Confirmation of theories is a situation where scientific theories or hypotheses are backed by observational data. Confirmation can either occur in a qualitative or a quantitative form. Confirmation is closely associated with the problem of induction, which raises the question of what to believe concerning the future while applying past and present knowledge. Justification of induction requires one to provide a valid and strong argument that has true premise hence leading to viable conclusions. The discussion will analyze the Raven's problem and Goodman's riddle to illustrate the problem of confirmation theories and why it is such a big problem for empiricist science.
According to Godfrey-Smith (2003), the raven's problem is based on applying inductive reasoning to test the validity of a hypothesis. When a person concludes that ‘'All ravens are black'' it can be an acceptable hypothesis because it can be tested because it is possible to find a population of ravens that are all black. The hypothesis can also be regarded to be falsifiable because a non-black raven in the population would disapprove the entire hypothesis. A scientist would, therefore, apply methods of inductive reasoning to design an experiment to sample the population of ravens. If all ravens are found to be black, the hypothesis is regarded plausible. On repeated experiments that confirm these assertions, the hypothesis soon becomes an accepted law. The first problem of the raven's problem in confirmation theory is its generalization. Whereas there might be few non-black types, it is practically impossible to collect the samples of every raven in the world. The raven problem also interrogates the inductive and deduction processes of reasoning which are at the heart of every scientific process. When assertions are made that ‘'all ravens are black'', there must be a contrapositive statement as demanded by the laws of logic. Therefore, the raven’s problem can effectively be used in probing the steps in the scientific processes.
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The Goodman’s riddle seeks to justify universal problems by the use of empirical evidence. Here, a scientist is not required to consider a single hypothesis, but instead, they are supposed to look at the hypothesis that can be best confirmed by the evidence available. Goodman raises problems that are experienced in determining which inductions are either good or bad. He further reveals the problems encountered by scientists in determining formal or systematic account when giving evidence that either supports or conforms to a specific hypothesis. In his theory, Goodman attempts to provide an example of a property known as ‘'grue.'' He asserts that a thing can be considered grue if it is green and observed before the year 2050. On the other hand, it can be considered blue if it is first observed after the year 2050. So because all emeralds have always been observed to be green, therefore it could be true to assert that it is also grue. One aspect of the Goodman's theory is that it is time-bound and attempts to predict the validity of a hypothesis in the years to come. It, therefore, gives scientist a problem in trying to relate the relationship between the present form of a hypothesis and its future form as asserted by Godfrey-Smith (2003).
The problem of confirmation remains a big problem for empiricist scientist because they are required to probe every step in the scientific process. It also requires that scientific processes make conclusions from both the observed and unobserved just like in Goodman’s riddle. The problem of induction provides two fundamental challenges that include ensuring that the hypotheses conform to the uniformity that is observed in nature and secondly they must possess a cause and effect relationship where a specific connection is depicted.
Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003). Theory and reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science . University of Chicago Press.