Epistemic values of quantity and variety of evidence in biological mechanism research

Yin Chung Au

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper proposes an extended version of the interventionist account for causal inference in the practical context of biological mechanism research. This paper studies the details of biological mechanism researchers’ practices of assessing the evidential legitimacy of experimental data, arguing why quantity and variety are two important criteria for this assessment. Because of the nature of biological mechanism research, the epistemic values of these two criteria result from the independence both between the causation of data generation and the causation in question and between different interventions, not techniques. The former independence ensures that the interventions in the causation in question are not affected by the causation that is responsible for data generation. The latter independence ensures the reliability of the final mechanisms not only in the empirical but also the formal aspects. This paper first explores how the researchers use quantity to check the effectiveness of interventions, where they at the same time determine the validity of the difference-making revealed by the results of interventions. Then, this paper draws a distinction between experimental interventions and experimental techniques, so that the reliability of mechanisms, as supported by the variety of evidence, can be safely ensured in the probabilistic sense. The latter process is where the researchers establish evidence of the mechanisms connecting the events of interest. By using case studies, this paper proposes to use ‘intervention’ as the fruitful connecting point of literature between evidence and mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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