Conflicting expert testimony and the search for gravitational waves

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):570-584 (2009)
Abstract
How can we make informed decisions about whom to trust given expert disagreement? Can experts on both sides be reasonable in holding conflicting views? Epistemologists have engaged the issue of reasonable expert disagreement generally; here I consider a particular expert dispute in physics, given conflicting accounts from Harry Collins and Allan Franklin, over Joseph Weber’s alleged detection of gravitational waves. Finding common ground between Collins and Franklin, I offer a characterization of the gravity wave dispute as both social and evidential. While experimental evidence alone may not have forced resolution of the dispute, there were also credibility‐based reasons warranting epistemic trust and distrust. Thus we see how social factors can have evidential significance and how expert disagreement can be reasonable. †To contact the author, please write to: Philosophy Dept., Communication Arts Division, College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL 60030; e‐mail: balmassi@clcillinois.edu.
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