Explanation and evidence across disciplinary boundaries

Stream leader: Petri Ylikoski

Many disputes in and around the social sciences spring from unarticulated intuitions about, and confusions between, evidential relevance and explanatory power. Problems with the integration of knowledge across fields and with the assessment of the merits of competing research approaches are especially prominent in cases in which data, research methods and the conceptual tools of the relevant fields diverge. Misunderstandings often concern diverging judgments of explanatory and evidential relevance. Such judgments rely on discipline-specific intuitions about evidential relevance and explanatory power. There is an obvious need for a philosophical analysis of explanation and evidence that may be used to clarify and resolve these disputes.

Explanatory and evidential relevance are routinely conflated in theoretical interdisciplinary controversies. The major task is to disentangle these notions. This will be crucial in order to distinguish genuine explanatory potential or evidential support from mere hyperbole, and genuine challenges from ungrounded prejudices, both of which are all too common when, for example, biological knowledge is imported into the social sciences. Moreover, given the widespread calls for evidence-based policy, there is currently a strong demand for a more thorough understanding of the criteria of evidential relevance.