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danydandan

Anecdotes and Anecdotal Evidence.

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ExpandMyMind

I see it as this: a single case of anecdotal evidence is evidence of nothing much at all, but multiple cases of aligning anecdotal evidence substantial enough to warrant further research.

It also depends on the type of anecdotal evidence. There is a clear difference between something observable and definable, such as the actions of other people, and something that is open to interpretation, such as that one time you saw a ghost that could also have just been a shadow.

Edited by ExpandMyMind
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danydandan
31 minutes ago, ExpandMyMind said:

I see it as this: a single case of anecdotal evidence is evidence of nothing much at all, but multiple cases of aligning anecdotal evidence substantial enough to warrant further research.

It also depends on the type of anecdotal evidence. There is a clear difference between something observable and definable, such as the actions of other people, and something that is open to interpretation, such as that one time you saw a ghost that could also have just been a shadow.

Yeah, long story short. I agree.

It depends on circumstances. But should never be considered actual evidence only a precursor to further study.

Edited by danydandan
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joc
1 hour ago, danydandan said:

I would like this thread to discuss why proponents of anecdotes and anecdotal evidence, based on the terms I defined at the start, think we as a scientific community should just accept your anecdotes as evidence?

I think to a large degree, anecdotal thinking is a generational teaching tool.  We are taught to 'believe' certain things from birth...and we are taught also that the scientific community continually attempts to destroy those beliefs because they have an ulterior (evil) agenda.  The key factor is 'belief' from birth that Anecdotal Evidence thinking is Faith and that we must have Faith and that if you don't believe, then all you really need to do is 'experience' it yourself and  you too will believe.  Many times this 'experience' is a 'feeling' and as previously discussed in other threads....Dopamine and other chemicals in our brains create an emotionalized response to said Anecdotal Evidence.

It's all about the feeling...once you emotionalize that...everything else after is based on Confirmation Bias.

I guess you are probably wanting those who are indulged in anecdotal thinking to reply...but all of their replies are based on their being taught to believe in things from birth.  All you can expect is more Anecdote and more Confirmation Bias.  

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danydandan
28 minutes ago, joc said:

I think to a large degree, anecdotal thinking is a generational teaching tool.  We are taught to 'believe' certain things from birth...and we are taught also that the scientific community continually attempts to destroy those beliefs because they have an ulterior (evil) agenda.  The key factor is 'belief' from birth that Anecdotal Evidence thinking is Faith and that we must have Faith and that if you don't believe, then all you really need to do is 'experience' it yourself and  you too will believe.  Many times this 'experience' is a 'feeling' and as previously discussed in other threads....Dopamine and other chemicals in our brains create an emotionalized response to said Anecdotal Evidence.

It's all about the feeling...once you emotionalize that...everything else after is based on Confirmation Bias.

I guess you are probably wanting those who are indulged in anecdotal thinking to reply...but all of their replies are based on their being taught to believe in things from birth.  All you can expect is more Anecdote and more Confirmation Bias.  

I was hoping for the proponents of such evidence to reply. I suspect they won't but anyways.

So you think that education might stop such thinking? It's extremely difficult to tell people the way they were thinking is incorrect, most often they dig-in deeper to their narrative. Like my OP states why I believe that anecdotes should not be considered evidence.

I'm actually at a loss why other's think it's acceptable, within the limits of scientific evidence. 

So my question still remains, why do these individuals think it's acceptable? Why should I believe a story about a Ghost or God appearing or whatever, when no tangible evidence is put forth. While I accept that the person may actually believe it, their beliefs do not impact the efficacy of their claim.

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ExpandMyMind
27 minutes ago, joc said:

I guess you are probably wanting those who are indulged in anecdotal thinking to reply...but all of their replies are based on their being taught to believe in things from birth.  All you can expect is more Anecdote and more Confirmation Bias.

I'd like to believe what your saying, but your opinions all seem to originate from anecdotal experiences :D 

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danydandan
2 minutes ago, ExpandMyMind said:

I'd like to believe what your saying, but your opinions all seem to originate from anecdotal experiences :D 

You up for a game of chess?

