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Author Topic:   Direct and indirect evidence in science
Medis
Member (Idle past 1508 days)
Posts: 34
Joined: 10-16-2007


Message 1 of 41 (614039)
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Hi, couldn't find a place to post these questions so decided to try and start a new topic:

What is the definition of direct evidence and indirect evidence and could you please provide examples of each? In relation to evolution, would the fossil record be an example of direct or indirect evidence of evolution?

Also, could you explain why indirect evidence is "good enough" evidence to support scientific theories, or provide examples of commonly accepted scientific theories, where supporting evidence is wholely, or mostly indirect? I know atoms are at least one such theory (source: http://education.jlab.org/qa/atom_01.html)

Currently debating a creationist and he's been nagging me about evolution only being supported by indirect evidence while every other scientific theory is apparently supported by direct evidence...didn't want to state any falsehoods which is why I'm asking


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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3830
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 41 (614041)
04-30-2011 10:33 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Direct and indirect evidence in science thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

Added by edit:

I'm presuming this nature of scientific evidence them is not intended to be confined to biological evolution. Therefore I put it in the "Is It Science?" forum, which is the home for general scientific methodology discussion/debate.

Adminnemooseus

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : No reason given.

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Try new "signature".


Please be familiar with the various topics and other links in the "Essential Links", found in the top of the page menu. Amongst other things, this is where to find where to report various forum problems.
    
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 41 (614044)
04-30-2011 11:34 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Ain't Evidence Just Evidence?
Hi, couldn't find a place to post these questions so decided to try and start a new topic:

What is the definition of direct evidence and indirect evidence and could you please provide examples of each? In relation to evolution, would the fossil record be an example of direct or indirect evidence of evolution?

Also, could you explain why indirect evidence is "good enough" evidence to support scientific theories, or provide examples of commonly accepted scientific theories, where supporting evidence is wholely, or mostly indirect? I know atoms are at least one such theory (source: http://education.jlab.org/qa/atom_01.html)

Currently debating a creationist and he's been nagging me about evolution only being supported by indirect evidence while every other scientific theory is apparently supported by direct evidence...didn't want to state any falsehoods which is why I'm asking

I've always been under the impression that evidence is just evidence. It's only measure of quality is in how well it supports the conclusion(s) being drawn from it.

Jon


Love your enemies!
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NoNukes
Member
Posts: 10127
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 1.7


(1)
Message 4 of 41 (614052)
05-01-2011 1:01 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Malangyar writes:


What is the definition of direct evidence and indirect evidence and could you please provide examples of each? In relation to evolution, would the fossil record be an example of direct or indirect evidence of evolution?

Direct evidence for a conclusion are facts that establish the conclusion without any need for drawing inferences. In the strict sense, the only direct evidence is eye witness testimony of the conclusion. Maybe a video recording can be considered direct evidence.

All other evidence is indirect. And using the strictest definition, all but the simplest scientific theories, and essentially all scientific facts are established indirectly. For example, we don't have direct evidence that the sun produces energy by nuclear fusion, because no one has ever even seen an atom. There is no direct evidence that hydrogen even exists on the sum. We know only indirectly that the earth has an iron core. The distance of the earth to the moon is measured indirectly. On the other hand, we know from direct evidence that the moon is more than an arm's length away.

When you take the temperature of the inside of a roasting turkey with a meat thermometer, you indirectly infer that the turkey has a given temperature given the thermal response of some element within the thermometer.

A radar gun measures your car's speed indirectly.

Usually, we don't use indirect and direct so strictly. Instead, we say that facts are determined directly when there is some acceptably straight forward and nearly indisputable inference. Of the examples I've given above, some people would consider that measuring a turkey temp with a thermometer is an example of direct evidence of the turkey's temperature.

Among theories we don't have direct evidence for are that cigarette smoke causes cancer, that HIV infection causes AIDS, or that human activity affects the global climate. Interestingly enough, many Creationists won't find those examples very convincing because they doubt that one or all of those conclusions are true.

