What is the basic pattern of inference to the best explanation? How does this pattern differ from that of enumerative induction? Analogical induction?
What is the minimum requirement for consistency?
What are the criteria of adequacy?
According to the text, what does it mean for a theory to be testable or untestable?
What is the TEST formula?
According to the text, in theory evaluation, when is a theory properly considered the best?
Each of the following theories is offered to explain John's apparently prophetic dream that a distant cousin would die in a plane crash. Indicate which theory (a) lacks simplicity, (b) is not conservative, (c) is untestable, and (d) has the most scope. (Some theories may merit more than one of these designations.)
The fact that John's dream happened to be about a plane crash involving his cousin was coincidence. We have many dreams, and some are likely to match real events from time to time.
In his dream, John was able to see into the future and "view" the plane crash.
The incident was an example of "synchronicity," in which events are paired in unusual but predetermined ways by cosmic forces.
John had calculated the odds of the crash even before he dreamed about it, so the dream was not a prophesy, but a memory of his calculation. Indicate which theory in each of the following groups is most plausible.
Phenomenon: The rise in popularity of a newly elected president. Theories: (1) The so-called honeymoon effect in which a new president enjoys popularity until he or she is involved in serious or controversial decisions, (2) the systematic manipulation of all polling organizations by the president's staff, (3) the influence of a powerful secret society controlling the media.
Phenomenon: Your friend has been skipping class, and you haven't seen her in days. Theories: (1) She's in bed with the flu, (2) she has been kidnapped, (3) she has inherited millions of dollars and has decided to hang out with a better class of friends.
Phenomenon: Ships, boats, and planes have been disappearing off the coast of Florida for years. Theories: (1) Considering the meteorological and atmospheric conditions of the area, it's normal for some craft to be lost from time to time; (2) the craft have been hijacked; (3) the ships, boats, and planes are simply off course.
Phenomenon: The rapid spread of an unknown, dangerous, viral disease throughout North America. Theories: (1) The lack of awareness and defenses against a new mutated virus, (2) bureaucratic bungling at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (3) a massive conspiracy of doctors who want higher fees for treating seriously ill patients. Evaluate the following theories using the TEST formula. As part of your evaluation, (1) state the claim to be evaluated, (2) indicate what phenomenon is being explained, (3) specify at least one alternative theory, and (4) use the criteria of adequacy to assess the two theories and determine which one is more plausible.
People buy high-ticket merchandise because of subliminal advertising—their minds are being influenced by imperceptible stimuli designed by ad execs.
Skeptical scientists have never been able to find evidence for cold fusion, try as they may. That's because their skepticism skews their observations.
Eleanor won the state lottery twice in nine months. She must have a system that enables her to pick winning numbers.
He embezzled that money because his parents were divorced when he was very young.
Schoolchildren who do poorly in school are not dumb or handicapped. They perform poorly for one reason only: low or negative expectations of their teachers.
The woman has been displaying bizarre behavior for years, but recently she seems worse than ever. She sometimes suddenly begins screaming, saying that there are snakes crawling on the walls. She shakes uncontrollably at the slightest noise. And she has started to bleed from her palms. The priest says that she's possessed by demons, and he's right.