How much should we rely on anecdotal evidence?
For example, Radley Balko finds a lot of stories that involve cops killing dogs. I assume he thinks that these stories will make people more skeptical of granting power to the police.
However, Lawrence Auster finds just as many stories that involve blacks savagely attacking whites.
The Spearhead seems to be involved in some sort of quixotic attempt to chronicle every crime committed by a woman as if that is going to make everyone oppose feminism.
Let me pick on Mr Balko. I assume he thinks that he’s doing good work in chronicling police abuse of dogs and injustices in the US legal system. Yet, I’m sure Mr Balko would not read Mr Auster or The Spearhead and immediately agree with their conclusions based on anecdotal evidence – i.e. that there’s an undeclared race war going on in the US and that women are all potentially criminals, respectively. Everyone seems to ignore anecdotal evidence until it fits their theory. So is anecdotal evidence only of use for furthering confirmation bias?
In any large, diverse country in which people are nominally free, you’re going to be able to find some people doing almost anything. I think this argues strongly against drawing conclusions from anecdotal evidence. However, it’s much easier to us to conceptualize phenomenon on a smaller level, i.e. by using anecdotes.
Anecdotal evidence seems to be helpful for explanatory purposes. But that’s it. The face that cops kill so many dogs helps Mr Balko explain his point; some additional information is necessary to actually make the point.