Anecdotal vs. Scientific Evidence

In Forest Management class two days ago we were discussing an article on the parcelization of forest tracts in New York State. Parcelization, by the way, is the process where larger tracts are subdivided, for multiple reasons, into smaller tracts.

At one point the authors discuss how they had noticed increased parcelization over a period of time and a strong tendency for liquidation cuts before the sale. The owners harvest a large portion of the volume to capture its value before sending.

This was essentially anecdotal evidence; meaning that they had heard of it in stories from other people or seen it themselves. Andecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence, however. That means there wasn’t a systematic, scientific study to study the extent and severity of parcelization. Their research project, which included a survey of landowners, a detailed forest inventory of sampled tracts, and a statistical analysis, was designed to give reliable answers. If the scientific studies couldn’t give definitive answers, it can tell us what is the missing information.

Anecdotal evidence alerts us to a problem and gives us some indication as to what is going on. The scientific studies are needed to get some rational answers.

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