Anecdotal Evidence

One thing people often give undue weight is anecdotal evidence. This is usually the telling of a notable story or event. It is not necessarily representative of anything typical. In science, anecdotes may be good for developing a hypothesis, but absolutely nothing beyond that, I’m afraid. Say, for example, I’m looking at some stratum in the Appalachians and I notice in one area a large, distinctive band of coloration. This gives me some good reason to investigate a bit further. Perhaps my hypothesis can be that I have just discovered a new layer of sediment that marks a particular time period in geological history. But I don’t know anything at the time of discovery. The coloration may just be some Kool Aid a hiker spilled in the area, or maybe there is an interaction between bird droppings, tree sap, and acidic rain. I won’t know until I test this hypothesis rigorously. As it stands, my hypothesis has use in propelling me toward finding actual evidence, but it isn’t evidence itself.

This brings me to the blog of Michael Heath. He made a post on homosexuals being intolerant.

The “gay” issue is always portrayed in the media as one of tolerance. People don’t realize that the so-called “tolerance” goes only one way. I have never experienced true tolerance with homosexuals. The minute they realize that I am not going to budge on my morals they become insistent, mean, hard-hearted and sometimes vicious.

This may very well be true. But Heath has no idea if it is. He has no studies which demonstrate a correlation between homosexuality and a lack of cordiality. He has no statistical samples which prove out or lend credence to his claim. He may as well conclude a Kool Aid stain on Mount Katahdin links it to the blood of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Heath continues.

There is no better example of this reality than this recent account from the streets of San Franciso. sic

He then links to an article which cites homosexual rights supporters outshouting a conservative news conference in front of the San Francisco city hall building. This is anecdotal support for an anecdote. It doesn’t help that Heath is accussing homosexuals of being hateful on the whole when it isn’t necessarily true that all the counter-protesters were gay.

It’s best to learn from the errors of Heath. Ignore your stance on homosexuality. That isn’t the point. Just don’t judge what might be a Kool Aid stain to be anything more until you have sufficient evidence.

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