Evidence on a Sliding Scale

Has anyone else noticed this?  On the Internet, everyone is an expert, and everyone vigorously argues his/her point.  Whenever absolute proof is available to support a point, that proof is offered, upfront, with no hesitation.  However, when the evidence is weaker, a sort of “sliding scale” of why-you-should-believe-me is used to back a position.   No one ever seems to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.”

The arguments used to buttress less-than-stellar positions seem to have become fairly standard.  With this is mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a short list of the most common ones.  Here then, in descending order of efficacy, are the usual suspects.

I have proof!
Meaning: I can prove it; here are the data/calculations.

The best evidence suggests these findings are accurate.
Meaning: That is our conclusion, and we are sticking with it.

p < 0.05
Meaning: Our findings are statistically significant.  Okay–we know more work needs to be done.

A panel of eminent scholars/scientists agrees with these findings.
Meaning: We spent a lot of time on this, and who are you to question us?

There is no proof that our findings are incorrect.
Meaning: My researchers are from better schools/smarter than your researchers.

Einstein once said…
Meaning: I know you have no idea what Einstein might have said, so there.

If that’s not the cause/reason, then what is?
Meaning: No, I can’t back up what I said; why are you giving me a hard time?


Happy Thanksgiving!


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