Experiments, Observations, and Other Kinds of Evidence

Samuel M. Scheiner

in The Nature of Scientific Evidence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780226789552
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226789583 | DOI:
Experiments, Observations, and Other Kinds of Evidence

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How do we come to conclusions in science? What sorts of evidence do we use and how do we use them? This chapter explores the question of the spectrum of types of data and evidence used in science, focusing on experiments vs. observations. It argues that all types of evidence play a role; that scientific theories are based on the consilience of the evidence, the bringing together of different, even disparate, kinds of evidence. It considers a particular ecological issue: the relationship between diversity and productivity. After laying out the scientific issues, it discusses the types of sources of empirical observations and how to weigh data that come from manipulated experiments vs. observational experiments, an especially important issue in ecology. It also considers how observational studies deal with the issue of direction of causation. Finally, the chapter looks at the relationship between scientific evidence and theory in the context of a priori vs. post hoc explanations.

Keywords: science; experiments; observations; scientific evidence; data; scientific theories; diversity; productivity; causation; ecology

Chapter.  8436 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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