User:LBird BASc/sandbox/ATK/Seminar5/Evidence

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Issues 3 - Evidence

Evidence in (Western) Philosophy[edit]

  • evidence as in what philosophy considers such PLUS the 'philosophy of evidence/science' (epistemology; Plato's 'Meno')

Broadly speaking, empiricism may be defined as the notion that all of our knowledge is based on sensory perception; anything further is a consequence of analysis and testing of said perception. Conversely, rationalism is the idea that there is knowledge that can (and may only be) gained by means outside of what our senses can detect, namely through reason. Notable proponets of the former include Locke, Hume, and Berkeley; of the latter - Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz.

The conflict between the two arises on several points, of which it is useful to distinguish three - first, on what 'warrants' we impose to differentiate a justified true proposition from anything else, second - on how knowledge is acquired, and third, what the limits of our knowledge are.

An empiricist would argue that, for any given X, if we cannot base our knowledge on what we may physically detect then we cannot know anything about it; justification, therefore, is achieved by finding physical evidence to support any proposition we may make, and this is how knowledge is acquired, and our limits are what the limits of our senses are.

A rationalist, on the other hand, may argue for the existence of innate (a.k.a. a priori) knowledge, concepts, or true intuitive belief (also conceived in such a case as 'knowledge'). They may further say that any such knowledge is superior to anything we could learn by relying on our senses. The boundaries of what we can know are therefore much wider than with empiricism.[1]

  • Logical Positivism (and the fall of verificationism)
  • as affected by different phenomenological/metaphysical conceptions (Wittgenstein, Hegel); /relates to rationalism & empiricism/

Evidence in Social Class[edit]

Introduction[edit]

This section will look at the use of evidence when understanding class stratification in Britain from many disciplinary perspectives to understand why the structure has arisen, and the future of this hierarchical system. Class can be defined as "a group of people within a society who possess the same socioeconomic status"[2]. An important distinction must be made between class and status groups. The former is concerned with economic interests, such as ownership of land and capital compared to dependence on wages, while the latter is based upon occupational status, cultural position, or family reputation. This section is predominately concerned with the former, and will use an interdisciplinary approach of analysis[2].

Disciplinary perspectives[edit]

Economics[edit]

Figure 1: Karl Marx - German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

Economics uses quantitative and empirical evidence to understand social stratification based on occupation, income and wealth.

Karl Marx’s Social Theory Of Class distinguishes societies by their mode of production, with each engendering their own hierarchical class system. Marx described that each will contain one class who control the production process with the other providing labour services in production. However, according to Marx, not only did the dominant class control production of goods and services in the economy, but also ideas, establishing a political doctrine that reinforced their control over society over generations through the political system[3]. Marxism argues that objectivity, which is defended in the natural sciences and positivism, doesn't fully represent reality, as when you employ the methodologies used in the natural sciences to that of the social sphere, reality is captured in a static form[4].

However, Isaac D. Balbus criticised the binary two-class model of society used by Marx, with one assumed to be the super-ordinate class and the other, a subordinate class. It is this dichotomy where owners and producers are binary opposites in their function which contrasts with modern analysis of "synthetic gradation scheme" of class stratification. Class is defined as the relative share of socially valuable attributes such as income, prestige and lifestyle.

Also, subsequent theories, such as that of German Sociologist Max Weber, critically analyse the necessity of class in development of the political structure of a country, arguing that nationalism and religion were more significant influences. In contrast to Marx, he limited the definition of class to income[5].

Biology[edit]

Evidence collected is based on positivism and statistical analysis, which is concerned with linking social class to genetics.

American psychologist Richard Herrnstein argues that there is a correlation between heritability of traits and social class[6]. His methodology and subsequent analysis of evidence highlighted that individuals have a natural tendency to organise themselves into classes due to genetic differences, and then these class differences are perpetuated in succeeding generations[7]. Herrnstein and Murray argue that intelligence as opposed to parental socioeconomic status, is a better predictor of an individual's class outcome. Their study used empirical data whereby IQ scores of participants in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test were measured, and then participants were evaluated on socioeconomic outcomes. A correlation was found between higher IQ's and incomes and other factors, suggesting it could be a determinant of class[6].

However, this work was highly controversial due to criticism of the methodology and collection of empirical data. For example, in the book 'Inequality by Design', different weightings were given to IQ scores in determining poverty, and it was found IQ's importance was exaggerated by as much as 61% for white participants and 74% for black participants[8].

