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Journal Article

The Problem of Piecemeal Induction

Conor Mayo-Wilson
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 5 (December 2011), pp. 864-874
DOI: 10.1086/662564
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662564
Page Count: 11
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The Problem of Piecemeal Induction
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Abstract

I argue that, in causal inference from many observational studies, the piecemeal collection of data can cause underdetermination, even if arbitrarily large amounts of reliable data are available. Two theorems reveal that, for any variable set V, there are causal theories over V that can be distinguished if and only if all variables are simultaneously measured. These results entail that, a priori, one cannot know which observational studies will be most informative with respect to the true causal theory describing V. Hence, scientific institutions may need to play a larger role in coordinating differing research programs.

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