Hierarchy of evidence

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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:

  1. demonstrably sound reasoning from agreed-upon facts (see rationality detection)
  2. repeatedly verified hypothesis
  3. verified hypothesis
  4. physical evidence
  5. circumstantial evidence
  6. experience (argument from authority)
  7. intuition
  8. hearsay

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.