About a year ago, I posted three blog posts here, arguing that scientific evidence serves a more complex and dynamic set of functions in scientific inquiry than simply supporting hypotheses. I've finally manage to work the idea out in a form that I'm satisfied with:
The Functional Complexity of Scientific Evidence (Draft)
I'm especially indebted to the commenters on this blog for the content of section 6, including Thomas Basbøll, Greg Frost-Arnold, Gabriele Contessa, and Eric Winsberg. (I hope I've appropriate credit where credit is due there. I was a bit stymied in how exactly to refer to a conversation we had on the blog, and so made the acknowledgments there fairly general. Advice on that point is welcome.)
I hope I've managed to present it in a compelling way and answer the objections in a satisfactory way, even though I'm sure many traditionalist won't be convinced. The goal in this paper is to motivate the need for more complex, functionalist, dynamic model of evidence in contrast with the oversimplification of the traditional-type model, to set out in detail such a model, to illustrate it with an example, and to reply to some basic objections. I've got a second paper in progress which applies the basic framework to a variety of problems of evidence, from theory-ladenness and the experiment's regress to "evidence for use" and evidence-based public policy. My central claim there is that this apparently diverse set of problems all share a set of assumptions, and the strongest way to solve them all is to adopt the dynamic evidential functionalism that I've laid out in this first paper.
One reason that I needed to whip this paper into shape is that I'm presenting on the topic of the sequel at the Pitt workshop on scientific experimentation. Getting this in final form is part of finishing up that paper. The working title there is "From the Experimenter’s Regress to Evidence-Based Policy: The Functional Complexity of Scientific Evidence."
If anyone gets a chance to look at the paper, I'd appreciate any comments, here or via email.