Inference to the best explanation and mechanisms in medicine
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This article considers the prospects of inference to the best explanation (IBE) as a method of confirming causal claims vis-à-vis the medical evidence of mechanisms. I show that IBE is actually descriptive of how scientists reason when choosing among hypotheses, that it is amenable to the balance/weight distinction, a pivotal pair of concepts in the philosophy of evidence, and that it can do justice to interesting features of the interplay between mechanistic and population level assessments.
KeywordsInference to the best explanation Mechanisms Evidence Confirmation Causation Extrapolation Weight and balance
This article was written as part of the project ‘Grading Evidence of Mechanisms in Physics and Biology’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust (http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/jonw/projects/grading-evidence-of-mechanisms-in-physics-and-biology/). I am grateful for useful comments from Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij, Veli-Pekka Parkkinen, Jon Williamson, and two anonymous referees for this journal. The main and managing editors of this journal have been extraordinarily helpful with editing and content-wise suggestions for clarification. Finally, I would like to thank Mike Kelly for encouraging me to continue work when this article was at an early stage.
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