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What constitues evidence?


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#16    third_eye

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:09 PM

View Postsam12six, on 25 February 2013 - 03:03 PM, said:

I often get into this quagmire in discussions with my friends who are believers in one fringe thing or another. They feel that evidence is proof while I feel that it's just something that tends to point in a certain direction. The problem is that the vast majority of evidence is circumstantial and requires interpretation - in other words, a huge footprint only proves that there's a depression in the soil that is shaped like a hominid foot. A hardcore believer interprets that depression as evidence that there's an enormous hominid walking around. A hardcore disbeliever interprets that depression as evidence that a hoaxer is playing tricks on the gullible.

Part of the problem with the situation is that too many people think of proving Biff's existence like a court case. Take a murder case: They find the murder weapon under someone's bed - prosecutors feel that this is evidence that the person who owns the bed is a murderer while that person's mother might feel that this is evidence that someone is trying to frame her baby. To win a court case, prosecutors gather as many different points of evidence that all seem to point in a given direction and hope it weighs enough in the minds of the jury that the conclusion can only be denied by an unreasonable level of mental gymnastics.

Science is different. It's not about evidence, it's about proof. To say a Biff exists scientifically, the only thing that qualifies is a Biff (or part of one). The entire planet could be covered in 30 inch footprints and wrapped in a coccoon of unidentifiable hair and it still isn't enough for biology to accept the existence of a new creature without actually having a specimen of the creature itself.

Anyway, the point is that when dealing with any subject that's currently outside the sphere of science (ghosts, cryptids, religion, etc), discussing the evidence and why you think it points in a given direction is an interesting activity, if for no other reason than it gives us an insight into why people believe what they do. Saying, "THIS is a fact and THIS is why I believe that fact is evidence of something.", while someone else says, "HERE'S why I think that fact is evidence of something else.", is good discussion. As long as everyone involved in the discussion understands that science requires proof level evidence to actually claim the evidence is what you're saying it is and that there's almost never a way to prove a negative then the whole thing is just a good mental workout.


they knows what evidence means ... they just don't care about the paperwork

Edited by third_eye, 25 February 2013 - 03:10 PM.

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#17    Rlyeh

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:13 PM

View Postsam12six, on 25 February 2013 - 03:03 PM, said:

Science is different. It's not about evidence, it's about proof. To say a Biff exists scientifically, the only thing that qualifies is a Biff (or part of one). The entire planet could be covered in 30 inch footprints and wrapped in a coccoon of unidentifiable hair and it still isn't enough for biology to accept the existence of a new creature without actually having a specimen of the creature itself.
Science doesn't deal in proof. Proof exists in mathematics and logic.
Your understanding of science sounds like what is used against evolution or plate tectonics, unless a specimen can be placed in a lab it doesn't exist. Are fossils enough to show dinosaurs exist, or do they need a real living one?


#18    Frank Merton

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:18 PM

There is a very simple childhood experiment that to me clearly demonstrates the nature of science being evidence and not proof.  Take a couple pieces of chalk and put them in a smallish box and close the box and then give it to someone and ask them, without opening the box, what is in it.

They will quickly tell you a couple pieces of chalk -- simply by shaking it and hearing the noise and maybe combining that with weight and size.  They use evidence to infer the truth.   We might say opening the box is proof.


#19    sam12six

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:34 PM

View PostRlyeh, on 25 February 2013 - 03:13 PM, said:

Science doesn't deal in proof. Proof exists in mathematics and logic.
Your understanding of science sounds like what is used against evolution or plate tectonics, unless a specimen can be placed in a lab it doesn't exist. Are fossils enough to show dinosaurs exist, or do they need a real living one?

In a way you're right and I should have said facts instead of proof. For a creature to be proven biologically, you must have a part of the creature. Some sciences are more about hard evidence than others. Biology has a very high standard. There's little supposition and they simply study what is.

Paleontology (I'm risking getting flamed by any passing Paleontologist here) is almost entirely supposition. It is a fact that organic material can fossilize and there is a supposition made that fossils formed from the remains of dinosaurs. The supposition may be entirely sound and logical but at its core, it's still supposition.

