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Wilfrid Laurier University
Hugh R Alcock

Evidence and the MediaToday we are going to look at the role of evidence in supporting claims and more generally at persuasion in the mass mediaMany of our claims are not directly supported by argumentFor example Someone might declare that pitbulls are inherently violentOur natural response to such claims is to ask for evidenceConsider two other claims1 My six yearold niece can run a marathon in 2 12 hrs2 My pet dog Fido is scared of the neighbours catWhich of the two claims are you more willing to believeWhy Claims are judged against a background of beliefs which we endeavour to keep consistent ie noncontradictoryThis relates to the idea of a worldview we encounter before In doubting 1 there are different kinds of evidence we could ask fora We might ask to be shown her achieving the feat of running 42 km in so little time We call this empirical evidenceb We might ask an expert if it is possible for someone so young to run that fast This is to appeal to authority Empirical Evidence There are two types of evidence in this regard i personal experience and ii controlled observation Personal experience concerns what we have each observed under everyday conditions For example personal experience teaches us that no one can fly unaided or that icecream is sweet These types of belief we might call commonsensical With such everyday observations we must be careful not to jump to hasty conclusionsFor example at night one perhaps sees a statue in someones garden and conclude that it is an intruder raising the alarm In general it is reasonable to accept evidence provided by personal experience so long as there is no reason to doubt itIn the case of thinking there is an intruder in the neighbours garden there is good reason to doubt it given that such occurrences are very rare A closer look is required Science might reasonably be defined as the development of those theories which best explain and predict phenomenaA scientific theory is as good as its predictive efficacyIn order for a theory to be as predictively efficacious as possible it must be thoroughly testedScientific testing involves observing phenomena under strictly controlled conditions Appeal to Authority
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