As “biology is not destiny”, biological analysis provides a limited explanation of class, as traits inherited in families may result from environmental influences that differ by social class rather than genetics alone, alluding to the nature versus nurture debate[9]. This is because genetic determinants of intelligence interact with the environment so cannot be analysed and isolation to explain the complex social hierarchy. Thus, there is a need to utilise a holistic view, using elements of social analysis based on Interpretivism, such as Marx and his successor's provide, combined with evidence drawn from scientific disciplines based on positivism. These disciplines are based on different epistemology that ultimately provide a more inclusive analysis of reality.

Anthropology[edit]

Anthropological analysis is subjective and focuses on class as a means of identity, such as in Britain. For example, studies show that, despite a decline in the size of the working class over the long-term, those identifying themselves as working class have remained stable since 1983. The 2013 study revealed that 47%of those in jobs classified as managerial and professional consider themselves 'working class', even though economically, they may be more inline with income attributed to the 'middle class'[10]. This suggests that there is a difference between being 'working class' depending on definitions set by social scientists, which tends to focus on occupation, compared to being working class as defined by people themselves. This may be because social background and educational qualifications, irrespective of occupation, affect someones perception of themselves as 'working-class'[11].

Evaluation[edit]

Economics is criticised as disregarding qualitative and theoretical evidence, while primarily utilising quantitative empirical data. Furthermore, biological methodology fails to prove causal relationships, instead focusing on correlation, whose importance is overemphasised, as show in Herrnstein's work. Had the analysis included anthropological perspectives, the environmental influences could have been considered alongside biological predeterminers. Anthropology uses both empirical and theoretical evidence, providing a holistic approach.

Interdisciplinary scholars and methodologies are required to overcome the disconnection between disciplines and their epistemological to obtain a comprehensive understanding of social class and it's determinants.

Evidence in History[edit]

  • Historical evidence is divided into two groups: primary sources and secondary sources.
  • Primary sources are documents made during the time period in question. They often consist of witness reports and diary entries or letters created at or around a certain historic event.
  • Secondary sources are mostly articles and writings based on the analysis of primary sources, such as contemporary articles about historic events, or even textbooks.[12]
  • While typically sources are thought of as being written or drawn form of documentation, historical evidence includes anything that remains from the past. This can also be buildings, various objects, such as weaponry, or day to day artifacts like tickets or kitchenware, etc.[13]
  • It is, however, rarely possible to fully determine the reliability of historic sources, especially primary sources. Evidence in history is therefore classified in degrees of reliability. There are several ways of establishing reliability in historical analysis[14]:
  1. Origin: This concerns the source or author and whether it can be trusted or not. This depends on temporal and academic background of the author, but also the type of source that is discussed.
  2. Perspective: Is the author in any way biased, for example due to his nationality or social position?
  3. Context: This means when the source was created in relation to the event it is tackling.
  4. Audience: The author might be trying to influence or convince a certain audience, or the document was created for a speicifc group of people only.
  5. Motive: What was the authors goal of the creation of the source?


Law of Evidence[edit]

evidence covers the burden of proof, admissibility, relevance, weight, and sufficiency of what should be admitted into the record of a legal proceeding [15] There are four types of evidence: al evidence, demonstrative, documentary, and testimony 
Emmanuel Kant tries to point was is evidence on the principles of natural theology. The law of evidence supervises what can be presented in court. This understanding can be better defined and improved upon as follows: "the law of evidence governs the use of testimony [16] during several periods and at different cultural times, problems concerning evidence have been resolved by widely different procedures. Since the means of purchasing evidence are clearly variable and delimited, they can result only in a sense of probability and not in an absolute truth in the philosophical sense. [17]

Evidence in Criminal Cases[edit]

There are four broad types of legal evidence 1) Real evidence- (objects, such as a weapon) 2) Demonstrative- (models/graphs/objects that help clarify what happened) 3) Documentary (a letter, blog post or other form of document) 4) Testimonial (witness testimony) 5) Genetic (DNA) can also be included as an additionally form of evidence [18]

Burdens of proof - Unlike in a civil court course, in a criminal court the prosecution must use the evidence to prove the accused guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. In other courts there, is ‘judicial notice’, which is when a statement doesn’t have to be backed up by evidence as it is common sense/well known but in a criminal cause, judicial notice are allowed to be rebutted with evidence.