View PostFrank Merton, on 25 February 2013 - 03:18 PM, said:

There is a very simple childhood experiment that to me clearly demonstrates the nature of science being evidence and not proof.  Take a couple pieces of chalk and put them in a smallish box and close the box and then give it to someone and ask them, without opening the box, what is in it.

They will quickly tell you a couple pieces of chalk -- simply by shaking it and hearing the noise and maybe combining that with weight and size.  They use evidence to infer the truth.   We might say opening the box is proof.

That's a good analogy. What happens if you put two small rocks in the box and someone guesses that they are chalk? Or if someone guesses that the chalk is actually two small rocks?

Until you open the box, you can guess that the noise and weight is any small and hard object. To prove a creature's existence as a biological fact, opening the box requires part of the creature itself. Anything else is just fodder for supposition.


#20    Rafterman

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:41 PM

View Postali smack, on 24 February 2013 - 05:50 PM, said:

Ah but if you take that argument. Court cases wouldn't exist. Because they don't have a video of someone committing a crime and more than often rely on witnesses !

I don't understand how anyone would say photos, video evidence and witness reports are not classed as evidence.
There's being cases were scientists have said they have seen strange unidentified  creatures
or there's being videos or photographs of something but people don't know what it is by scientists.

to dismiss them all sounds a bit silly to me.
there are cryptids that are real and ones which are not.

The burden of proof in a legal setting is much different than a scientific setting.

I challenge you to find any creature that was confirmed by science simply by the types of photographic evidence we get in cryptid cases.

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#21    Frank Merton

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 03:46 PM

One doesn't have certainty in scientific matters, but unless one as deliberately picked the chalk to be shaped like rocks, people can readily discern the difference.

We can infer the existence of creatures from things other than having the actual creature.  Spoor, automatic cameras, witnesses, whatever.  Of course having a specimen settles the matter.

I never understood why people waste their lives looking for mythical beings that pretty obviously don't exist, and if they do exist, will surely turn up sooner or later.  To me the main test is whether the situation is such as to allow the existence of a breeding population without discovery.  In such cases some nearby university is probably the best suited to do the searching.


#22    Fstop

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 06:06 PM

View PostRafterman, on 25 February 2013 - 03:41 PM, said:

The burden of proof in a legal setting is much different than a scientific setting.

I challenge you to find any creature that was confirmed by science simply by the types of photographic evidence we get in cryptid cases.

Exactly.

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#23    Fstop

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 06:15 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 25 February 2013 - 03:46 PM, said:

One doesn't have certainty in scientific matters

Its as close to certainty as one can ever expect in our world of fakery.  

View PostFrank Merton, on 25 February 2013 - 03:46 PM, said:

We can infer the existence of creatures from things other than having the actual creature.  Spoor, automatic cameras, witnesses, whatever.

We can infer lots of things about lots of topic - it doesn't make our inferences neccessarily correct.  Cryptids are special because there are long-standing traditions of hoaxes and misidentification, and because the incentives(money, notoriety) to manufacture false evidence are very powerful.

The simple fact of the matter is that no cryptid will ever enjoy legitimacy until it plays by the same rules that all other animals have to follow when being classified by science.  Like it or not this is the way (thank goodness) that these things work.  I am thankful everyday in our world that is slowly and steadily filling up with all sorts of bull-$hit like this that there are still people dedicated to the scientific method of proving that things are actually real.

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#24    scowl

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 06:43 PM

View Postali smack, on 24 February 2013 - 05:50 PM, said:

I don't understand how anyone would say photos, video evidence and witness reports are not classed as evidence.

Look at my avatar. Are you saying it's evidence of fairies?


#25    danbell06

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:19 PM

Nothing but a body. :whistle:

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#26    keninsc

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:59 PM

View Postsam12six, on 25 February 2013 - 03:34 PM, said:

In a way you're right and I should have said facts instead of proof. For a creature to be proven biologically, you must have a part of the creature. Some sciences are more about hard evidence than others. Biology has a very high standard. There's little supposition and they simply study what is.

