In following critical methods (criteria) of assessing the probability of improvable truths (such as historical propositions), we must assess the potency of its:
- explanatory power
- explanatory scope
- predictive power
- track record4
- accord with accepted beliefs
- superiority to rival hypotheses
- dis-confirmed by fewer accepted beliefs
- low chance of an incompatible post-hypotheses
Scholarly lists of disiderata use these methods to determine an inference to the best explanation. These criterion have epistemic value that make the theory “truth-tending” (or more likely to be true than not).
1 As put by Ratzsch as “internal consistency and compatibility with well-grounded metaphysical beliefs.” Could also be stated as including “mathematical validity.”
2 Or, “Occam’s Razor”–finding the explanation with the least hypotheses. Elsewhere stated as “limiting ad hoc-ness.” Something is ad hoc when it is an unnecessary additional hypothesis created to save a given theory.
3 Retention of a past working theory whose contents have been emptied of everything but the most necessary datum.
4 Ratzsch puts it, “how successful it has been in handling problems in the past.”
5 “A theory giving rise to unexpected discoveries … [and] fruitful in suggesting new lines of research or new experiments…” (Ibid.)
Craig, William Lane. “Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd Ludemann’s Hallucination Hypothesis” ReasonableFaith.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015. .
Ratzsch, Delvin Lee. “The Competence of Science.” Science & Its Limits: The Natural Sciences in Christian Perspective. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000. 90. Print.
McCullagh, C. Behan (1984) Justifying Historical Descriptions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles by John Earman for the probability calculus (Bayes’ Theorem). Craig presents it here.