Terms related to evidence - Direct evidence- directly proves/disproves a fact- e.g eye witness testimony

Circumstantial evidence- not direct evidence, requires inference to prove/disprove a fact

Hearsay- normally deemed inadmissible (not relevant), it is out of court statements, therefore not said under oath. Or statements about what someone else said or wrote. [19]

Witnesses- At the centre of a criminal trial, is the evidence given by the witnesses. They provide a testimony in court, were they talk about their own experience (eye-witness testimony) The witness statement/ evidence they give in court should be fact not opinion, if it is opinion it is normally inadmissible at trail. Expectations to this rule -identification of a person or object -speed of vehicle -value of an item -evidence of someone’s physical condition -expert evidence- e.g impressions, facial mapping, medical evidence, DNA

Reliability of witness evidence [20]

-eyewitness testimony Is the main form of evidence in 20% or more cases. However inaccurate testimonies had caused 75% of false convictions.

Anxiety/stress[21]

In stressful situations, studies shown that memory of the event is not affected and sometimes even better, details of it can be reconciled months later- (study by Yuille and Catchshall(1986). Although there are studies done that contradict these findings, such as Johnson and Scott, this was not done with as real-life situation and broke numerous ethical guidelines. Reconstructive Memory Psychologists have found that the memory is not a store of exactly what happened, but we extract and organize information to make most sense out of it. We use ‘schemas’ (units of knowledge that are what we are familiar with) to organise memories and process/predict events. Therefore schemas distort unfamiliar events, so that they fit into are existing knowledge and conform to our own personal beliefs. (see studies from Barlett and then Allport & Postman (1947)) This means that eye-witness testimonies may be based on memories that are not truly what happened, but the witness individual reconstruction of the event.

Weapon Focus

If a weapon is present during a crime, it has been found that the witness focuses less on the surrounding details such as the person holding it. (Loftus et al (1987) and other studies)

Memory conformity

There are mixed opinions among psychologist of the impact of witness collaboration on the reliability of evidence. A number of studies in the early 2000s (Wright et al, Gabbert et al, Roediger et al, Meade and Roediger) That showed that witness discussion decreased reliability, for example one study found 71% of witness reported seeing items that were never connected to the event. This is thought to occur because people want to conform to others views and therefore adopt each others errors. Some people are more likely to conform, have a higher level of ‘suggestibility’ than others. However recent research shows there are some benefits to witness collaboration (Vredeveldt et al, 2016,2017). [22]In collaborative interviews, on many occasions witnesses, were seen to remember more than individually and were more likely to correct each other errors rather than adopt. Despite this current research, there have been a much larger number of studies that suggest witness collaboration affects the reliability of evidence, therefore in most criminal cases witnesses are separated and cannot speak with each other.


Genetic Fingerprinting as Evidence[edit]

Genetic fingerprinting is a source of empirical data that is often used as concrete evidence. Whilst it may produce quantitative data with a high rate of success, the context with which it is presented can alter the results to a form of skewed evidence. Genetic fingerprinting utilises the process of Gel Electrophoresis where the VNTRs (Variable Number Tandem Repeats) of DNA samples are compared in order to find matches in the gene sequence. VNTRs are a short sections of the genome which are repeated various times and differ in all humans with only identical twins sharing the exact same VNTRs.[23] The process of Gel Electrophoresis often relies on the Polymerase Chain Reaction (a form of in vitro DNA replication) in order to produce a sufficient volume of DNA to be tested without spoiling a finite sample (such as in a forensic scenario). When placed in a buffered gel alongside the sample, the sections of DNA will be repelled by a positive current. The scale of this displacement is relative to the VNTRs of the sample. Samples that travel as far as the original DNA section can be deemed as having equal VNTRs and so as potential DNA matches.

Primary Uses of Genetic Fingerprinting:

  1. Criminal cases (especially sexual assault cases)
  2. Maternity or Paternity Testing
  3. Medical Research (to locate specific genes)

Whilst Genetic Fingerprinting is successful in matching DNA samples it cannot be seen as an infallible form of evidence. The process of the Polymerase Chain Ceaction and Gel Electrophoresis themselves can never be immune to faults. Also whilst the DNA of a suspect may match that of a sample, that is not to say that the empirical data has isolated that suspect as the criminal or target of the investigation. There is also the lack of such empirical data in distorting the presentation of a case. For example, DNA samples from blood can only be used in this method if they originate in white blood cells. If the investigation can find no appropriate sample, this process may be achievable which may act against the investigation in the long term as they lack, what is seen in contemporary society, as crucial, empirical evidence.

Evidence in Medical Research[edit]

Research Paradigms[edit]

A research paradigm is defined as: “the set of common beliefs and agreements shared between scientists about how problems should be understood and addressed” (Kuhn, 1962). The most common paradigms include positivists, constructivists, and pragmatists.

