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Defining Evidence: How we can all make convincing arguments and have our posts taken more seriously.

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posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 02:58 PM
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).

Secondary 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 possible.

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:

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 03:04 PM
Evidence does not change a person's belief. There are tonnes of evidence to disprove popular conspiracy theories, but conspiracies evolve or ignore this evidence. Giving a people understanding of evidence will only help the people who are already skeptical. People believe things they want to regardless of evidence.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 03:10 PM
reply to post by Xertious

Giving a people understanding of evidence will only help the people who are already skeptical.

I strongly disagree. The whole point of this thread is to give people the tools to deny the skeptics their opportunity to make counter arguments. If the research is sound, then the skeptics won't have any ground to stand on.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 03:25 PM
If people posting on this site do not know what primary, secondary and tertiary sources are they will never figure out logical fallacies, which is what plagues most threads.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 03:29 PM
reply to post by ConspiracyBuff

Learning about sources seems like a good place to start. In the future I'd like to create a thread that goes into how to actually construct the argument, but that's for another day.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 04:18 PM
reply to post by sheeplearepeople

Thanks for this OP. I am saving this thread for further consideration. I'm sure it will help me in the future with presentation of evidence.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 04:36 PM
At times, we must be patient with those who bring us information which - inevitably - includes honest opinion and even speculation or conjecture.

One point worth remembering is that we are a global board, and many of our members struggle to express themselves in a language not native to them. This can lead to uncalled-for criticisms and is not what we want to do to someone who genuinely wants to participate in dialog.

Another is that sometimes we have members who while being native speakers, are not well-versed (through no fault of their own) with the terminology of debate, or even the way someone more experienced might re-parse words to create the illusion of argument.

There are members who have conditions which affect their ability to communicate, and have difficulty understanding what may be a nuanced or subtle comment - confusing it with derision or disdain.

Debate has rock-solid nuts and bolts...but we are all human (ostensibly) and as such deserve at least enough respect to not get slapped around because we can't express ourselves as cleverly as the next guy.

I would hope that members who are comfortable with a topic seek to enlighten and inform, rather than simply declare something a fallacy and leave it at that.... pedagogy is a dying art. But we can at least keep it alive in our community... because it's the right thing to do.

Great OP! Much appreciated!
edit on 13-8-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 05:51 PM
reply to post by sheeplearepeople

Who wants to work that hard to get a point across? I'm here for chat, for entertainment, and for tidbits of information, not to read long winded novel-size posts. If I open a thread and find more than 3 small paragraphs I either skip to the replies from others or I jump right out.

I don't come here to work!

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 06:16 PM
reply to post by Maxmars

I couldn't agree more. I feel for the ATS users who get shredded by people for their poor spelling and grammar, rather than the strength of their argument. If the evidence is good, however, the post will be strong, and more articulate people will likely support the OP.

posted on Aug, 13 2012 @ 11:01 PM
reply to post by sheeplearepeople

I've flown through this thread, your comments, and the Moderator's. I suspect I'm a pessimist by nature, but shouldn't we think first about what the members want? I assure you that many want to yell and fight and, perhaps, there are even a few bullies. As you've seen in this thread, some want entertainment. It's hard to put together a logically solid post, with good information, and still make it a knee-slapper.

I had a poster say to me "You're not as naive as you look, I will not talk to you." What can you do?

posted on Aug, 14 2012 @ 01:42 AM
Bumping for relevance of content!

Great thread!

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