Standards of Proof
BibArch Home Up The Scientific Method Standards of Proof The Limits of Science

 

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Scale

Criterion

Research Strategy

Outcome

Reasoning Process

Intent

1

possible

hermeneutics

interpretation (beliefs, opinions, and judgments)

imagination together with emotion and cultural bias

may be true or may be the case but with no degree of certainty

2

probable

exegesis (establish context stage)

marshal opinion

induction

affording ground for belief

3

plausible

exegesis (formulation of hypotheses stage)

establish informed opinion

deduction

seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance

4

more probable than not

exegesis (falsification stage)

develop facts

deduction

reasonable by a preponderance of the available evidence

5

most likely

develop facts

deduction

supported by clear and convincing evidence

6

beyond a reasonable doubt

exegesis (replication and verification stage)

explication (provide meaning and develop theory based upon facts)

deduction

believed with certainty on rational grounds

7

acceptable, statistical, certainty

science (final outcome subject to verification)

explanation (develop theory based upon facts allowing prediction)

deduction

high probability

8

beyond all doubt

an ideal not humanly possible to achieve except in the realm of theology

faith

absolute certainty

One must keep in mind that some cultural biases influence the objective application of the scientific method since science and scientists exist as part of the culture in which scientists work (this is similar to the Heisenberg hypothesis in physics). Some of these identifiable biases in scientific objectivity include:

  1. Gender-based inferences about males and females arising from an androcentric bias inherent in male-dominated archaeology (Conkey 1991, 1993).

  2. The distance to be bridged between evidence and hypothesis warrants questioning since the assumption of cross-species conformity and the adoption of animal modeling is highly questionable when applied to early human beings (Longino and Doell 1983).

  3. Self-fulfilled prophecy dealing with data and its collection i.e., the relationship between the observer and the people to be studied (Conkey 1993).

  4. Politically constituted nature of knowledge and its historical embellishments (di Leonardo 1991).

  5. The “content-stripping” attributes of the scientific research paradigm lying in the assumption that general laws must be “context independent, free of specific constraints of any particular context and therefore applicable to all” although human action and experience remain context-dependent (Mishler 1979:2).

  6. Other factors a researcher brings to the research situation, i.e., intellectual and emotional baggage. Concerning a shift in applied anthropology practice von Willigen writes “certain anthropologists came to feel that social scientists cannot separate their work from real-world values, and that to do so creates a dangerous illusion of true objectivity” (von Willigen 1993:28).

 

 

 

 


Page last edited: 02/08/09 07:05 PM


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