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Old 30th January 2013, 01:59 PM   #41
MuDPhuD
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Originally Posted by Jerrymander View Post
Yep, thats what I was thinking. "controlled" vs "uncontrolled" is the key. Scientists come prepared to observe a phenomenon and set up protocols. This is usuall not the case for ancedotes.

Here's an article discussing the problems of the latter.

http://nctc.fws.gov/EC/Resources/dev...20-%206-08.pdf
A nice description of some of the problems with anecdote in this specific field, and Figure 2 (A sample set of evidentiary standards) appears to be a practical application of the ECREE principle. The more rare the species, the more solid the evidence required.
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Old 30th January 2013, 02:21 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
I said "observation", not "described observation", as in one described an observation. It was a described observation.

I think you parsed my post oddly.

How does an anecdote differ from an observation?

As for describing anecdotes in medical research, I'm well versed. I'm a nurse practitioner. It's why I have to point out anecdotes are evidence in this forum all the time.
oh, yes I see what you mean. I have misunderstood you.
In medicine, as you know, case reports and case series are careful, and usually well described observations, which form the lowest tier of evidence (anecdotal evidence). In this sense observation and anecdote are the same.

This is not to say that a story, or anecdote, told by a coworker regarding the ghost which haunts her house is the same as a scientific observation. In this case, the anecdote regarding drafts, creaking doors and the smell of a cigar would require an impartial investigator to make careful observations during the events to determine all possible causes of the woman's experience. Here, as in medicine and science, the anecdote is the stimulus for further, more controlled observations.

I agree with you, an anecdote is still a kind of evidence, its just not very reliable and requires further investigation before it can be believed.
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Old 30th January 2013, 03:00 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by MuDPhuD View Post
....
I agree with you, an anecdote is still a kind of evidence, its just not very reliable and requires further investigation before it can be believed.
Just another nit pik, most of the time you can 'believe' an anecdote. There may be issues with false memory specificity and the observation/describing skills of the historian (anecdote teller), but one need not disbelieve what people tell us with the exception of those who are repeating second hand anecdotes. Where the anecdote teller gets into trouble is with the unsupportable conclusions that they come to about their anecdote.


Are you a doc? Patients deserved the benefit of the doubt when it comes to us believing their accounts (with believing their conclusions, that depends).
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Old 30th January 2013, 03:54 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by Jerrymander View Post
Yep, thats what I was thinking. "controlled" vs "uncontrolled" is the key. Scientists come prepared to observe a phenomenon and set up protocols. This is usuall not the case for ancedotes.

Here's an article discussing the problems of the latter.

http://nctc.fws.gov/EC/Resources/dev...20-%206-08.pdf
Thanks very much for that link. An interesting read (especially as it discusses the case of the "rediscovery" of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker). This passage from the conclusion seems to sum up the subject of this thread quite nicely too (or at least describes my view on the subject);
However, anecdotal information continues to influence our political and legal systems as well as the publicís understanding of the natural world. In a court of law, jurors generally consider eyewitness accounts to be particularly reliableómuch more so than they actually are...

In fact the entire conclusion summarises the crux of this thread quite well.
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Old 30th January 2013, 04:05 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
Thanks very much for that link. An interesting read (especially as it discusses the case of the "rediscovery" of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker). This passage from the conclusion seems to sum up the subject of this thread quite nicely too (or at least describes my view on the subject);
However, anecdotal information continues to influence our political and legal systems as well as the public’s understanding of the natural world. In a court of law, jurors generally consider eyewitness accounts to be particularly reliable—much more so than they actually are...

In fact the entire conclusion summarises the crux of this thread quite well.
Again, it's the assumption, or conclusion, or claim made in reference to the anecdote.

"I saw something I didn't recognize in the woods today."

"I saw a sasquatch in the woods today."

Big difference.
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Old 30th January 2013, 04:06 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
Thanks very much for that link. An interesting read (especially as it discusses the case of the "rediscovery" of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker).
I started a thread here several years ago using that paper as the OP.
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Old 30th January 2013, 04:23 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Jerrymander View Post
I've come across some defenders of eyewitness anecodotes who say that they are no different then scientific observations. That is observations are just anecodotes by smart people.

I have my answer to this but I wonder how those of you in field research would respond.
I haven't read the whole thread, so forgive me if this has already been said.

First, this notion is wrong. Scientific observervations are carefully conducted in a way which allows for independant verification, where as anecdotes are not. For example, anyone can go to any field site I've mapped and see if I'm right. Another example is taxonomy--standard practice in paleontology is to include photographs, with scale bars, of the thing you're describing. Anyone who can read the paper therefore can verify your descriptions. So scientific observations are more than just observations, and far more than anecdotes.

Short version: It's an anecdote to say "I saw it". It's science to say "I saw it--and here's the proof".

A good example of this is the lizard I saw once on a fossil-hunting trip. The collection we were doing was scientific observation. When I described the lizard, that was an anecdote.

I will disagree strongly with most people here in how much we emphasize instrumentation. Most of the observations I've made professionally have been just that: my observations. The closest thing to an instrument I had was a hand lens. Controls are also not exactly universal. Historical sciences take what they can get--you can't really set up a controlled experiment for a black hole or mass extinction. That said, it's kind of like the medicine thing: basic observations form the lowest and often most hotly-debated rung of our research. It's not all that impressive to simply find a new species or a new star type--it's UNDERSTANDING that new species/star type, which requires a great deal more observations and theoretical knowledge, that's the important thing.
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Old 30th January 2013, 05:57 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
I haven't read the whole thread, so forgive me if this has already been said.

First, this notion is wrong. Scientific observervations are carefully conducted in a way which allows for independant verification, where as anecdotes are not. ....
Spoken like a true tunnel visioned scientist that has no clue other scientific fields of inquiry collect historical anecdotes as evidence all the time.

For example, an epidemiological investigation of an outbreak of a suspected disease involves asking a number of people what they've eaten and where they've been over a certain period of time. They were not scientific observers at the time of their observations.
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Old 30th January 2013, 07:56 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
I started a thread here several years ago using that paper as the OP.
A nice short one too. I'll have a bit of a gander at it.
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Old 30th January 2013, 07:59 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Again, it's the assumption, or conclusion, or claim made in reference to the anecdote.

"I saw something I didn't recognize in the woods today."

"I saw a sasquatch in the woods today."

Big difference.
Yep. That's why I found the search for evidence of the IBWP to be on a close parallel with squatch hunting.

ETA : Exception being that the IBWP hunters at least applied some degree of rigour to their search method and subsequent results.
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