Using a thought experiment to clarify a radiobiological controversy

Synthese 128 (3):319 - 342 (2001)
Abstract
Are philosophers of science limited to conducting autopsies on dead scientific theories, or might they also help resolve contemporary methodological disputes in science? This essay (1) gives an overview of thought experiments, especially in mathematics; (2) outlines three major positions on the current dose-response controversy for ionizing radiation; and (3) sketches an original mathematical thought experiment that might help resolve the low-dose radiation conflict. This thought experiment relies on the assumptions that radiation "hits'' are Poisson distributed and that background conditions cause many more radiation-induced cancers than human activities. The essay closes by responding to several key objections to the position defended here.
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