salmon_3 - 60 Wesley C Salmon the probability for a...

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60 Wesley C. Salmon the probability for a randomly selected member of the human population at large. Moreover, it can plausibly be argued that the evolutionary biologist, in explaining occurrences in that domain, also invokes statistically relevant facts. The issue of high probability vs. statistical relevance has thus been joined. It will prove to be a question of considerable importance in the further development of our story. The Third Decade (1 968-77) Deepening Werences The third decade is bracketed by Hempel's last two publications on scientific explanation. It opened with his emendation of the requirement of maximal spe- cificity (RMS*), which was designed to fix a couple of technical flaws in his ac- count of I-S explanation (1968).' It ended with the publication (in German) of a substantial postscript to section 3 of "Aspectsn which is devoted to statistical ex- planation (1977). Among other things, he retracted the high-probability require- ment on I-S explanations. Insofar as published material was concerned, the issue of high probability vs. statistical relevance remained quite dormant for about five years after I had raised it rather obscurely in (1965).' Richard C. Jeffrey (1969) argued elegantly that statistical explanations - with the exception of certain limiting cases- are not ar- guments, and that the degree of probability conferred upon an explanandum by an explanans is not a measure of the goodness of the explanation. My next publi- cation on the topic was in 1970; it contained a theory of statistical explanation, based upon statistical relevance relations, that was spelled out in considerablede- tail.3 An ingenious information-theoretic account of scientific explanation, in which statistical relevance relations play a key role, was published by James G. Greeno in 1970. An account of the statistical-relevance(S-R) model of scientific explanation-based on the three papers by Greeno, Jeffrey, and me-was pub- lished as a small book the following year (W. Salmon et al. 1971). The introduction of the inductive-statistical model of scientific explanation constituted, I believe, a crucial turning point for the received view. Before that, I suspect, many philosophers felt (as I did) quite comfortable with the basic idea of D-N explanation, and confident that an equally satisfactory statistical concep- tion would be forthcoming. As things turned out, the I-S model gave rise to a number of fundamental problems. Three avenues presented themselves as ways of coping with the difficulties. The first was to maintain the received view-to pursue the course already laid out by Hempel - seeking to defend the I-S model against objections, and to repair the faults as they were detected. The second was to attempt to construct an alternative account of statistical explanation of particu-
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62 Wesley C. Salmon lar facts, such as the S-R model, in the hope of avoiding difficulties encountered by the received view. The third was to reject altogether the possibility of provid- ing probabilistic or statistical explanations of particular facts, thereby maintain- ing strict deductivism with regard to scientific explanation. The deductivist
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