Last weekend, the nice people at Sunday Assembly Bristol invited me to give a talk about Asking for Evidence. I followed this up with a guest blog on their site, which I’ve reproduced below:
“Not a day goes by without supposedly scientific claims being made about almost every facet of our lives. Whether it’s how we can live healthier lives, reduce crime, improve education, or cure disease, we’re constantly bombarded by supposedly scientific claims from the media, retailers, and politicians. But how can we separate the genuine claims from those that are false? The answer is simple: by asking for evidence.
The great thing is that anyone can ask for evidence. You don’t have to be an expert, or a lawyer, or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to challenge someone to justify their claims. That’s the message of the Ask for Evidence campaign, which is run by the charity Sense about Science. We want to encourage all members of the public to hold people and organisations to account for the claims that they make.
It really is very easy. If you see or hear a claim made by any public figure or organisation, ask them to show you the evidence that supports their claim. We’ve even set up a website (www.askforevidence.org) to make the process go smoothly. You can create a log of where you saw the claim (pictures are especially helpful), and email the person responsible using our email template. If they send you some evidence, you can pass this on to the team at Sense about Science, who will be more than happy to help you interpret if the evidence is reliable or not.
If you’ve asked for evidence in the past or do so in future, please share your story with us at www.askforevidence.org or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskforEvidence – we’d love to hear from you. The website also contains straightforward information about what constitutes reliable evidence, and Sense about Science have published a series of “Making Sense of…” guides on complex scientific topics including Climate Change, GM foods, and Statistics, without all the usual jargon.
It’s really important that we challenge people to justify their claims with evidence so that we can tell fact from fiction and make informed choices without being misled. Our message is very simple: If they want us to vote for them, believe them, or buy their products, then we should be able to Ask for Evidence.”