catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Confirmation, Induction and Science

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Good news everyone, a conference has been called to address some of the issues that are dear to the heart of GMG.

Three-day conference at the London School of Economics, 8-10 March 2007

What distinguishes science from all other human endeavours is that the accounts of the world that our best, mature sciences deliver are strongly supported by evidence and this evidence gives us the strongest reason to believe them. While this is the distinctive mark of science, unanimity has still to emerge among philosophers of science about the logic of confirmation and induction used to relate evidence to science. The state of these logics stands in stark contrast to that of deductive logic, where there is essentially no dispute over which are the good systems of deductive logic. Opinions on confirmation and induction diverge wildly in philosophy of science. At one extreme are those such as the Bayesians or learning theorists, who believe that the true system of inductive logic has been found and all that needs to be resolved are the details. At the other are skeptics, such as some supporters of the underdetermination thesis, who hold that no logic can vindicate the level of support scientists claim for their best, mature theories, for, they urge, the real inductive import of evidence cannot be that decisive. Between these extreme are many intermediate positions, including the view that the very nature of inductive inference remains poorly understood.

Critical rationalists like Popper would be regarded as skeptics in this context because we do not think that the degree of support for a theory can be quantified by inductive probability, likelihood or what have you. We may talk about the probability of a theory, like the probability that Melbourne will thrash Collingwood tomorrow (or vice versa) but this is a very different matter from a numerical probability, it is better described as a critical preference formed in the light of the best evidence at hand. And of course it could turn out to be wrong.


Written by Admin

June 11, 2006 at 8:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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