For decades, cigarette companies helped to promote the impression that there was no scientific consensus concerning the safety of their product. The appearance of controversy, however, was misleading, designed to confuse the public and to protect industry interests. Created scientific controversies emerge when expert communities are in broad agreement but the public perception is one of profound scientific uncertainty and doubt. In the first book-length analysis of the concept of a created scientific controversy, David Harker explores issues including climate change, (...) Creation science, the anti-vaccine movement and genetically modified crops. Drawing on work in cognitive psychology, social epistemology, critical thinking and philosophy of science, he shows readers how to better understand, evaluate, and respond to the appearance of scientific controversy. His book will be a valuable resource for students of philosophy of science, environmental and health sciences, and social and natural sciences. (shrink)
The most influential arguments for scientific realism remain centrally concerned with an inference from scientific success to the approximate truth of successful theories. Recently, however, and in response to antirealists' objections from radical discontinuity within the history of science, the arguments have been refined. Rather than target entire theories, realists narrow their commitments to only certain parts of theories. Despite an initial plausibility, the selective realist strategy faces significant challenges. In this article, I outline four prerequisites for a successful selective (...) realist defence and argue that adopting a comparative sense of success both satisfies those requirements and partially in consequence provides a more compelling, albeit more modest, realist thesis. (shrink)
Scientific theories are developed in response to a certain set of phenomena and subsequently evaluated, at least partially, in terms of the quality of fit between those same theories and appropriately distinctive phenomena. To differentiate between these two stages it is popular to describe the former as involving the accommodation of data and the latter as involving the prediction of data. Predictivism is the view that, ceteris paribus, correctly predicting data confers greater confirmation than successfully accommodating data. In this paper, (...) I take issue with a variety of predictivist theses, argue that their role for issues of confirmation is extremely limited, and attempt to account for the appeal that predictivism has enjoyed. Introduction Temporal Predictivism Heuristic Predictivism Weak Predictivism 4.1 Inference to better theories 4.2 Inference to better methods Arguments for Strong Heuristic Predictivism 5.1 Best explanations argument 5.2 Conditional support 5.3 Unique explanations Increased Explanatory Unification 6.1 Explaining what other theories can't 6.2 Contrived hypotheses 6.2 Strength and simplicity Conclusions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The judgment that a given event is epistemically improbable is necessary but insufficient for us to conclude that the event is surprising. Paul Horwich has argued that surprising events are, in addition, more probable given alternative background assumptions that are not themselves extremely improbable. I argue that Horwich’s definition fails to capture important features of surprises and offer an alternative definition that accords better with intuition. An important application of Horwich’s analysis has arisen in discussions of fine-tuning arguments. In the (...) second part of the paper I consider the implications for this argument of employing my definition of surprise. I argue that advocates of fine-tuning arguments are not justified in attaching significance to the fact that we are surprised by examples of fine-tuning. (shrink)
A not unpopular thesis, when it comes to the confirmation of scientific theories, is that data which were used in the construction of a theory afford poorer support for that theory than data that played no role. Some compelling thought experiments have been offered in favour of this view, not as proof but rather to add some intuitive plausibility. In this paper I consider such thought experiments and argue that they do not support the thesis; the perceived importance of prediction (...) over accommodation, at least in these cases, is illusory. Introduction Background assumptions Strong thesis Weak thesis Conclusions. (shrink)
The problem of demarcation continues to attract attention, in part because solutions are perceived to have enormous social significance. The civic motivation, however, I argue is in tension with the heterogeneity of the sciences. Philosophers of science would be better employed reflecting on the features, causes, and consequences, of created, scientific controversies. These arise when relevant experts are in broad agreement about what conclusions can sensibly be drawn from available evidence, but the public perceives an expert community deeply divided and (...) conclusions that are plagued by profound and systemic uncertainty. In the second part of the paper I explore this concept further. (shrink)
This document collects discussion and commentary on issues raised in the workshop by its participants. Contributors are: Greg Frost-Arnold, David Harker, P. D. Magnus, John Manchak, John D. Norton, J. Brian Pitts, Kyle Stanford, Dana Tulodziecki.
In a recent paper McCain (2012) argues that weak predictivism creates an important challenge for external world scepticism. McCain regards weak predictivism as uncontroversial and assumes the thesis within his argument. There is a sense in which the predictivist literature supports his conviction that weak predictivism is uncontroversial. This absence of controversy, however, is a product of significant plasticity within the thesis, which renders McCain’s argument worryingly vague. For McCain’s argument to work he either needs a stronger version of weak (...) predictivism than has been defended within the literature, or must commit to a more precise formulation of the thesis and argue that weak predictivism, so understood, creates the challenge to scepticism that he hopes to achieve. The difficulty with the former is that weak predictivism is not uncontroversial in the respect that McCain’s argument would require. I consider the prospects of saving McCain’s argument by committing to a particular version of weak predictivism, but find them unpromising for several reasons. (shrink)
Inference to the best explanation has at times appeared almost indistinguishable from a rule that recommends simply that we should infer the hypothesis which is most plausible given available evidence. In this paper I argue that avoiding this collapse requires the identification of peculiarly explanatory virtues and consider Woodward's concept of invariance as an example of such a virtue. An additional benefit of augmenting IBE with Woodward's model of causal explanation is also suggested.
Several friends of inference to best explanation have claimed in recent work that explanatory virtues, such as consilience, simplicity and increased precision, play an important heuristic role in assigning probabilities to available hypotheses and that it is this role that justifies continued efforts to investigate the scope, nature and epistemic value of the inference rule. In this paper I argue that understanding explanatory virtues as a guide to probability assignments creates a critical dilemma for advocates of IBE that has not (...) previously been made sufficiently explicit and which has significant implications for the prospects of the rule. I conclude that the viability of IBE requires that explanatory virtues be related to a non - probabilistic conception of success. (shrink)