Absent a time machine, we'll never be able to see a human evolve from some ancient ape that is a common ancestor to humans and chimps. All of the genetic and fossil evidence for that conclusion are

On the other hand, there is evidence that micro-organisms evolve, and some of it would probably be considered direct using a non-strict definition.

Malangyar writes:

Also, could you explain why indirect evidence is "good enough" evidence to support scientific theories

Indirect evidence is good enough, because there is nothing wrong with drawing correct inferences from data, and because we can falsify theories by making predictions of the indirect evidence we should not expect if the theory was correct. Yes, we can and should question the inferences, but to pretend that making inferences is always unacceptable is wrong and probably dishonest.

Currently debating a creationist and he's been nagging me about evolution only being supported by indirect evidence while every other scientific theory is apparently supported by direct evidence...didn't want to state any falsehoods which is why I'm asking

It's actually far easier to come up with examples theories based on indirect evidence than it is to come up with theories based on direct evidence. Perhaps a good debating tactic would be to discuss and debunk claims that other branches of science use direct evidence.

Creationists do not believe in evolution because they believe it contradicts the Bible. They are not going to change their minds even in the face of direct evidence, but they can pretend to be open minded by saying that direct evidence would be convincing.


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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2171
From: Big Spring, TX, USA
Joined: 03-18-2006


Message 5 of 41 (614055)
05-01-2011 1:44 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


?
Isn't reality evidenced indirectly? After all, there are many institutionalized people who would not only argue with anyone concerning the nature of reality, but would indeed act upon it (hence the institutionalization).

Therefore what is directly evidenced? creationism?????


The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.
Salman Rushdie

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. Its us. Only us. - the character Rorschach in Watchmen


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 15987
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 6 of 41 (614056)
05-01-2011 3:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Perhaps you should make the creationist define what are, after all, his terms.

If he can't or won't, then he might as well be talking about flubnar and non-flubnar evidence.


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Percy
Member
Posts: 16343
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 7 of 41 (614059)
05-01-2011 6:02 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Whether evidence is direct or indirect is not the measure of our confidence in what we believe true of reality. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, while some of the most well established theories of science have only indirect evidence, like quantum theory.

It would be extremely convenient if we could assign a measure of confidence in any given knowledge by a simple enumeration of the relative proportions of direct and indirect evidence, but that isn't the way the real world works. A tight and unambiguous chain of indirect evidence can be of far better quality than ambiguous direct evidence. Evidence must be judged in context with other evidence, and it is this complex confluence and interaction of evidence that we assess.

--Percy


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Medis
Member (Idle past 1508 days)
Posts: 34
Joined: 10-16-2007


Message 8 of 41 (614075)
05-01-2011 12:10 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by NoNukes
05-01-2011 1:01 AM


Thanks a lot for the replies.

Direct evidence for a conclusion are facts that establish the conclusion without any need for drawing inferences. In the strict sense, the only direct evidence is eye witness testimony of the conclusion. Maybe a video recording can be considered direct evidence.

You say that a video recording could be considered direct evidence. A video recording is not a "direct observation" though, in the sense that you are observing using a tool (in this case a camera) and not observing with the "naked" eye.

My question is this, if a video recording is considered direct evidence, what about an SEM of a chromosome? Would that be considered direct evidence of DNA? How about an electron microscopy of a cell, would that be considered direct evidence of a cell? Would an emission spectrum be considered direct evidence of atoms?

Even using a video camera, wouldn't you have to draw inference as to how the camera works?

It's actually far easier to come up with examples theories based on indirect evidence than it is to come up with theories based on direct evidence. Perhaps a good debating tactic would be to discuss and debunk claims that other branches of science use direct evidence.

I was in the process of doing exactly that when I realised that it is quite hard to do without definitions of direct and indirect evidence.

