Supporting Scientific Claims with Logic, Data & Evidence

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we will examine methods to support scientific claims using logic, data, and evidence. We will also look at a few potential pitfalls when finding support for scientific claims.

Sifting Through the Claims

We see scientific claims all over today. Anywhere from climate change to certain foods causing cancer. How are we supposed to know if these scientific claims are accurate? How can you ensure that claims are scientifically accurate, instead of simply spouting what you heard a celebrity say? In science, we need to use logic, data, and evidence to support scientific claims.

Data and Evidence

The first thing that we need to do is look at all of the data and evidence associated with the claim. Data is the result of experiments that gives quantifiable information, or in other words the information that can be put into numbers. Evidence is the data the supports a specific conclusion.

For many scientific claims, we often have conflicting data. The data from one experiment may seem to contradict the data from another experiment. So we need to gather all of the data possible and use it as evidence for each side (or sides) of the scientific claim. We need to examine the data by asking questions such as 'was the experiment well done?' and 'can the experimental procedures be applied to this situation?'

So, first, all of the data needs to be gathered and then the evidence for the scientific claim examined.

Credible Sources

One important aspect that needs to be taken into account is where you are getting your data from. If you are only relying on random websites or even reputable newspapers, you probably aren't getting all of the data. You may even be getting the wrong data.

Newspapers are a good place to learn about new research but it is not the best place to find data

The most credible source in science is a Peer-Reviewed Journal. In these journals, scientists actually publish their data and the results of their experiments after the research has been checked and confirmed by other scientists. But these journals can be difficult to read and understand. Even for someone highly educated, it can sometimes be frustrating and difficult to understand all of the scientific articles without doing a lot of background research.

There are a few tricks to help read scientific journals. First, read the abstract. The abstract is where the author summarizes what is said in the paper. This way you can quickly find out what the author thinks is important. We still may not understand all of the jargon in the paper, but we will have a good overview of the study and results.

Second, read the discussion. The discussion is where the author discusses the results and how they may be applied to other research.

Even after doing all of this, it could be difficult to understand what is being said. So the next best option is to read articles which cite peer reviewed journals. So if a website or blog just randomly spouts off facts, but doesn't cite peer-reviewed articles, then it probably is not good to rely on that information. But if it actually includes a citation to a peer reviewed journal then chances are you can trust that information at least a little bit more than other websites or newspapers.

Types of Logic

There are two main types of logic that we need to talk about, deductive and inductive. Deductive is when we take something general and apply it to something specific. For example, all birds fly. Since sparrow are birds, they must fly. But we do run into a problem here, penguins are birds and they do not fly. When something like this happens, then either our original assumption is not true (which is the case here) or A does not equal C. If it was the case that A did not equal C, then we would be saying that a chicken is not a bird.

Deductive logic goes from general to specific and inductive goes from specific to general
Logic types

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