Thursday, November 01, 2007

Scientifically Paralogical

You’re trying to decide if the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” You say Yes, another jury member says No. If you really thought the other person arrived at No reasonably, [Fred Feldman] argues, you would have to change your verdict, not go on disagreeing.

The issue is whether it makes sense to think reasonable people can disagree when they’re responding to the same evidence, and the same arguments, and they have the same “interests” (just getting at the truth). In philosophy debates, religion debates, etc., that’s often the situation or at least can be.

We need a counterexample where two people disagree about the truth (that’s the sort of disagreement Feldman’s talking about) but regard each other as reasonable.
Those are from Jean Kazez's Halloween post (Reasonable People Will Disagree) and comments, at Talking Philosophy, which coincidentally (and hence appropriately spookily) addressed an issue akin to my Halloween post (last night); also from those comments is the following answer of PJ's:
Science? People in science disagree all the time about where the balance of evidence points, but happily regard their opponents in any given scientific debate as being quite rational, often because these are fairly open questions where it is difficult to articulate why one piece of evidence should or shouldn’t outweigh another - so you might say that while you recognise that X is suggested by experiment Y, you’re more inclined to believe that Y resulted from mistake Z, because you think X is so unlikely given A, even though Z is quite unlikely too.

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