For example I stated that we don't have direct evidence of magnetism. Then he showed the well known example of iron filings on a piece of paper showing the magnetic lines of force.

Now I would call that indirect evidence, because we can't actually see the magnetic force itself, rather we're looking at the iron filings and infer that they align themselves because of magnetism.

I would say the same is true for an SEM of a chromosome being indirect evidence of DNA. We're not seeing the chromosome with our own eyes, rather we're using an electron microscope.

Dr Adequate writes:

Perhaps you should make the creationist define what are, after all, his terms.

If he can't or won't, then he might as well be talking about flubnar and non-flubnar evidence.

I've tried, he ignores it and responds with examples of what he considers direct evidence, e.g. emission spectrum as direct evidence of atoms.

I think I'll explain to him what direct and indirect evidence is, refute his wrong examples, assert that we don't have direct evidence of atoms, explain why there is nothing wrong with indirect evidence and finally ask him if somebody was found lying on the ground with several stab wounds and no weapon in sight if he would rule out murder because nobody saw it happen?

Edited by Malangyar, : No reason given.


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ringo
Member
Posts: 14002
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 9 of 41 (614078)
05-01-2011 12:49 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Medis
05-01-2011 12:10 PM


The whole direct/indirect thing is of no use to the creationist anyway, since nobody was there to see his prefered scenario either. The trouble with creationism is that it lacks both direct and indirect evidence and relies on misinterpreting indirect evidence.


If you have nothing to say, you could have done so much more concisely. -- Dr Adequate
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 15987
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 10 of 41 (614090)
05-01-2011 5:42 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Medis
05-01-2011 12:10 PM


I've tried, he ignores it ...

Creationists usually go to greater lengths to conceal the meaninglessness of their statements.

You could always try telling him that the evidence for evolution is stronger than that for other scientific theories in that the evidence for evolution is toticromulent whereas that for other theories is merely metacromulent.


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Otto Tellick
Member
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


(1)
Message 11 of 41 (614092)
05-01-2011 6:44 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Medis
05-01-2011 12:10 PM


It's an irrelevant distinction
I think the best response to this "direct/indirect" distinction is that it doesn't matter, regardless of how you choose to define these terms, or what sorts of examples you pick to represent each type.

What matters is the accuracy of predictions that result from the combination of the evidence that you have (whatever type it might be) and the particular hypotheses and theories you induce to account for the evidence.

To take your magnetism example, it doesn't matter whether you refer to the observations of iron filings on a piece of paper just above a magnet to be direct or indirect. What matters is whether you can form a hypothesis about magnetism based on this evidence, and then use that to make accurate predictions about some other situation that you haven't observed yet, but could observe by controlled means (i.e. by experiment, which could either be direct manipulation of objects and forces, or focused inspection of natural phenomena).

If the prediction turns out to be correct, then the evidence is good enough, no matter how you got it, and your hypothesis was sufficient to account for the phenomena. Of course, an essential caveat here is that the evidence and hypotheses must stand up to repeated reassessment, to check for possible biases, unexpected conditioning factors, etc.

The more evidence you find to support a given hypothesis or theory, no matter what type of evidence it is, the more confidence you have that the hypothesis or theory is valid and useful.

To rub it in, you can point out to the creationist that the bible has been used to predict the date of the second coming of Christ (i.e. "the end times", "the rapture", the end of the world as we know it). In fact, there is currently a widely circulated prediction that this will happen on May 21, 2011. It was previously predicted to happen at several previous dates, which have long since gone by. Indeed, Jesus Christ himself, according to scripture, stated that this event would happen during the lifetime of the people who were listening to him, and apologists have spent a lot of effort to navigate around the apparent failure of his prediction.

All previous predictions about the second coming (whose end dates have all passed by) were obviously wrong, and we'll know within a few weeks whether the May 21 prediction has any merit. Given the track record and the nature of the evidence, would your creationist friend care to stake anything of importance on its potential accuracy?