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ExpandMyMind
2 minutes ago, danydandan said:

You up for a game of chess?

Send me the invite and I'll definitely play but I kinda have to study at some point today. Woke up at 7am just to procrastinate it seems.

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danydandan
4 minutes ago, ExpandMyMind said:

Send me the invite and I'll definitely play but I kinda have to study at some point today. Woke up at 7am just to procrastinate it seems.

Don't worry I did three years of procrastination in college, it worked out in the end.  I sent an invite prepare for war.

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joc
17 minutes ago, danydandan said:

I was hoping for the proponents of such evidence to reply. I suspect they won't but anyways.

So you think that education might stop such thinking? It's extremely difficult to tell people the way they were thinking is incorrect, most often they dig-in deeper to their narrative. Like my OP states why I believe that anecdotes should not be considered evidence.

I'm actually at a loss why other's think it's acceptable, within the limits of scientific evidence. 

So my question still remains, why do these individuals think it's acceptable? Why should I believe a story about a Ghost or God appearing or whatever, when no tangible evidence is put forth. While I accept that the person may actually believe it, their beliefs do not impact the efficacy of their claim.

I do not think education will ever stop such thinking.  We are the most educated humans in the history of humans...has it helped?  The problem is that it is taught from birth.   Therefore, it is 'ingrained' in the thinking of not only individuals but of the entire 'culture'.   But I think it is a bit more than that even.  Just like the Iguanas and snakes on the Islands of Galapagos....repetition over generations creates changes in the DNA itself.  I think it is safe to say that anecdotal thinking is and has been for a very long time, part of our DNA.  How do you ever overcome that?  I don't think that can even evolve itself out of humanity.  We are stuck with it.  Only a small percentage of any population is going to actually consider that what they think and feel about something is irrelevant. The Few, the Proud, the OpenMinded. :)

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ExpandMyMind
33 minutes ago, danydandan said:

Don't worry I did three years of procrastination in college, it worked out in the end.  I sent an invite prepare for war.

You played Apex Legends yet? Not sure if you're into shooters but it's pretty fun.

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danydandan
52 minutes ago, joc said:

I do not think education will ever stop such thinking.  We are the most educated humans in the history of humans...has it helped?  The problem is that it is taught from birth.   Therefore, it is 'ingrained' in the thinking of not only individuals but of the entire 'culture'.   But I think it is a bit more than that even.  Just like the Iguanas and snakes on the Islands of Galapagos....repetition over generations creates changes in the DNA itself.  I think it is safe to say that anecdotal thinking is and has been for a very long time, part of our DNA.  How do you ever overcome that?  I don't think that can even evolve itself out of humanity.  We are stuck with it.  Only a small percentage of any population is going to actually consider that what they think and feel about something is irrelevant. The Few, the Proud, the OpenMinded. :)

So in your opinion, this current culture of entitlement is adding flame to the fire? 

What I mean is, everyone thinks their opinions matter. When in reality they do not. 

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joc
3 minutes ago, danydandan said:

So in your opinion, this current culture of entitlement is adding flame to the fire? 

What I mean is, everyone thinks their opinions matter. When in reality they do not. 

Oh most definitely!  Not only do people think their opinions matter...they 'believe' that their opinions matter.  Look at Twitter on any given subject at any given time.  People want to put what they think 'out there'...why?  Because they believe it matters.  

So many people think they can change the government or change the world or change something...when in reality...they are powerless over everything except their own thought processes...but most don't even realize that  one  power that they do have.  

Also, we are a very vain species.  Humans tend to 'create' things...and when we create something, we kind of like to protect it.  Who spends a lot of time on an oil painting for instance, only to pour gasoline on it and torch it?  Or who would not become very angry if someone else destroyed their creation?  Belief systems are creations...just as real as the painting...and you had damned well not even threaten to pour gasoline on that creation or they will become very angry.  

 

 

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RoofGardener
3 hours ago, ExpandMyMind said:

I see it as this: a single case of anecdotal evidence is evidence of nothing much at all, but multiple cases of aligning anecdotal evidence substantial enough to warrant further research.

