When I use the word “evidence”, what I think I mean is a function of many things, not least my education in science and philosophy.

It’s also the product of many discussions with people about science, superstition, psychology, pseudoscience and subjectivity.

These discussions have added nuance to my understanding of the nature of evidence. They’ve also alerted me to the fact this nature changes in certain circumstances and through certain worldviews. In other words, what I intend to say is sometimes heard as something else entirely.

This type of miscommunication can be bad enough when dealing with someone who isn’t using the terms in a scientific way, but it’s particularly frustrating when it happens when talking to teachers and communicators of science.

I’d like to take a shot, then, at defining some key terms in the name of clarity.

Scientific Law

People might think scientific law is about the highest sort of truth you can get; they might think something “proven” scientifically has the status of certainty, which is to say it’s always true: nature will always behave so as to be in accord with this law.