Scientific realism, the atomic theory, and the catch-all hypothesis: Can we test fundamental theories against all serious alternatives?
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):253-269 (2009)
Sherri Roush () and I (, ) have each argued independently that the most significant challenge to scientific realism arises from our inability to consider the full range of serious alternatives to a given hypothesis we seek to test, but we diverge significantly concerning the range of cases in which this problem becomes acute. Here I argue against Roush's further suggestion that the atomic hypothesis represents a case in which scientific ingenuity has enabled us to overcome the problem, showing how her general strategy is undermined by evidence I have already offered in support of what I have called the 'problem of unconceived alternatives'. I then go on to show why her strategy will not generally (if ever) allow us to formulate and test exhaustive spaces of hypotheses in cases of fundamental scientific theorizing
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