It also depends on the type of anecdotal evidence. There is a clear difference between something observable and definable, such as the actions of other people, and something that is open to interpretation, such as that one time you saw a ghost that could also have just been a shadow.

Hmmm.. that being the case..... 

What is the difference between "Anectodal Evidence" (deemed poor quality and unworthy) and a Witness Statement (considered highly important in a court of law). 

If I say that I saw a flying saucer, is that anecdotal evidence, or a witness statement ? 

 

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danydandan
5 minutes ago, RoofGardener said:

Hmmm.. that being the case..... 

What is the difference between "Anectodal Evidence" (deemed poor quality and unworthy) and a Witness Statement (considered highly important in a court of law). 

If I say that I saw a flying saucer, is that anecdotal evidence, or a witness statement ? 

 

There is no difference between them.

That's why witness testimony should really not be inside a court room unless it's collaborative, with physical evidence. 

As mentioned, even in law, an anecdote is the precursor to an investigation. 

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onlookerofmayhem
10 minutes ago, RoofGardener said:

Hmmm.. that being the case..... 

What is the difference between "Anectodal Evidence" (deemed poor quality and unworthy) and a Witness Statement (considered highly important in a court of law). 

If I say that I saw a flying saucer, is that anecdotal evidence, or a witness statement ? 

 

"Eyewitnesses statements often play a vital role in securing criminal convictions – police surveys show that eyewitness testimony is the main form of evidence in more than 20% of cases. But that doesn’t mean the evidence is always reliable.

In fact research shows that 75% of false convictions are caused by a inaccurate eyewitness statement. This means up to 100 innocent people could be wrongfully convicted each year of a violent or sexual crime in the UK because of these false eyewitnesses."

https://theconversation.com/amp/new-research-reveals-how-little-we-can-trust-eyewitnesses-67663

 

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acute

I think of an anecdote as a meandering Ronnie Corbett style yarn, but anecdotal evidence is a kind of circumstantial evidence.

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danydandan
10 minutes ago, onlookerofmayhem said:

"Eyewitnesses statements often play a vital role in securing criminal convictions – police surveys show that eyewitness testimony is the main form of evidence in more than 20% of cases. But that doesn’t mean the evidence is always reliable.

In fact research shows that 75% of false convictions are caused by a inaccurate eyewitness statement. This means up to 100 innocent people could be wrongfully convicted each year of a violent or sexual crime in the UK because of these false eyewitnesses."

https://theconversation.com/amp/new-research-reveals-how-little-we-can-trust-eyewitnesses-67663

 

The law and science have different opinions on what constitutes evidence too. Certainly from a medical, biological or physics perspective the strictness of what considered evidence is far more stringent.

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ExpandMyMind
37 minutes ago, danydandan said:

There is no difference between them.

That's why witness testimony should really not be inside a court room unless it's collaborative, with physical evidence. 

As mentioned, even in law, an anecdote is the precursor to an investigation. 

Exactly. And a good lawyer can rip witness testimony to shreds if they know what they're doing.

Source: My Cousin Vinny :ph34r:

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Liquid Gardens
5 hours ago, danydandan said:

I would like this thread to discuss why proponents of anecdotes and anecdotal evidence, based on the terms I defined at the start, think we as a scientific community should just accept your anecdotes as evidence? And why you think your anecdotal evidence is valid in the first place?

Actually on the other thread I think there was a good example of the issues with the kind of anecdotal evidence you are analyzing.  Walker 'knows' what god is like because of his anecdotal experience with what he thinks is god, who is an alien.  Chessmaster @Pettytalk (who beat me handily in the tourney, albeit politely :tu:) believes in a God who is not an alien and who also talks to him.  They are both in equal positions, they both have their subjective experiences and anecdotes that at least Walker believes is 'knowledge', so that counts for Pettytalk also. 

So which of them is correct, if either of them?  What in this anecdotal evidence enables us to determine that or even allows us to favor one side over the other?  I'd argue nothing, it's only be comparing these anecdotes to non-anecdotal, non-subjective evidence that we can evaluate the credibility of the claims (and thus, is why comparing gods to dogs is silly).  So what does that then say about the value and veracity of anecdotes?