Ask whether he would posit any other predictions, based on purely scriptural explanations, without appeal to the scientific theories that have thrived and proved their worth over the last few hundred years. It's important to be clear that when the prediction fails, attributing it to God's will is irrelevant. A failed prediction is a failure, period.

In order to hold a candle to what can be done (and is done on a regular basis) by the combination of geology, physics and evolutionary biology, a creationist's prediction would have to handle a collection of facts equal in diversity and detail to the following:

Suppose we're poking around at a small cliff near a stream or river and find a mammalian skull, and we decide to hand it off for study. One researcher takes careful measurements (cranial capacity, jaw length, brows, ocular and nasal openings, teeth, etc). Another researcher independently takes a small sample of the skull itself and of materials that were adjacent to the skull when it was found, and applies a variety of dating methods to estimate how long ago this being was alive. A third researcher looks at the materials in the cliff above and below where the skull was found.

Evolutionary theory predicts that their respective findings, which are all established independently and are based on techniques that have already been proven useful/accurate by means of other independent predictions, will converge:

(1) the skull will be found to be intermediate between other known skulls of similar (but slightly different) shape and size;

(2) the dates determined from skull and adjacent material will likewise be intermediate between the dates that were estimated for those other similar skulls;

(3) the dates of deposition of the strata below and above the position of the skull in the cliff will also be found to be older and newer, respectively, than the age of the skull and the material it was embedded in.

Fossils that trace the development of cetacean, equine, canine, feline and primate/hominid species have all demonstrated that sort of convergence. And we haven't even mentioned yet all the DNA and other biological/morphological evidence drawn from the species living today, which provides yet another (and even stronger) confirmation for the relationships inferable from the fossils and their comparison to modern skeletons.

Of course, creationists love to fantasize about the inaccuracy of dating techniques, but there's a whole section at EvC devoted to this (and plenty more, presented quite efficiently, at http://www.talkorigins.org), which should suffice to show that these fantasies fail, and one must be willfully ignorant to accept them as a refutation of dating methods. To nail that down, just point out that oil companies spend many millions of dollars annually to make the dating methods as accurate as possible, because when those methods work accurately, the companies make billions. (And guess what: they do make billions.)

You can call all the evidence indirect if you like. The important thing is: it works.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.
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NoNukes
Member
Posts: 10127
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 12 of 41 (614109)
05-02-2011 12:12 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Medis
05-01-2011 12:10 PM


Malangyar writes:

Direct evidence for a conclusion are facts that establish the conclusion without any need for drawing inferences. In the strict sense, the only direct evidence is eye witness testimony of the conclusion. Maybe a video recording can be considered direct evidence.

You say that a video recording could be considered direct evidence.

I only said maybe.

[qs]How about an electron microscopy of a cell, would that be considered direct evidence of a cell?

Perhaps. Evidence can be direct for one conclusion but require inference to be drawn to reach a different conclusion. We might accept an electron microscopy image as direct evidence of a virus, but indirect evidence that the virus causes some particular illness.

Would an emission spectrum be considered direct evidence of atoms?

Probably not. You need some inferences to get from spectra to atoms and molecules.

Even using a video camera, wouldn't you have to draw inference as to how the camera works?

Yes. But most people accept the inferences as being minor as long as fakery can be eliminated. If you want to call it indirect, that's fine with me.

Malangyar writes:

Nonukes writes:

It's actually far easier to come up with examples theories based on indirect evidence than it is to come up with theories based on direct evidence. Perhaps a good debating tactic would be to discuss and debunk claims that other branches of science use direct evidence.

I was in the process of doing exactly that when I realised that it is quite hard to do without definitions of direct and indirect evidence.

For example I stated that we don't have direct evidence of magnetism. Then he showed the well known example of iron filings on a piece of paper showing the magnetic lines of force.

Now I would call that indirect evidence, because we can't actually see the magnetic force itself, rather we're looking at the iron filings and infer that they align themselves because of magnetism.

