Evidence in biology and the conditions of success

Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):981-1004 (2013)
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Abstract

I describe two traditions of philosophical accounts of evidence: one characterizes the notion in terms of signs of success, the other characterizes the notion in terms of conditions of success. The best examples of the former rely on the probability calculus, and have the virtues of generality and theoretical simplicity. The best examples of the latter describe the features of evidence which scientists appeal to in practice, which include general features of methods, such as quality and relevance, and general features of evidence, such as patterns in data, concordance with other evidence, and believability of the evidence. Two infamous episodes from biomedical research help to illustrate these features. Philosophical characterization of these latter features—conditions of success—has the virtue of potential relevance to, and descriptive accuracy of, practices of experimental scientists

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Jacob Stegenga
Cambridge University

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