Which is not in disagreement with you dan3 , just our usual champions of anecdotes and subjectivity.  I like how you've phrased it as anecdotal evidence generates the question, not necessarily the answer.

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danydandan
1 hour ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Actually on the other thread I think there was a good example of the issues with the kind of anecdotal evidence you are analyzing.  Walker 'knows' what god is like because of his anecdotal experience with what he thinks is god, who is an alien.  Chessmaster @Pettytalk (who beat me handily in the tourney, albeit politely :tu:) believes in a God who is not an alien and who also talks to him.  They are both in equal positions, they both have their subjective experiences and anecdotes that at least Walker believes is 'knowledge', so that counts for Pettytalk also. 

So which of them is correct, if either of them?  What in this anecdotal evidence enables us to determine that or even allows us to favor one side over the other?  I'd argue nothing, it's only be comparing these anecdotes to non-anecdotal, non-subjective evidence that we can evaluate the credibility of the claims (and thus, is why comparing gods to dogs is silly).  So what does that then say about the value and veracity of anecdotes?

Which is not in disagreement with you dan3 , just our usual champions of anecdotes and subjectivity.  I like how you've phrased it as anecdotal evidence generates the question, not necessarily the answer.

Simple answer is: we favour neither side, because they can't provide any unbiased, observable, repeatable nor tangible evidence thus we can not side with either. We can only ask ourselves should or, can we even,  investigate each persons claim empirically under the rigour of the scientific method? In my opinion no. We cannot.

Can we compare anecdotal claims for veracity? Well that's a bloody good question. I don't want to but I'll carry on with one of our examples above and add another to compare it to, an hypothetical one. We take a person claiming to be communicating to God, but no one else can see or hear God even when in the room. I'll take one from my life: A wind-up clock that chimes at the exact time of death of a loved one in my family, that is never touched nor has been wound since that person died. 

In the first instance we are to believe a number of unprovable assumptions. 1.God exists, 2.God can communicate with us. This assumptions aren't testable.

The second story we also make assumptions but these assumptions can be tested. By simply sitting and observing the clock that never chimed in the five years I tested out the story. 

But anyways, none of this answers the initial premise of why proponents of anecdotal evidence think we should accept it?

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Stubbly_Dooright
8 hours ago, danydandan said:

What is an anecdote and what does it mean to offer an anecdote as evidence?

The Oxford English dictionary defines an anecdote as the following: An account regarded as unreliable or hearsay, it also defines it as a short musing or interesting story about a real incident or person. So we are left with an inconsistent definition of a term or do we simply say an anecdote is a short tale or story that is unreliable but the teller believes it to be true? Or do we then dismiss both definitions and consider what anecdotal is defined as?

Anecdotal appears to be an amalgamation of the definitions of the word anecdote. The English Oxford dictionary defines anecdotal as the following: An account of an event not necessarily true or reliable, because the telling of said event is based on a personal account rather than facts or research.

So in other words anecdotes are subjective, rather than objective.

 

What do us (Scientists) define evidence as?

Oxford English dictionary defines evidence as the following: The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. But the term we scientists use for evidence is much more complex. So we have come up with a term scientific evidence, but what does term scientific evidence mean?

Scientific evidence is derived from the scientific method, principles of inference and the concept of scientific proof. So by definition the term scientific evidence is objectionable, empirical and testable.

So for this discussion I use the term evidence in the scientific term.

 

So now that I have defined my terms, the term Anecdotal Evidence becomes oxymoronic. How can we as scientists accept evidence from a subjective, biased and uncontrolled source?

An anecdote is a story or experience, often offered here on these forums as evidence , that was not controlled and as such is open to a myriad of confounding factors. I suppose us sceptics and scientists have come to use the word anecdotal as a derogatory dismissal of such experiences and weak types of evidence. To be honest we have good reason to use the term is such regard as often anecdotal evidence is often the only means of which some individuals can construct their fantasies or beliefs.

For example if you went to a doctor and they offered you lemonade to cure a sickness, and you asked “Are you sure this is going to work?” The doctor replies “I have seen it work in my practise a number of times.” Would you accept it?

