Robustness and Independent Evidence

Philosophy of Science 84 (3):414-435 (2017)
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Abstract

Robustness arguments hold that hypotheses are more likely to be true when they are confirmed by diverse kinds of evidence. Robustness arguments require the confirming evidence to be independent. We identify two kinds of independence appealed to in robustness arguments: ontic independence —when the multiple lines of evidence depend on different materials, assumptions, or theories—and probabilistic independence. Many assume that OI is sufficient for a robustness argument to be warranted. However, we argue that, as typically construed, OI is not a sufficient independence condition for warranting robustness arguments. We show that OI evidence can collectively confirm a hypothesis to a lower degree than individual lines of evidence, contrary to the standard assumption undergirding usual robustness arguments. We employ Bayesian networks to represent the ideal empirical scenario for a robustness argument and a variety of ways in which empirical scenarios can fall short of this ideal.

Author's Profile

Jacob Stegenga
Cambridge University

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