Theory choice

Theory choice

A main problem in the philosophy of science in the early 20th century, and under the impact of the new and controversial theories of relativity and quantum physics, came to involve how scientists should choose between competing theories.

The classical answer would be to select the theory which was best verified, against which Karl Popper argued that competing theories should be subjected to comparative tests and the one chosen which survived the tests. If two theories could not, for practical reasons be tested, one should prefer the one with the highest degree of empirical content, said Popper in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery".

Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré instead, like many others, proposed simplicity as a criterion. One should choose the mathematically simplest or most elegant approach. Many have sympathized with this view, but the problem is that the idea of simplicity is highly intuitive and even personal, and that no one has managed to formulate it in precise and acceptable terms.

Popper's solution was subsequently criticized by Thomas S. Kuhn in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". He denied that competing theories (or paradigms) could be compared in the way that Popper had claimed, and substituted instead what can be briefly described as pragmatic success. This led to an intense discussion with Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend the best known participants.

The discussion has continued, but no general and uncontroversial solution to the problem of formulating objective criteria to decide which is the best theory has so far been formulated. The main criteria usually proposed are to choose the theory which provides the best (and novel) predictions, the one with the highest explanatory potential, the one which offers better problems or the most elegant and simple one. Alternatively a theory may be preferable if it is better integrated into the rest of contemporary knowledge.

Why is, for example, Darwin's theory of evolution a better theory than creationism or intelligent design? No biologist doubts that it is, and it does seem important to be able to say why. It can here be argued that the theory of evolution can be connected with the recent knowledge about DNA and mutations in ways that the older alternatives can not. It can also be said to provide more detailed and therefore better explanations of why, for example, bacteria develop resistance to drugs.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Theory (disambiguation) — Theory may refer to:;Concepts * Theory, a logical explanation for a given set of facts * Theory (mathematics) a branch of mathematics which covers a single subject (e.g. Number theory) * Theory (mathematical logic), the set of statements… …   Wikipedia

  • Choice blindness — In psychology, choice blindness is a phenomenon in which subjects fail to detect conspicuous mismatches between their intended (and expected) choice and the actual outcome. Writing in Science , psychologist Petter Johansson and coworkers describe …   Wikipedia

  • Choice overload — In Social Psychology theory, choice overload is implicated in research into situations where people are confronted with many choices versus just a few choices. These findings have results that run counter to the popular notion that more choice is …   Wikipedia

  • Choice modelling — attempts to model the decision process of an individual or segment in a particular context. Choice modelling may also be used to estimate non market environmental benefits and costs[1]. Well specified choice models are sometimes able to predict… …   Wikipedia

  • Choice Modelling — attempts to model the decision process of an individual or segment in a particular context. Choice modelling may also be used to estimate non market environmental benefits and costs [Jeff Bennet University of Queensland… …   Wikipedia

  • Choice architecture — describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented (in order to influence the outcome), and is a term used by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler in the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health,… …   Wikipedia

  • Choice USA — is a reproductive rights non profit organization in the United States based in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, California. It is youth led, with a focus on pro choice movements. Contents 1 History and organization 2 Mission and values …   Wikipedia

  • Theory of mind — is the ability to attribute mental states beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one s own.[1] Though there are… …   Wikipedia

  • Choice theory — This article is about choice theory in psychology and education. For choice theory in economics, see rational choice theory. The term choice theory is the work of William Glasser, MD, author of the book so named, and is the culmination of some 50 …   Wikipedia

  • Theory of religious economy — The theory of religious economy is the application of rational choice theory as a theory of religion. The Theory of Religious Economy argues that the economic model of supply and demand has a significant role in the development and success of… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.