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Bayesian Philosophy of Science$
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Jan Sprenger and Stephan Hartmann

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672110

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199672110.001.0001

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Scientific Realism and the No Miracles Argument

Scientific Realism and the No Miracles Argument

(p.81) Variation 3: Scientific Realism and the No Miracles Argument
Bayesian Philosophy of Science

Jan Sprenger

Stephan Hartmann

Oxford University Press

The No Miracles Argument (NMA) is perhaps the most prominent argument in the debate about scientific realism. It contends that the truth of our best scientific theories is the only hypothesis that does not make the astonishing predictive and explanatory success of science a mystery. However, the argument has been criticized from a Bayesian point of view as committing the base rate fallacy. We provide two Bayesian models (one related to the individual-theory-based NMA and one related to the frequency-based NMA) that respond to that objection. The first model takes into account the observed stability of mature scientific theories, the second the success frequency of theories within a scientific discipline. We conclude that the NMA can be used to defend the realist thesis and that its validity is a highly context-sensitive matter.

Keywords:   Scientific realism, No Miracles Argument (NMA), Bayesian models of the NMA, base rate fallacy, individual-theory-based NMA, frequency-based NMA, stability of mature scientific theories

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