2.56 Theory Testing

Category: Philosophy of Science

Keywords: tests, confirmation, testing, hypotheses, hypothesis, confirmed, test, observations, evidential, evidence, experiment, experiments, null, experimental, accuracy

Number of Articles: 457
Percentage of Total: 1.4%
Rank: 15th

Weighted Number of Articles: 417.9
Percentage of Total: 1.3%
Rank: 22nd

Mean Publication Year: 1983.5
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1979
Median Publication Year: 1985
Modal Publication Year: 2013

Topic with Most Overlap: Chance (0.0731)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Chance (0.053)
Topic with Least Overlap: Duties (0.00044)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Social Contract Theory (0.00082)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the theory testingtopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 2002 when 2.5% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1879 when 0.1% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.56 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.132: Theory testing.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Theory Testingtopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.7%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.4%. Ethics - 0.3%. Philosophical Review - 0.5%. Analysis - 0.7%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.3%. Journal of Philosophy - 1.0%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.5%. Philosophy of Science - 3.9%. Noûs - 0.9%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.6%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 5.0%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1974 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.2% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1879 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.1% of the articles.

Figure 2.133: Theory testing articles in each journal.

Table 2.138: Characteristic articles of the theory testing topic.
Table 2.139: Highly cited articles in the theory testing topic.


This is largely about theory testing and measures of confirmation. It’s striking that Deborah Mayo’s articles, mostly written from a non-Bayesian perspective, are the most characteristic articles, although the topic as a whole is extremely Bayesian. I think what’s happening is that there are a lot of parts of philosophy where Bayesian tools are used and discussed. So when the model sees Bayesian discussions going on, it gets nervous about exactly where it should be placing the articles. But non-Bayesian mathematical accounts of evidence and confirmation smoothly slot into this topic.

This topic is really concentrated in the philosophy of science journals. From a contemporary perspective, this seems surprising. Questions about evidence, observation, and confirmation seem central to epistemology in general. But the powers that be who ran the generalist journals over the twentieth century did not agree. Even Analysis, which is not averse to publishing articles on probability, barely shows up here.

Finally, note the shape of the overall graph. After being very low through 1940, it seems to be on a steady upward trajectory. The modal publication year is the last year of the study, 2013. We are about to see a lot of topics that take off around (or just after) the middle of the twentieth century. But most of them are going to level off by the 1980s, and that’s not what is seen here.