The Importance of Justifying Claims

In every science class I have ever taken, I immediately believed all of the information being taught to me was accurate. Not once did I ever step back and consider where the proof was for these facts. I trusted my educators, the textbooks, and all the class material presented to be correct. Then, in this course, we discussed that a major component of our self-reflective essay was to provide evidence behind the claims we made. When I first heard this, I was confused, as I never considered the need to provide textual support for my own beliefs when writing about a personal experience. I originally thought that my self-reflective essay would be entirely composed of my own feelings and thoughts. After discussing in class why we need to support our claims, I now see the importance behind providing evidence for my own thoughts and feelings. Without proof, all of my claims about how I grew throughout this semester would be weak, and hold no true value. As stated in Reflective Writing by Kate Williams, Mary Wooliams, and Jane Spiro, evidence needs to be provided in order to justify claims that one makes (Williams, Wooliams, Spiro, 2012). Now, I question why have I overlooked the importance of evidence in not only the science classes I take, but my own claims as well?

I decided to research why I may trust information right away, or not until I’m provided with evidence. The article “Why We Believe Alternative Facts” by Kristen Weir goes into detail about human judgment and why people are more likely to believe some things over others. Weir explains that humans determine what they believe based on a biased set of cognitive processes (Weir, 2017). This means that people are predisposed to trust the information that they do based on an already established thinking process. Weir quotes Dr. Ditto, a psychologist at the University of California, “’People are capable of being thoughtful and rational, but our wishes, hopes, fears and motivations often tip the scales to make us more likely to accept something as true if it supports what we want to believe’” (Weir, 2017). This shows that I may overlook the need for evidence if the information presented to me is something that already aligns with what I want to believe is true. In regard to my self-reflective essay, this may explain why I was confused at first about the need to provide evidence for my feelings and thoughts. If I am more likely to trust information without proof when it aligns with my beliefs, then it makes sense as to why I never considered justifying my own claims; my personal thoughts would parallel with what I already believe. I also see this correlation with my science courses as I am passionate about the field, and therefore, I would want to believe everything regarding science is true.

In the article by Weir, she goes on to state that, “Much of the early research on motivated reasoning showed that people weigh facts differently when those facts are personally threatening” (Weir, 2017). When I first read this, it became even clearer as to why I don’t seek evidence for claims made in my science classes or my own personal statements. For me, my core beliefs are rooted in science, therefore I would not find any portion of my science textbooks or lectures personally threatening. Then, Weir quotes Dr. Ditto stating, “’It takes more information to make you believe something you don’t want to believe than something you do’” (Weir, 2017). Once again, I see the connection between my lack of evidence seeking with the reasoning provided by Dr. Ditto and Weir. I am more likely to trust information presented to me by STEM educators and texts than others, due to its role in my established beliefs. If I was given information that contradicted what I already believed, then I would be more prone to seek the justification behind these claims. When it comes to my own personal statements or the material I come across in my science courses, all of this information is what I want to believe, as I have trusted it my whole life. Therefore, I do not readily seek the need to find more information regarding why it is accurate; I trust the material instantly.

Now that I am aware of my biased set of cognitive processes, I can actively seek to change it. In the future, I hope to no longer overlook the importance of evidence behind the information presented to me, regardless of its origin. I hope to no longer gloss over the lack of justification behind the material I am shown or that I state myself. With a more active mindset and critical processing of information I come across, I hope to progress in not only my understanding of concepts themselves, but the vindication behind them. I urge my readers to do the same, as we may all benefit from demanding evidence for the facts given to us.

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