Firstly, positivism is a philosophical system, whereby quantitative methodology is applied to obtain evidence through observations, mathematical proofs, and experiments. 1 They believe in an objective truth and that there is one reality2. Typically, positivists reject metaphysics, and instead aim to use knowledge gained to describe natural phenomena around us3.

On the other hand, constructivists or interpretivists apply more qualitative methods to understand different interpretations of an event, based on dynamic and varied cultural and social perspectives. Reality is thought to be constructed by society 4 and thus there is no single truth.

Pragmatists argue reality is dynamic and be constantly reinterpreted and thus using mixed methods are encouraged to practically solve research questions. Essentially, pragmatists believe truth can be found using research methods that focus on what will work best.5

Evidence in Religion[edit]

This topic has been a huge focus in the discipline of Philosophy of Religion in the last years[24]. The two main positions opposing each other in this debate are evidentialism and reformed epistemology. The former one argues that religious belief can only be practiced if evidence exists [24] , while the latter does not see a need for evidence and sometimes even sees that need as impious. Another issue here is the question of what can be seen as evidence: only relics, or experiences as well? Every investigation in this field is highly dependant on the beliefs of the person investigating and outcomes will therefore vary a lot [24].

The Holy face of Jesus from Shroud of Turin (1909)

But even the authenticity of relics often has to be doubted: in his book „Relics of the christ“ Joe Nickel concludes that there are no relics that can be seen as evidence for Jesus’ existence[25]. Many relics, among them the Shroud of Turin, often seen as „the holiest relic in christianity“[25], have proven to be not real. In medieval times relics were consciously made resulting in a huge amount of fake relics today, even though relics had to have label to prove their authenticity since 1543.[26]  But the ones proven to be real, such as body remains of saints, items used by them or fragments of the cross can be used to understand ways in which relics helped to maintain religious beliefs among civilisation.[26]

Evidence in Astrology[edit]

One of the key debates around astrology is whether this discipline has any scientific merit, whether it can be reliable in any way. The problem at the heart of this debate is that the ambiguous nature of this discipline make it difficult to define and criticise.

Zodiac woodcut

Indeed, a statistical test on the reliability of astrology to predict the future was conducted in order to lift some of the ambiguity surrounding this discipline [27]. The results came back with a weak validation for astrologies reliability as only a "marginal" percentage of the birth charts were properly assimilated to the correct person. This showing evidence against the discipline.

However, while there is no concrete evidence that solidifies astrology as a credible source, there is no undeniable evidence that says that it isn't. Indeed, as is stated in this article, astrologists are allowed to make prediction which may inevitably be true or may eventually be false. The discipline as a whole is not completely "falsifiable" due to the fact that the predictions may be accurate [28]. As such, the inability to deny the power of astrology counts as evidence to support its credibility as a discipline.

Lastly, astrologies status is helped by its popularity within mainly European and North American countries. Indeed, in an article discussing various social studies on astrology found that many people used astrology as they could either not distinguish it from a scientific e or merely used it for fun [29]. Indeed, this accounts for astrology being credible as a discipline as on the one hand it cannot be disqualified, however, it can also be taken as a joke by the very same people who use it.

As such, there is as much evidence proving astrology's validity as there is taking away from it, making evidence an issue in this case.

Evidence in Psychology[edit]

Psychology has existed since about 500 B.C. with philosophy but it didn't rely on any form of experimentation or evidence. It is only in the late 1800s that it can be considered a scientific discipline with Wilheim Wundt developing the first psychology lab in 1879 to try and find scientific methods to understand behaviour.[30] Since then, psychology has adopted an empirical approach to evidence and tries to infer explanations to human behaviour.

Psychology follows methodologism in the way that it values statistical and experimental methods over more abstract and theoritical approaches. Furthermore, psychology and more specifically behavioural psychology relies on a positivist research philosophy as it tries to explain human behaviour in general, often dismissing individual factors, which means it favors quantitative methods and observations. To observe human behaviour, psychology often uses biology to analyse how the body reacts to a situation by looking at heart rate or blood pressure.

Evidence in Public Opinion and History in France[edit]

The French myth of resistentialism[edit]

After the Second World War, the French possessed a need to forget the nazi occupation. This manifested in 'epurations' which consisted of shaming and assaulting any one who had anything to do with the foreign forces. Almost immediately an idea of the French having resisted through the entire occupation was propagated through the then fragile country. However, how strong were the French in resisting the foreign enemy? Equally, how accurate is the idea of the French having put on a strong facade?

