Wednesday 17 April 2013

Anecdotal Evidence

Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University, started compiling the purported 'symptoms' of 'wind turbine syndrome' in early 2012. 

His list currently sits at 216. It's big, and broad, and it's comprised entirely of anecdotal evidence. Anecdotes are generally regarded as the weakest form of evidence, in terms of scientific inquiry. 

This is because anecdotal evidence is subject to a few key problems:

- A small sample size, that isn't necessarily representative of a larger sample.

- Confirmation bias, the tendency to ignore evidence that disagrees with one's beliefs, and to place too much weight on evidence that agrees with one's beliefs

- It's subject to 'Cherry picking' - in this instance, the anti-wind lobby regularly points to a few cases of anecdotal claims of ill-health around wind turbines, but ignore the many communities that have seen no issues whatsoever. 

The size and scale of Chapman's list is truly incredible. In that vein, I've drawn his list up into an infographic, to better illustrate the clear issues with the unbridled over-use of anecdotal reports as primary evidence of an issue. 

[PDF] - 0.2 MB

[PNG] - 0.6 MB - 2197 x 1587
[JPG] - 1.2 MB - 2197 x 1587

Click to embiggen



  1. Kelan - you say you "have a vested interest in supporting wind energy – so check my facts, check my sources, and call me out on something, if I’m wrong."

    Have you read the recent Shirley Wind study - paid for in part by the wind industry - including scientists hand-picked by the wind industry who regularly represent wind companies in presenting pro-wind testimony?

    The report found "enough evidence … to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry."

    The Shirley Wind study finds that WTS is not laughable - and may be a game changer.

    1. I have indeed read the study.

      Are you stating that, based on the Shirley report, anecdotal reports that incorporate improbable claims are acceptable forms of scientific evidence?

  2. Is that a photo of the 1888 Charles Brush Wind Turbine in the Cleveland area?