Article ID: CBB001021660

The Role of Probability Arguments in the History of Science (2010)


The paper examines Wesley Salmon's claim that the primary role of plausibility arguments in the history of science is to impose constraints on the prior probability of hypotheses (in the language of Bayesian confirmation theory). A detailed look at Copernicanism and Darwinism and, more briefly, Rutherford's discovery of the atomic nucleus reveals a further and arguably more important role of plausibility arguments. It resides in the consideration of likelihoods, which state how likely a given hypothesis makes a given piece of evidence. In each case the likelihoods raise the probability of one of the competing hypotheses and diminish the credibility of its rival, and this may happen either on the basis of `old' or `new' evidence.


Description Case studies of Copernicanism, Darwinism, and Rutherford's discovery of the atomic nucleus.

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Authors & Contributors
Barker, Peter
Weatherson, Brian
Korb, Kevin B.
Twardy, Charles R.
Fitelson, Branden
Gerhard, Myriam
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science
Filozofski Vestnik
Journal of the History of Biology
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
化学史研究 [Kagakushi kenkyū; Journal of the Japanese Society for the History of Chemistry]
Prometheus Books
Cambridge University Press
Philosophy of science
Revolutions in science
Explanation; hypotheses; theories
Copernicus, Nicolaus
Darwin, Charles Robert
Kuhn, Thomas S.
Galilei, Galileo
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von
Bruno, Giordano
Time Periods
16th century
20th century
19th century
17th century

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