CEFISES Seminar - Adrian Currie - Simplicity, One-Shot Hypotheses & Paleobiological Explanation


20 février 2019

15h00 - 17h00


Salle Ladrère - Collège Mercier - Place Cardinal Mercier 14

CEFISES Seminar : "Simplicity, One-Shot Hypotheses & Paleobiological Explanation" by Adrian Currie (University of Exeter)

Paleobiologists (and other historical scientists) often provide simple narratives to explain complex, contingent episodes. These narratives are sometimes ‘one-shot hypotheses’ which are treated as being mutually exclusive with other possible explanations of the target episode, and are thus extended to accommodate as much about the episode as possible. I argue that a provisional preference for such hypotheses provides two kinds of productive scaffolding. First, they generate ‘hypothetical difference-makers’: one-shot hypotheses highlight and isolate empirically tractable dependencies between variables. Second, investigations of hypothetical difference makers provision explanatory resources, the ‘raw materials’ for constructing more complex—and likely more adequate—explanations. Preference for simple, one-shot hypotheses in historical science, then, is defeasibly justified on indirect—strategic—grounds. My argument is made in reference to recent developments regarding the K-Pg extinction.