Evidence As Supporting the Reason

The geologist concluded that that we will enter another ice age within one hundred years. Her reasons are that ice ages have occurred in recent geologic history every ten thousand years and that we are Just a few years shy of the beginning of such an interval. She produced fossils as the evidence dating such climatic change over six ten-thousand-year cycles. Evidence in Science: When we hear arguments that have to do with the nature of the physical world, the evidence will be the result of direct, hands-on experimentation.

For instance, two thousand years ago Greek philosophers speculated upon the argument that the universe is made up of elementary particles (atoms). Other thinkers opposed this notion, with equally strong arguments. No experimental method had been devised to deal with this and other questions about the physical world. With the advent of the scientific method and its consistent application throughout the past century however, we have amassed experimental evidence to support the notion of the atomic theory.

Notice that scientists don’t refer to atomic facts. A theory is a complex argument. Scientific method maintains the balance of “maybe not” by keeping the atomic argument (and all others) open to challenge, despite very strong evidence in its favor. Scientists search for facts but view them as factual claims. So evidence in science hews to the ideal of experimental method. Examples of Scientific Questions: What is the physical basis of heredity? Notice that this question does not involve the value Judgment whether the theory of DNA or any other theories of heredity are good or bad. ) What causes cancer? Evidence in Philosophy: this one cannot be submitted to hands-on experimentation. What’s there to experiment on? We are not involved here in a search for what is (facts) but in a search for what should be (values). For this reason, the nature of evidence in philosophical argumentation is different from that in science. Philosophers try to explore by argumentation all aspects of values questions.

One major tack taken by philosophers is to seek a general principle, then think about whether there are cases (evidence) that support that principle. If someone comes up with a counterexample (evidence contrary to the philosopher’s position), then the philosopher must revise the principle to take that counterexample into account, or else explain how that contrary-seeming evidence is not so in fact. Evidence in philosophical argumentation is often an appeal to cases offered in support of a principle.

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