David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Prasanta S. Bandyopadhyay & Malcolm R. Forster (eds.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7: Philosophy of Statistics. Elsevier B.V. 391-440 (2011)
Proponents of Bayesian confirmation theory believe that they have the solution to a significant, recalcitrant problem in philosophy of science. It is the identification of the logic that governs evidence and its inductive bearing in science. That is the logic that lets us say that our catalog of planetary observations strongly confirms Copernicus’ heliocentric hypothesis; or that the fossil record is good evidence for the theory of evolution; or that the 3oK cosmic background radiation supports big bang cosmology. The definitive solution to this problem would be a significant achievement. The problem is of central importance to philosophy of science, for, in the end, what distinguishes science from myth making is that we have good evidence for the content of science, or at least of mature sciences, whereas myths are evidentially ungrounded fictions. The core ideas shared by all versions of Bayesian confirmation theory are, at a good first approximation, that a scientist’s beliefs are or should conform to a probability measure; and that the incorporation of new evidence is through conditionalization using Bayes’ theorem. While the burden of this chapter will be to inventory why critics believe this theory may not be the solution after all, it is worthwhile first to summarize here the most appealing virtues of this simple account. There are three. First, the theory reduces the often nebulous notion of a logic of..
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