These two main ides can be seen through various sources published throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Issues 3 - Evidence

Evidence in (Western) Philosophy[edit]

  • evidence as in what philosophy considers such PLUS the 'philosophy of evidence/science' (epistemology; Plato's 'Meno')

Broadly speaking, empiricism may be defined as the notion that all of our knowledge is based on sensory perception; anything further is a consequence of analysis and testing of said perception. Conversely, rationalism is the idea that there is knowledge that can (and may only be) gained by means outside of what our senses can detect, namely through reason. Notable proponets of the former include Locke, Hume, and Berkeley; of the latter - Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz.

The conflict between the two arises on several points, of which it is useful to distinguish three - first, on what 'warrants' we impose to differentiate a justified true proposition from anything else, second - on how knowledge is acquired, and third, what the limits of our knowledge are.

An empiricist would argue that, for any given X, if we cannot base our knowledge on what we may physically detect then we cannot know anything about it; justification, therefore, is achieved by finding physical evidence to support any proposition we may make, and this is how knowledge is acquired, and our limits are what the limits of our senses are.

A rationalist, on the other hand, may argue for the existence of innate (a.k.a. a priori) knowledge, concepts, or true intuitive belief (also conceived in such a case as 'knowledge'). They may further say that any such knowledge is superior to anything we could learn by relying on our senses. The boundaries of what we can know are therefore much wider than with empiricism.[31]

  • Logical Positivism (and the fall of verificationism)
  • as affected by different phenomenological/metaphysical conceptions (Wittgenstein, Hegel); /relates to rationalism & empiricism/


Evidence in History[edit]

  • Historical evidence is divided into two groups: primary sources and secondary sources.
  • Primary sources are documents made during the time period in question. They often consist of witness reports and diary entries or letters created at or around a certain historic event.
  • Secondary sources are mostly articles and writings based on the analysis of primary sources, such as contemporary articles about historic events, or even textbooks.[32]
  • While typically sources are thought of as being written or drawn form of documentation, historical evidence includes anything that remains from the past. This can also be buildings, various objects, such as weaponry, or day to day artifacts like tickets or kitchenware, etc.[33]
  • It is, however, rarely possible to fully determine the reliability of historic sources, especially primary sources. Evidence in history is therefore classified in degrees of reliability. There are several ways of establishing reliability in historical analysis[34]:
  1. Origin: This concerns the source or author and whether it can be trusted or not. This depends on temporal and academic background of the author, but also the type of source that is discussed.
  2. Perspective: Is the author in any way biased, for example due to his nationality or social position?
  3. Context: This means when the source was created in relation to the event it is tackling.
  4. Audience: The author might be trying to influence or convince a certain audience, or the document was created for a speicifc group of people only.
  5. Motive: What was the authors goal of the creation of the source?


Evidence in Evolutionary Biology[edit]

Introduction[edit]

The source of life has been a part of academic debates since centuries. Many argue for the existence of some higher power; many however believe in a scientific explanation when it comes to the question of creation and evolution. These paragraphs are going to present a multi-perspective approach for types of evidence supporting the latter explanation. Evolution is mostly defined as the change in inheritable characteristics over the course of multiple generations, which are the expression of genes passed down from the previous generations. Evolution can be influenced by multiple different factors such as mutation or natural selection due to outside factors, which in the end constitute biodiversity. Evidence for evolution comes from many different areas of biology, such as anatomy, molecular biology or biogeography[2]. One of the most influential works discussing evolution is Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" (1859) which details the evolutionary history of biological development, has since been widely debated across a range of disciplines. Some schools still deny the existence of evolution or regard it as a hypothetical case that needs to be supported by more evidence.

Types of Evidence in Evolutionary Biology[edit]

Fossils[edit]

Fossils have been one of the first credible sources of evidence for biological evolution, as they portray a systematic change in the development of certain species. The very first accounts of paleontological discoveries date back to as early as 500 BC[35], but British geologist and engineer named William Smith pioneered modern European science in 1799, with his reported findings of layered fossils visibly showing the chronological evolution of the given species. This encounter aided him in creating the first geological map of Great Britain and his findings also provided a foundation for the works of Charles Darwin[36].

