The purpose of this post is to define the different kinds of evidence, and to help readers of ATS learn to distinguish between good and bad evidence.
I’m sure most of us have felt unsure of what to believe, or disbelieve, when reading the broad collection of posts here on ATS. This post is not to
specifically prove or debunk any particular post, but rather, it is meant to guide the reader towards making more intelligent decisions about whether
someone’s arguments are valid, or poorly researched.
The first, and most important, kind of evidence used in making a solid argument is called a primary resource
. Primary resources are created by
people who have first-hand experience with whatever they are speaking of and recorded it at, or near, the time something occurred. It is important
that the documentation occurred as close as possible to the time of the event so the person’s memory doesn’t have a chance to distort their
recollection. Typically, this means that there has been no interpretation of the evidence; the document is basically raw and open for interpretation.
Original letters, journal entries, legal and financial records, pictures, and video can all be good examples of primary resources.
I’ll clarify the part about videos. If I take a video of a Tsunami occurring and I record a specific event, then it can be considered a primary
resource. If I shoot a video of myself explaining why I think the tsunami occurred, then this would be, at best, a secondary resource if my argument
was based on multiple sources of empirical evidence (primary resources).
are created after the time of the event, and are more interpretive and evaluative in nature. Secondary resources are based
largely, but not entirely, on primary resources. If there is not a primary source to trace back to, the secondary source has no validity. Academic
papers and many non-fiction books are good examples of secondary sources. The author reviews all of the relevant primary material, then reviews all of
the opposing arguments to their idea, evaluates it, and then makes arguments based on the evidence.
The best arguments identify the opposing views and provide evidence to counter those perspectives.
There are also tertiary resources
. Tertiary resources are often compiled from large numbers of primary and secondary resources. Examples are
encyclopedias and textbooks. Tertiary resources are useful to help find a direction to travel with your research, but should almost never be used when
preparing an argument. A good researcher will track down the primary and secondary resources used to make the tertiary resource, and use them instead.
It’s also very important to have multiple sources that are independent
of each other. Let’s say I see a UFO and make a video or blog
describing my experience. This, on its own, will never convince the masses that what I saw was real. If another person, who I haven’t ever met,
describes the event independently through the same kind of media, then the strength of my argument increases. If yet another independent source
provides video documentation (a primary resource) of the same event, and the details of my story match with the video, then my argument becomes rock
solid. The more primary sources I add to my argument, the more likely I will be to brush off the sceptics and gain resounding support for my thread.
As we read through articles here on ATS we should be making sure that the posts that we follow are based on actual evidence as defined above.
Likewise, if we are posting material that we would like to be taken seriously, then we should try to offer as much documented primary evidence as
My hope is that this post will help many people make more convincing arguments. The more solid an argument is, the less time we will all waste
bickering about whether something is true or not. By educating ourselves in this way, we can make ATS even more useful and respected.
Please feel free to link this post to any thread that you feel could benefit from a rational explanation about what constitutes evidence.
Please remember that this is only a basic guide, and the reader should do further research to completely understand the concepts outlined here. A very
brief outline can found here: