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The Problem of Piecemeal Induction
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 5 (December 2011), pp. 864-874
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662564
Page Count: 11
You can always find the topics here!Topics: Causal theory, Observational studies, Tobacco smoking, Lung neoplasms, Underdetermination, Chlorofluorocarbons, Inference, Lungs, Oxygen, A priori knowledge
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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.
Copyright 2011 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.