Comparative anatomy[edit]

The area of science dealing with the question of a possible common descent is comparative anatomy[2]. This field studies the evolvement of anatomical structures throughout time and aims to discover the main similarities and differences. The two most important concepts of comparative anatomy are homologous and analogous structures. Homologous structures describe a given similarity which is present due to common descent and may be used for a similar function, whereas analogous structures depict a given similarity which is only due to similar function but does not indicate common descent[37][38]. An example of a homologous construction would be the ancestral tetrapod structure of the forelimb, which is shared between humans, bats and even whales, despite their drastically different living environments. On the other hand, an example of the analogous structure would be the wings of birds and butterflies, as even though they serve the same function, they cannot be traced back to a common anatomical ancestor. This distinction proves that certain species can, in fact, be traced back to common descent in spite of their different paths of development.

Darwin's finches (1845)

Adaptive radiation[edit]

One of the most well-known cases of adaptive radiation has been the study of "Darwin's finches", which described the transformation of the birds' beaks as a result of the adaptation to a new environment. The approximate 15 types of finches on the island of Galapagos all originate from the same one type of bird that spread and evolved during the years. This discovery played a crucial role in understanding the ability of animals to adapt to new circumstances[39].

Evaluation[edit]

Although some reject the existence of an evolutionary process, most of the biological, paleontological and historical evidence supports the scientific explanation behind the creation and development of life. However, it would be hard to deny that certain questions are still left unanswered when it comes to biological evolution.

Evidence in Criminal Cases[edit]

There are four broad types of legal evidence 1) Real evidence- (objects, such as a weapon) 2) Demonstrative- (models/graphs/objects that help clarify what happened) 3) Documentary (a letter, blog post or other form of document) 4) Testimonial (witness testimony) 5) Genetic (DNA) can also be included as an additionally form of evidence [40]

Burdens of proof - Unlike in a civil court course, in a criminal court the prosecution must use the evidence to prove the accused guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. In other courts there, is ‘judicial notice’, which is when a statement doesn’t have to be backed up by evidence as it is common sense/well known but in a criminal cause, judicial notice are allowed to be rebutted with evidence.

Terms related to evidence - Direct evidence- directly proves/disproves a fact- e.g eye witness testimony

Circumstantial evidence- not direct evidence, requires inference to prove/disprove a fact

Hearsay- normally deemed inadmissible (not relevant), it is out of court statements, therefore not said under oath. Or statements about what someone else said or wrote. [41]

Witnesses- At the centre of a criminal trial, is the evidence given by the witnesses. They provide a testimony in court, were they talk about their own experience (eye-witness testimony) The witness statement/ evidence they give in court should be fact not opinion, if it is opinion it is normally inadmissible at trail. Expectations to this rule -identification of a person or object -speed of vehicle -value of an item -evidence of someone’s physical condition -expert evidence- e.g impressions, facial mapping, medical evidence, DNA

Reliability of witness evidence [42]

-eyewitness testimony Is the main form of evidence in 20% or more cases. However inaccurate testimonies had caused 75% of false convictions.

Anxiety/stress[43]

In stressful situations, studies shown that memory of the event is not affected and sometimes even better, details of it can be reconciled months later- (study by Yuille and Catchshall(1986). Although there are studies done that contradict these findings, such as Johnson and Scott, this was not done with real-life situation and broke numerous ethical guidelines. Reconstructive Memory Psychologists have found that the memory is not a store of exactly what happened, but we extract and organize information to make sense out of it. We use ‘schemas’ (units of knowledge that are what we are familiar with) to organise memories and process and predict events. Therefore schemas distort unfamiliar events, so that they fit into are existing knowledge and conform to our own personal beliefs. (see studies from Barlett and then Allport & Postman (1947)) This means that eye-witness testimonies may be based on memories that are not truly what happened, but the witness's individual reconstruction of the event.

Weapon Focus

If a weapon is present during a crime, it has been found that the witness focuses less on the surrounding details such as the person holding it. (Loftus et al (1987) and other studies)

Memory conformity

There are mixed opinions among psychologist of the impact of witness collaboration on the reliability of evidence. A number of studies in the early 2000s (Wright et al, Gabbert et al, Roediger et al, Meade and Roediger) showed that witness discussion decreased reliability. For example one study found 71% of witness reported seeing items that were never connected to the event. This is thought to occur because people want to conform to others views and therefore adopt each others errors. Furthermore, some people are more likely to conform and have a higher level of ‘suggestibility’ than others. However recent research shows there are some benefits to witness collaboration (Vredeveldt et al, 2016,2017). [44]In collaborative interviews, on many occasions, witnesses were seen to remember more than individually and were more likely to correct each other errors rather than adopt. Despite this current research, there have been much larger studies that suggest witness collaboration affects the reliability of evidence, therefore in most criminal cases witnesses are separated and cannot speak with each other.


