What Makes a Good Scientific Explanation?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from Nathaniel Jeanson and Herman Mays: A YEC-Evolutionist Debate:

This is very important point of scientific thinking that is often misunderstood. When @evograd says “best explanation” there is very specific criteria for determining “best”. @vjtorley put it really well when pressing @hunter in an exchange about my article, http://peacefulscience.org/evidence-and-evolution/.

Do you accept that if hypothesis A readily explains an empirical fact F and hypothesis B does not, then F (taken by itself) constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? Or putting it another way, if a fact F is predicted by hypothesis A, and compatible with hypothesis B but not predicted by B, then do you agree that F constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? If not, why not?

Now, that was in question form, but in there is nuggets of why special creation (without a lot more to it) does not constitute a good scientific explanation, even if it were to be true.


(Blogging Graduate Student) #2

Do you accept that if hypothesis A readily explains an empirical fact F and hypothesis B does not, then F (taken by itself) constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? Or putting it another way, if a fact F is predicted by hypothesis A, and compatible with hypothesis B but not predicted by B, then do you agree that F constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? If not, why not?

I didn’t get taught much philosophy of science, so this only “clicked” for me when I discovered Bayes Theorem in the context of phylogenetics. While studying the theorem in the context of phylogenetics I suddenly had a revalation that it implies just that mathematically - data predicted by hypothesis A but merely accomodated by hypothesis B is evidence for hypothesis A over hypothesis B. Only a little later did I discover that this was already a very widely-known consequence of the theorem, but I still felt proud of myself for deriving it myself :slight_smile:


(Charles Edward Miller) #3

In There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, philosopher Anthony Flew makes two key observations about the fine-tuning of the universe that are relevant to our discussion. First, the fine-tuning of the universe is an established fact. Life simply would not be possible if some of the laws and constants of nature had been slightly different. There may be controversy about how to interpret fine-tuning, as we will see shortly, but the fact is well established.


(T J Runyon) #4

Bayes’s is useful in common design type arguments too. CA predicts the types of similarities we see. Special creation doesn’t. So the similarities we see may be compatible with special creation but it’s more likely on common ancestry.