Chapter

Can Evidence for Design be Explained Away?

David H Glass

in Probability in the Philosophy of Religion

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199604760
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741548 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604760.003.0005
Can Evidence for Design be Explained Away?

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In cases where two hypotheses could account for a piece of evidence, learning that one of them is true often lowers the probability of the other via ‘explaining away’. Nevertheless, the truth of one hypothesis need not completely explain away the evidence for the other hypothesis and so there might be residual confirmation of the latter. Indeed, in some cases, discovering that one hypothesis is true actually enhances the confirmation of the other hypothesis. This chapter defines several types of explaining away and presents conditions under which they occur in the context of simple probabilistic models represented using Bayesian networks. These results are then applied to design arguments in the context of biological complexity and fine-tuning in cosmology. It is argued that even if alternative explanations explain away evidence for design to some extent, there are reasons for believing that there is still significant confirmation of design.

Keywords: design; explaining away; confirmation; evidence; probability; Bayesian; biological complexity; fine-tuning

Chapter.  13238 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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