Skeptic: More Baloney Detection; December 2001; Scientific American Magazine; by Michael Shermer; 1 Page(s)
When exploring the borderlands of science, we often face a "boundary problem" of where to draw the line between science and pseudoscience. The boundary is the line of demarcation between geographies of knowledge, the border defining countries of claims. Knowledge sets are fuzzier entities than countries, however, and their edges are blurry. It is not always clear where to draw the line. Last month I suggested five questions to ask about a claim to determine whether it is legitimate or baloney. Continuing with the baloney-detection questions, we see that in the process we are also helping to solve the boundary problem of where to place a claim.
6. Does the preponderance of evidence point to the claimant's conclusion or to a different one? The theory of evolution, for example, is proved through a convergence of evidence from a number of independent lines of inquiry. No one fossil, no one piece of biological or paleontological evidence has "evolution" written on it; instead tens of thousands of evidentiary bits add up to a story of the evolution of life. Creationists conveniently ignore this confluence, focusing instead on trivial anomalies or currently unexplained phenomena in the history of life.