You are exactly right. Creationists have no problem with inferences that don't conflict with dogma.

Malangyar writes:

We're not seeing the chromosome with our own eyes, rather we're using an electron microscope.

That's debatable in my opinion. Do you consider views through optical telescopes and microscopes to be indirect? How about electronically captured images viewed in essentially real time? Are photographs direct evidence? I'd suggest that those things are direct evidence for whatever is captured in the image.

Dr Adequate writes:

Perhaps you should make the creationist define what are, after all, his terms.

If he can't or won't, then he might as well be talking about flubnar and non-flubnar evidence.

Malangyar writes:

I've tried, he ignores it and responds with examples of what he considers direct evidence, e.g. emission spectrum as direct evidence of atoms.

I think I'll explain to him what direct and indirect evidence is, refute his wrong examples, assert that we don't have direct evidence of atoms, explain why there is nothing wrong with indirect evidence and finally ask him if somebody was found lying on the ground with several stab wounds and no weapon in sight if he would rule out murder because nobody saw it happen?

Good luck with that. The entire argument is just stupid apologetics anyway. Labeling evidence as indirect is his current excuse for rejecting evolution. He'll find others.


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Medis
Member (Idle past 1508 days)
Posts: 34
Joined: 10-16-2007


Message 13 of 41 (614164)
05-02-2011 12:52 PM


Thanks guys, much appreciated.

I realise how silly these questions about direct and indirect evidence come across btw, thanks for taking the time to "state the obvious".


  
Robert Byers
Member (Idle past 1985 days)
Posts: 640
From: Toronto,canada
Joined: 02-06-2004


Message 14 of 41 (614389)
05-04-2011 1:44 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Medis
04-30-2011 10:58 AM


Malangyar writes:

Hi, couldn't find a place to post these questions so decided to try and start a new topic:

What is the definition of direct evidence and indirect evidence and could you please provide examples of each? In relation to evolution, would the fossil record be an example of direct or indirect evidence of evolution?

Also, could you explain why indirect evidence is "good enough" evidence to support scientific theories, or provide examples of commonly accepted scientific theories, where supporting evidence is wholely, or mostly indirect? I know atoms are at least one such theory (source: http://education.jlab.org/qa/atom_01.html)

Currently debating a creationist and he's been nagging me about evolution only being supported by indirect evidence while every other scientific theory is apparently supported by direct evidence...didn't want to state any falsehoods which is why I'm asking

Evidence quality and quantity is a problem for ideas that are wrong. Like evolution and company.
The fossil record is a good point for creationists of what is not biological evidence for a conclusion.
Always i see evolutionists try to say the fossil record is a top ten piece of evidence for the reality of evolutionary change.
yet a creationist will reply its not biological evidence for a biological claim but in fact its geological evidence from whence a biological claim is made.
The fossil record is just casts of former life. iTs not living biology.
drawing conclusions from it can not be called biological research.
Biology is about test tubes and cutting up tissue not about pick axes and dynamite.
In this way a important flaw is shown in what evidence is for a conclusion.
Evolution can not claim data from geological presumptions and results as biological evidence for a biological theory.

The fossil record is not indirect evidence for evolutionary processes but is not evidence at all.
Its just data interpretated from geological presumptions from whence they speculate about biological process.
Your creationist debater made a good point.


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fearandloathing
Member (Idle past 1762 days)
Posts: 990
From: Burlington, NC, USA
Joined: 02-24-2011


Message 15 of 41 (614398)
05-04-2011 3:30 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Robert Byers
05-04-2011 1:44 AM


Evidence quality and quantity is a problem for ideas that are wrong.

You are an expert on this, as you never provide any credible evidence to support anything you say. Admin is constantly asking you to provide evidence, you never do?? Why, because creation is FALSE.


"I hate to advocate the use of drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson

Ad astra per aspera


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