Saturday, June 14, 2014

Explanatory Power and Scope

Abductive arguments are popularly known as Inference to the Best Explanation type of argument. That is, reasoning or inferring to that theory or hypothesis that provides the best explanation.

Among the criteria for best explanation includes:

1. the greatest explanatory power and

2. the greatest explanatory scope

Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on Explanatory Power

Part of the above article states, "...a good explanation also provides specific details which fit together so tightly that it is difficult to change one detail without affecting the whole theory."

Michael Licona simply summarized the difference between explanatory power and scope by saying (paraphase)

Explanatory Scope: deals with a theory's (or hypothesis') ability to account for all the relevant facts.

Explanatory Power: deals with a theory's (or hypothesis') ability to account for facts without forcing the data to fit or without excessive vagueness or ambiguity.

William Lane Craig applied explanatory power and scope to the case for Jesus Christ's resurrection. He said/wrote (paraphrase):

The Best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead.

1. It has great explanatory scope. That is, it will explain more of the evidence.

2. It has great explanatory power. That is it will make the evidence more probable.

3. It is plausible. It will fit better with true background beliefs.

4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. That is, it won't require adopting new beliefs which have no independent evidence.

5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. It will be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than other explanations. That is, it won't conflict with as many accepted beliefs.

6. It far outstrips any rival theories in meeting conditions (1) - (5). It will meet conditions 1-5 so much better than the other theories that there's little chance that one of the other explanations, after further investigation, will do better in meeting these conditions.

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