Unfortunately medical science has been dogged and held back by anecdotal evidence to the detriment of people who believe in Homeopathy and the likes.

 

But why shouldn't we accept anecdotes as evidence?

Our memories and perceptions are constructed narratives loosely based on reality, memories can change over time, and often do, with details of these memories shifting to fit our current narrative. We are also subject to confirmation bias, which is a tendency to selectively remember information to support our narrative. By definition anecdotes are casual observations, which means they rarely contain objective measurements, but even the most careful observation should not be generalised because it represents one case and is thus not statistically representative.

In my opinion, and most other scientifically minded people, anecdotes should be used only to indicate the possibility of a phenomenon, (notice that I said possibility not probability), that may need further research or exploration. Anecdotes can be used to, I suppose, generate an hypothesis, but not to confirm one.

Providers or defenders of anecdotal evidence will claim, that since its reliable for everyday mundane experiences we can rely upon anecdotes in a more generalised term. But that's both a false premise and false analogy as we know everyday experiences can be misleading, we have numerous experiments designed to investigate our memories. The overall consensus is that our recollections are flawed, and our interpretation of events even more flawed. Another issue is we are predisposed to believe stories, specifically if they have emotional themes, which always comes up in these forums. But of course there are exceptions, so one may ask how can we as a scientific community dismiss all anecdotal evidence if one or two are real? Why would these people lie?

Well we can because of the issues risen above, and people often do not know they are offering false information. But we aren't dismissing of these anecdotes, like I said they can be used to ask a question, but should not be used to answer a question.

So you may be asking after reading, if you read it all, what do I want to discuss?

I would like this thread to discuss why proponents of anecdotes and anecdotal evidence, based on the terms I defined at the start, think we as a scientific community should just accept your anecdotes as evidence? And why you think your anecdotal evidence is valid in the first place?

@Saru if this is in the wrong section I apologise. I'm not sure if it should be in the Science section or not. 

I think this is a well thought out OP. :clap: 

I often wonder at it's uses, mostly so in this section, since I see them used as a reason why one should consider believing in something that the first person believes in. Although I tend to sometimes use them, I often see them being use to side track or I see them succeeding in side tracking, and then becoming being used to exaggerate one's point. 

I then wonder, if one needs to use them, (like me too, I'll admit it), then their premise might not be strong one to prove. 

I like your points in the scientific view point. I think that makes sense. 

 

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Liquid Gardens
1 hour ago, danydandan said:

But anyways, none of this answers the initial premise of why proponents of anecdotal evidence think we should accept it?

Agreed, I think though that it also suggests the question of why proponents of anecdotal evidence think they themselves should accept it?  If anecdotal evidence is so great then why it is so impotent on its own when confronted with anecdotes that are counter?  Doesn't provide a good foundation for accepting your own anecdotal evidence.

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Aquila King
7 hours ago, joc said:

So many people think they can change the government or change the world or change something...when in reality...they are powerless over everything except their own thought processes...

I'm not one to argue that we have absolutely no power over our own thought processes, but at the same time I think it's clear that the majority of our thought processes are beyond our conscious control.

Our subconscious and unconscious minds are extremely powerful my friend. So not to make an already depressing statement even more depressing, but I'd say we're not only powerless over the majority of things in the world around us, but also powerless over the majority of our own minds.

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joc
1 hour ago, Aquila King said:

I'm not one to argue that we have absolutely no power over our own thought processes, but at the same time I think it's clear that the majority of our thought processes are beyond our conscious control.

Our subconscious and unconscious minds are extremely powerful my friend. So not to make an already depressing statement even more depressing, but I'd say we're not only powerless over the majority of things in the world around us, but also powerless over the majority of our own minds.

Except that, to a large degree, we do control our subconscious minds.  We choose what we eat, what we drink which affects the autonomous systems of our bodies.  We also influence our subconscious minds by choosing what thoughts we think and what words we do and do not say.  

That controlling our own thoughts is the only power that we actually do have, I think, is somewhat enlightening.  98% of us don't even realize that.  But many people falsely  believe that they have power over other peoples thoughts...which is sad...and scary.  

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