robert Templeton  
Having studied Physics and science in general for years, being a Skeptical thinker, and knowing about formal systems, I do think that I KNOW what evidence is. 
I have a book, "An Introduction to Scientific Research". There is nothing in there about accepting second, third, or fourth hand stories as evidence.

This is a representative statement of how some atheists approach historical reports. They use a "scientific" standard of evidence to evaluate historical reports. But there are obvious problems with that comparison:

i) Historical events are unrepeatable, whereas science often deals with repeatable kinds of events. 

ii) But even on its own terms, scientists depend on testimonial evidence for most of what they believe. A physicist may have little firsthand knowledge of biology. He relies on the testimony of biologists.

Even within his own field, a scientist is dependent on testimonial evidence. A geologist relies on findings from the fieldwork of other geologists for his understanding of geology. A physicist doesn't personally duplicate every crucial experiment in physics. He relies on physics journals for much of what he believes. And so on and so forth. 

1 comment:

  1. I'd add scientific standards of evidence (e.g. repeatability) don't necessarily apply to science. In general it's the experimental sciences that are repeatable. For example, if we accept mainstream modern science as it is, there are some scientific events which are unrepeatable such as the big bang, geological events, various watershed moments in macroevolutionary history including the origin of life, animal behavior, the forensic sciences, etc.

    Also, what does it mean for an experiment to be repeatable? If identity is a key factor in repeatability, then no experiment is perfectly identical, for even lab experiments in the most controlled conditions can have variations in set-up, equipment, personnel, similar living organisms can respond to different environments, and so on and so forth.

    Related, one reason "curing cancer" can be tricky is because cancers - even the same cancers - can behave very differently in different individuals.