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Consensus and disagreement in science

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There is a considerable amount of disagreement amongst scientists. They disagree on methodological questions regarding the virtues of a good theory as well as on conclusions drawn from observed data. But the domain of disagreement extends beyond purely academic questions: policy recommendations based on scientific theories and the distribution of research funds are typical examples of socially relevant areas of dissent in science. In many cases, the initial disagreement eventually leads to a consensus. This raises several questions: When is it rational for scientists to disagree? How should a group of scientists proceed to reach a decision? Which factors facilitate a consensus? The answers to these questions will surely depend on the specific case under investigation. I will argue, however, that formal methods can also be used to shed some light on these questions.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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