In the case of a cryptid creature, I might have to disagree, take our old friend Bigfoot as an example. There are countless blobsquatch photos, footprint casts, pictures of footprints, eyewitness accounts......some from people with more to loose by reporting a sighting than to gain from it and the occasional loud scream at a distance that doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard. If you take all this together it really doesn't mean a great deal, in spite of what some will say, until you actually have concrete evidence that there really is a large bipedal creature roaming around in North America. In short, you really have to have proof of life or proof of existence for any of the other stuff to have any significance.   Why? Because until you have proof that Bigfoots are real then it's just so much water under the proverbial bridge really. We know people fake footprints, we know people go out in fake suits......which is the craziest thing I've ever heard of in my life since that's a good way to get yourself shot........and sadly if I'm on a jury and a guy shot a guy in a monkey suit, thinking he was a Bigfoot, I'd be very reluctant to convict him on anything greater than a misdemeanor charge.

Edited by keninsc, 25 February 2013 - 11:10 PM.


#27    White Unicorn

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:44 AM

View Posthatecraft, on 25 February 2013 - 02:09 PM, said:

The platypus was proven to exist long before you were born.

Yes I was using that scenario as an example for how I view evidence vs proof  for any cryptid in answer to the OP.
I view anything unusual in that manner.
If you read history on that animal it was considered to be an impossible animal, just like some of the cryptids we hear about today.  


When the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) was a myth and
IF
I saw one before it's proof of existence, I'd say yes they EXIST and call it the duck with a beaver tail that laid eggs, not necessarily a mammal since I really wouldn't know that it wasn't a fowl or a lizzard like creature laying the eggs!  

You don't really know what it is  except for your perception of the evidence, but you know it exists.  It doesn't matter if you can prove it to others that it exists because you know.   You just feel kind of lucky that you observed it before it became a proven animal.




#28    White Unicorn

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:52 AM

View PostRlyeh, on 25 February 2013 - 02:27 PM, said:

Actually no, in science that is evidence. It is something that can be verified and tested.

HMM ....I said What you are looking for is DNA, a BODY as a scientific verification  which would be PROOF of the cryptid's existence.

But you don't count witnesses or videos of living animals or their DNA or their living or dead bodies as PROOF that it would just be evidence???

What exists as proof to you that a platypus even exists or a do do bird ever existed before becoming extinct? A mathematical formula?

Edited by White Unicorn, 26 February 2013 - 01:08 AM.


#29    sam12six

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:24 AM

View Postkeninsc, on 25 February 2013 - 10:59 PM, said:

In the case of a cryptid creature, I might have to disagree, take our old friend Bigfoot as an example. There are countless blobsquatch photos, footprint casts, pictures of footprints, eyewitness accounts......some from people with more to loose by reporting a sighting than to gain from it and the occasional loud scream at a distance that doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard.

That's why cryptozoology isn't a science. There's no qualifications and no degrees involved. Call yourself an expert and go out into the woods and howl for a while and you're as much of a cryptozoologist as anyone else. IF smoking gun evidence for Biff shows up (a body or part of one), then the species will graduate into the realm of science and be dealt with and studied by biologists. 'Til then all the stuff mentioned is like I said before - just a bunch of stuff you can interpret depending on your own beliefs.


#30    keninsc

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:35 AM

True enough, which is the main reason I seriously doubt any of the so called "Bigfoot hunters" on TV or the web will ever actually find one. Once they are determined to be real then you'll need to have a bunch of letters behind your name in order to be taken seriously.

The best any of us can hope for is to find the "Holy Grail" which would be the irrefutable proof that they exist and I dare say once you do then you'll be either loved for finding the real Bigfoot or treated like a total pariah. Shoot one and I dare say you might need to hire security for a while. I mentioned taking a Bigfoot once on a board and was banned for even talking about it, I also got a number of nasty emails from other posters, can you imagine how much that might well escalate if you really did shoot one? Oye!

I once tried to explain to a fellow on line that he couldn't get a degree in Cryptozoology because it wasn't a real science, I even told him to check it out on Wikipedia. Honestly, it was like telling a child there was no Santa. I actually felt sorry for him and for having destroyed his dreams, but he was totally convinced he could get a degree in Cryptozoology from most any university which offered various biology degrees.

Edited by keninsc, 26 February 2013 - 01:39 AM.





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