Explaining the Justificatory Asymmetry between Statistical and Individualized Evidence

In Jon Robson & Zachary Hoskins (eds.), Truth and Trial. Routledge (forthcoming)
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In some cases, there appears to be an asymmetry in the evidential value of statistical and more individualized evidence. For example, while I may accept that Alex is guilty based on eyewitness testimony that is 80% likely to be accurate, it does not seem permissible to do so based on the fact that 80% of a group that Alex is a member of are guilty. In this paper I suggest that rather than reflecting a deep defect in statistical evidence, this asymmetry might arise from a general constraint on rational inquiry. Plausibly the degree of evidential support needed to justify taking a proposition to be true depends on the stakes of error. While relying on statistical evidence plausibly raises the stakes by introducing new kinds of risk to members of the reference class, paradigmatically `individualized' evidence---evidence tracing back to A's voluntary behavior---can lower the stakes. The net result explains the apparent evidential asymmetry without positing a deep difference in the brute justificatory power of different types of evidence.
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