Genetic Fingerprinting as Evidence[edit]

Source of empirical data that is used as concrete evidence. Whilst it may produce quantitative data with a high rate of success, the context with which it is presented can alter the results to a form of skewed evidence. Genetic fingerprinting utilizes the process of Gel Electrophoresis where the VNTRs (Variable Number Tandem Repeats) of DNA samples are compared in order to find matches in the gene sequence. VNTRs are a short sections of the genome which are repeated various times and differ in all humans with only identical twins sharing the exact same VNTRs.[45] The process of Gel Electrophoresis often relies on the Polymerase Chain Reaction (a form of in vitro DNA replication) in order to produce a sufficient volume of DNA to be tested without spoiling a finite sample (such as in a forensic scenario). When placed in a buffered gel alongside the sample, the sections of DNA will be repelled by a positive current. The scale of this displacement is relative to the VNTRs of the sample. Samples that travel as far as the original DNA section can be deemed as having equal VNTRs and so as potential DNA matches.

Primary Uses of Genetic Fingerprinting:

  1. Criminal cases (especially sexual assault cases)
  2. Maternity or Paternity Testing
  3. Medical Research (to locate specific genes)

Whilst Genetic Fingerprinting is successful in matching DNA samples it cannot be seen as an infallible form of evidence. The process of the polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis themselves can never be immune to faults. Also whilst the DNA of a suspect may match that of a sample, that is not to say that the empirical data has isolated that suspect as the criminal or target of the investigation. There is also the lack of such empirical data in disorting the presentation of a case. For example, DNA samples from blood can only be used in this method if they originate in white blood cells. If the investigation can find no appropriate sample, this process may be achievable which may act against the investigation in the long term as they lack, what is seen in contemporary society, as crucial, empirical evidence.

Evidence in Medical Research[edit]

Research Paradigms[edit]

A research paradigm is defined as: “the set of common beliefs and agreements shared between scientists about how problems should be understood and addressed” (Kuhn, 1962). The most common paradigms include positivists, constructivists, and pragmatists.

Firstly, positivism is a philosophical system, whereby quantitative methodology is applied to obtain evidence through observations, mathematical proofs, and experiments. 1 They believe in an objective truth and that there is one reality2. Typically, positivists reject metaphysics, and instead aim to use knowledge gained to describe natural phenomena around us3.

On the other hand, constructivists or interpretivists apply more qualitative methods to understand different interpretations of an event, based on dynamic and varied cultural and social perspectives. Reality is thought to be constructed by society 4 and thus there is no single truth.

Pragmatists argue reality is dynamic and be constantly reinterpreted and thus using mixed methods are encouraged to practically solve research questions. Essentially, pragmatists believe truth can be found using research methods that focus on what will work best.5

Evidence in Religion[edit]

This topic has been a huge focus in the discipline of Philosophy of Religion in the last years[24]. The two main positions opposing each other in this debate are evidentialism and reformed epistemology. The former one argues that religious belief can only be practiced if evidence exists [24] , while the latter does not see a need for evidence and sometimes even sees that need as impious. Another issue here is the question of what can be seen as evidence: only relics, or experiences as well? Every investigation in this field is highly dependant on the beliefs of the person investigating and outcomes will therefore vary a lot [24].

The Holy face of Jesus from Shroud of Turin (1909)

But even the authenticity of relics often has to be doubted: in his book „Relics of the christ“ Joe Nickel concludes that there are no relics that can be seen as evidence for Jesus’ existence[25]. Many relics, among them the Shroud of Turin, often seen as „the holiest relic in christianity“[25], have proven to be not real. In medieval times relics were consciously made resulting in a huge amount of fake relics today, even though relics had to have label to prove their authenticity since 1543.[26]  But the ones proven to be real, such as body remains of saints, items used by them or fragments of the cross can be used to understand ways in which relics helped to maintain religious beliefs among civilisation.[26]

Evidence in Psychology[edit]

Psychology has existed since about 500 B.C. with philosophy but it didn't rely on any form of experimentation or evidence. It is only in the late 1800s that it can be considered a scientific discipline with Wilheim Wundt developing the first psychology lab in 1879 to try and find scientific methods to understand behaviour.[46] Since then, psychology has adopted an empirical approach to evidence and tries to infer explanations to human behaviour.

