Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science
Scientific theories are usually assessed in the light of their empirical consequences. But how shall one proceed if a theory, such as String Theory, has no empirical consequences (yet)? Are such theories scientific at all? In this context, several physicists made what has been called a no-alternatives argument. It goes as follows:
P1: A theory T satisfies a number of desirable conditions.
P2: Despite a lot of effort, the scientific community did not succeed in finding an alternative to T that also satisfies these conditions.
(Hence,) C: It is now more probably that T is empirically adequate.
It is the goal of this talk to analyze this argument structure in the framework of Bayesian confirmation theory and to ask under which conditions no-alternatives arguments work.
The talk is based on the paper R. Dawid, S. Hartmann, and J. Sprenger: The No Alternatives Argument, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 66(1): 213-234 (2015). URL: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/9588/.