314Lecture10-ExplanationandInferenceOnline - Lecture Ten...

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Lecture Ten: Explanation and Inference (pp. 196-229) Lecture Ten: Explanation and Inference (pp. 196-229) Scientific realists argue that scientific theories should explain the phenomena under investigation. Many people believe that the main goal of science is to provide an explanation for observable phenomena. (Most explanations of natural phenomena refer to theoretical and unobservable entities.) The realist argues that the truth of the hypothesis is necessary for it to be regarded as a genuine scientific explanation. Therefore explanation requires more than empirical adequacy. This notion of explanatory power may help us with the problem of underdetermination. If two theories differ only with respect to their explanatory power (assume they are empirically equivalent, that is, they predict all the same phenomena) and if explanatory power is evidence that a theory is true, then the theory that provides the better explanation is the stronger and better theory. Scientific realism is especially concerned with the notion of Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). The principle of IBE states that when we have evidential data and various rival hypotheses or theories, all of which save the phenomena, then we should opt for the one that provides the best explanation of the evidence (given that it is empirically adequate). Explanation First consider the nature of a scientific explanation. Philosophers and scientists are not satisfied merely with a description of the world. They are also interested in understanding why the world is the way it is. Here are a few examples of explanations: a. The window is broken because it was hit by a stone. b. The pressure of the gas rose because the volume was fixed and the temperature was increased. c. They are not answering the phone because they want to get some work done. The first example (a) is a causal explanation. It tells us why the result occurred. The second example (b) appeals to the gas law that relates temperature, pressure, and volume. This law tells us why the pressure rose. And lastly, the third example (c) is a psychological explanation. It explains the behavior of a person based on motivation, desires, and beliefs. As can be seen from the above, there are many kinds of explanations. Now consider the following different kinds of explanations: 1. His violence is the results of a repressed Oedipal complex. (psychoanalytical) 2. Giraffes have long necks because it enables them to reach the leaves of tall trees for food, in other words it is an adaptation to the environment. (evolutionary) 1
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Lecture Ten: Explanation and Inference (pp. 196-229) 3. The rise to power of the Nazis happened because of Germany’s humiliation by the other European powers in the negotiations for the treaty at Versailles. (historical) 4. The handle of the spoon is curved to fit comfortably in the hand. (functional) 5. She is adaptable because she is a Pisces and that is a water sign. (astrological) 6. He dies young because it is God’s will. (theological)
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314Lecture10-ExplanationandInferenceOnline - Lecture Ten...

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