SCIENCE (from the Latin for 'knowledge') informs wisdom, reason and humanism. This is a 4-legged worldview within reality that maximizes well-being for individuals and society.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Personal Experience And Evidence

On my Facebook page recently, I posted a link supporting my opinion that personal experience is not evidence   The push-back on this statement was significant.  Many had a flexible definition of the term evidence which included personal experience.  Following is a clarification of these two terms.

Personal experience is subjective, with no way to verify such. Yes personal experience CAN be consistent with evidence, but it is not evidence.  There is one exception:  scientific experiments can survey groups having particular personal experiences.  Here is an example.  In such cases, these personal experiences may be considered a particular type of "subjective evidence." 

Evidence is generally recognized as objective and is able to be verified by more that one individual.  This is the standard use of the term within science, thus, this is the way I use the term and do not think it requires any qualifier.

The question of the place of testimony in a legal process comes up regarding evidence.  It is recognized that expert testimony is permitted as long as the testimony is based on evidence and not solely reporting personal experiences of individuals.

Anecdotal evidence is not evidence

The main problem with accepting personal experience as evidence is that our individual minds alone have flaws in accurately perceiving reality, with tendencies toward biases and misperceptions.  "Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but our inclination is to believe that which is tangible to us, and/or the word of someone we trust over a more 'abstract' statistical reality." (the Anecdotal logical fallacy)

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