PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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No Escape for No Miracles: The No-Miracles Argument and The Base-Rate Fallacy

The no-miracles argument (NMA) for scientific realism has recently been accused of base-rate fallaciousness. I consider three responses to the accusation of base-rate fallaciousness: 1) NMA is not a probabilistic argument and therefore the fallacy is not applicable; 2) the language of the argument is not conducive to a base-rate; and 3) it is sometimes permissible to ignore base-rates, because correct reasoning can lead us away from the truth. I reject all three responses. Regarding 1), I argue that NMA is probabilistic because the most salient difference between its explanation of success and alternative ones is a difference in likelihood to obtain. Regarding 2), I argue that even if the language of the argument is ineliminably vague, it is nonetheless possible to specify an approximate base range of approximate truth. Regarding 3), I say that the fallibility of non-deductive forms of inference does not license the abandonment of the rules of inference. So the charge of base-rate fallaciousness is apt. However, I also argue that producing a base-rate would not save the argument, because once the base-rate of approximate truth is in hand, NMA is superfluous as an argument for realism. The upshot is that the realist should abandon NMA altogether.

Author Information:

Amanda Bryant    
CUNY Graduate Center


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