The crux of crucial experiments: Duhem's problems and inference to the best explanation

Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues to Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the best explanation (IBE) does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions CiteULike Connotea What's this?
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Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axn040
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References found in this work BETA
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
What is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account.Jim Woodward - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S366-S377.
Saving the Phenomena.James Bogen & James Woodward - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (3):303-352.
What Is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account.Jim Woodward - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (S3):S366-S377.
Van Fraassen's Critique of Inference to the Best Explanation.S. Okasha - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 31 (4):691-710.

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Models and the Mosaic of Scientific Knowledge. The Case of Immunology.Tudor M. Baetu - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):49-56.
In Pursuit of Formaldehyde: Causally Explanatory Models and Falsification.Kärin Nickelsen & Gerd Graßhoff - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (3):297-305.
Inference to the More Robust Explanation.Nicholaos Jones - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axw009.

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