Inference to the Best Explanation
One of the most common inferences in life is the inference to the best explanation (sometimes called abductive reasoning). We use this type of reasoning to infer what would best explain the things that we see. Chapter 5 in our book demonstrates ways in which this type of reasoning helps us to explain the world around us.
Prepare: To prepare for this lesson take a close look at the sections from Chapter 5 on “Inference to the Best Explanation,” “Form,” “Virtue of Simplicity,” and “How to Assess an Explanation.” Choose a topic that is difficult or controversial to explain. Some good topics include hoaxes, unusual sightings (e.g. UFOs, bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster), the supernatural or paranormal, events that are the subject of conspiracy theories, unsolved crimes or other court cases, etc.
Reflect: Do a little research to find a specific topic and learn about explanations on both sides. Consider what you think might best explain the observed facts of the case.
Write: Explain the topic you chose and why it is interesting or controversial. Present good arguments on more than one side of the issue (e.g. competing explanations of the facts). Analyze both arguments that you have presented. Then present your own argument for your theory that you feel will best explain this phenomenon. Are there any holes in your theory? Is there any information that would be likely to strengthen or weaken your case?