Psychology follows methodologism in the way that it values statistical and experimental methods over more abstract and theoritical approaches. Furthermore, psychology and more specifically behavioural psychology relies on a positivist research philosophy as it tries to explain human behaviour in general, often dismissing individual factors, which means it favors quantitative methods and observations. To observe human behaviour, psychology often uses biology to analyse how the body reacts to a situation by looking at heart rate or blood pressure.

Evidence in the American Moonlanding[edit]

1969 moonlanding commemorative stamp 10c

Multiple statistics reveal a considerable amount of scepticism from the general public pertaining to the reality of the American Moonlanding. A 2001 Fox News poll stated that 20% of Americans didn't believe in the moonlanding [47]. A YouGov poll revealed further scepticism from the British amongst the reality of the Moonlandings [48] [49]

Yet such statistics reveal scepticism but give no indication as to whether or not the moonlanding actually happened.

The evidence in support of the reality of the moonlandings includes physical evidence: 382kg of moon rock. There is also photographic evidence from the Nasa Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Furthermore, believing that the moonlandings are fake would imply that they had been faked through the use of special effects, yet judging from the quality of effects of films at the time, one could question how NASA could have made such a realistic shooting. [50]

Subscribers to the conspiracy have argued that the United States was so intent on winning the 'Space Race' that they would have faked the moonlanding in order to triumph against the USSR. Yet there is evidence that the Soviet Union was listening in to the US moonlanding operation and would have been able to expose them, had the achievement been a hoax. [51]

What appeared to be videographic evidence proving that the mission was a hoax took form as a confession video featuring Stanley Kubrick that ultimately claimed responsability for filming the moonlandings. Yet it was soon after confirmed that while the man in the video, posing as Kubrick, resembled him quite closely, they were in fact two different people. [52]

Finally, there is mathematical evidence that supports the truth in the moonlandings. Dr David Grimes (a physicist at Oxford University) shared a formula that would determine the time after which the hoax should have been uncovered, had it been a hoax. According to the amount of people involved in the moonlanding, it would have taken approximately four years for the conspiracy to be uncovered. [53]

Notes[edit]

  1. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/
  2. a b c d social class | Definition, Theories, & Facts [Internet]. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2019 [cited 8 December 2019]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-class Invalid <ref> tag; name ":3" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Stolzman, James, and Herbert Gamberg. "MARXIST CLASS ANALYSIS VERSUS STRATIFICATION ANALYSIS AS GENERAL APPROACHES TO SOCIAL INEQUALITY." Berkeley Journal of Sociology 18 (1973): 105-25. www.jstor.org/stable/41035241.
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  13. https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/prospective-undergrads/virtual-classroom/historical-sources-what
  14. https://www.historyskills.com/source-criticism/evaluation/reliability/
  15. https://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/choosing-the-right-lawyer/evidence-law.html
  16. https://www.universalclass.com/articles/law/types-of-evidence.htm
  17. https://www.britannica.com/topic/evidence-law
  18. https://hirealawyer.findlaw.com/choosing-the-right-lawyer/evidence-law.html
  19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_(law)#Burdens_of_proof
  20. https://www.simplypsychology.org/eyewitness-testimony.html
  21. https://www.tutor2u.net/psychology/reference/anxiety
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855081/
  23. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/variable-number-tandem-repeat
  24. a b c d e f https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199603718.001.0001/acprof-9780199603718
  25. a b c d https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcjg5.18?refreqid=excelsior%3A0101f8c4087011aa321262972f894489&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
  26. a b c d http://www.paleodontology.com/fileadmin/user_upload/bulletin/bulletin_11-2/4_Petaros_IAPO_Bulletin_2011-2.pdf
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  28. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/psaprocbienmeetp.1978.1.192639
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  30. https://www.simplypsychology.org/science-psychology.html
  31. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/
  32. https://guides.lib.uw.edu/c.php?g=344285&p=2580599
  33. https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/prospective-undergrads/virtual-classroom/historical-sources-what
  34. https://www.historyskills.com/source-criticism/evaluation/reliability/
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  46. https://www.simplypsychology.org/science-psychology.html
  47. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5ZwUX0uRZE
  48. https://yougov.co.uk/
  49. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/10/one-giant-lie-why-so-many-people-still-think-the-moon-landings-were-faked
  50. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/10/one-giant-lie-why-so-many-people-still-think-the-moon-landings-were-faked
  51. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/10/one-giant-lie-why-so-many-people-still-think-the-moon-landings-were-faked
  52. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/movie-news/stanley-kubrick-moon-landings-hoax-fake/
  53. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/faked-moon-landing-would-have-been-exposed-within-four-years-sci/