Hierarchy of evidence
The hierarchy of evidence is a ranking of different types of evidence, to be used as a guideline for determining which evidence should be considered more credible when more than one type is available.
The following list is a first pass, and should not be considered complete, definitive, or certain – from most to least reliable:
- demonstrably sound reasoning from agreed-upon facts (see rationality detection)
- repeatedly verified hypothesis
- verified hypothesis
- physical evidence
- circumstantial evidence
- experience (argument from authority)
Evidence higher on the list (lower numbers) generally trumps evidence lower on the list (higher numbers).
Each type of evidence may have a range of reliability, and it's entirely possible that more-reliable varieties of a given evidence-type should trump less-reliable varieties of a normally more-reliable evidence-type – e.g. the opinion of a professional with years of experience in a given field would normally trump circumstantial evidence that is not overwhelming, unless there is reason to suspect that the professional is biased.