Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

Those of you who've known me a while may remember that I dislike accepting philosophical labels. For example, although the labels "materialist" or "physicalist" are more or less accurate descriptions of what I think, they often seem to imply an ideological rigidity I'm not comfortable with. My attitude toward these labels somewhat resonates with Neil … Continue reading Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability

There's an article by Matthew R. Francis in Symmetry magazine garnering a lot of attention asking whether falsifiability is a useful criteria for scientific theories. Popper wrote in his classic book The Logic of Scientific Discovery that a theory that cannot be proven false—that is, a theory flexible enough to encompass every possible experimental outcome—is scientifically useless. … Continue reading The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability

Probability is relative

At Aeon, Nevin Climenhaga makes some interesting points about probability.  After describing different interpretations of probability, one involving the frequency with which an event will occur, another involving its propensity to occur, and a third involving our confidence it will occur, he describes how, given a set of identical facts, each of these interpretations can … Continue reading Probability is relative

How do we establish causation?

Ross Pomeroy at Real Clear Science discusses five logical fallacies that often get misidentified and abused in arguments.  Identified by Steven Novella in his book The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, one of these is the old Correlation and Causation fallacy: 2. Correlation and Causation. Correlation does not prove causation. To say that it does is a logical fallacy. … Continue reading How do we establish causation?