Evidence: Wanted, alive or dead

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Psillos, Stathis
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conference paper description
This paper is meant to link the philosophical debate concerning the underdetermination of theories by evidence with a rather significant socio-political issue that has been taking place in Canada over the past few years: the so-called ‘death of evidence’ controversy. It places this debate within a broader philosophical framework by discussing the connection between evidence and theory; by bringing out the role of epistemic values in the so-called scientific method; and by examining the role of social values in science. While it should be admitted that social values play an important role in science, the key question for anyone who advocates this view is: what and whose values? The way it is answered makes an important epistemic difference to how the relation between evidence and theory is appraised. I first review various arguments for the claim that evidence underdetermines theory and shows their presuppositions and limitations, using conceptual analysis and historical examples. After broaching the relation between evidence and method in science by highlighting the need to incorporate epistemic values into the scientific method, my discussion focuses on recent arguments for the role of social values in science. Finally, I address the implications of the approach outlined for the current ‘death of evidence’ debate in Canada.