Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Three Generations of the New Evidence Scholarship

The first generation of the New Evidence Scholarship emphasized the heuristic uses of mathematical analysis of evidence; it emphasized that numbers (especially as used in probability theory) could illuminate the logic and structure of factual inference in general and of particular problems of factual inference.

The second generation of the New Evidence Scholarship focused on mathematically-laden problems of scientific evidence (e.g., DNA evidence) and on problems of factual inference that seem tractable to statistical analysis.

The third generation of the New Evidence Scholarship (NES) also uses mathematical argument and analysis. But this variant of NES does not require or expect consumers of mathematical analysis to do computations. Instead, NES-3rd uses mathematics and computations to develop tools for deliberation about inference, tools that do not require or expect the user of the tool to do computations.

A key premise of this third generation of NES is this: rigorous analysis (including mathematical analysis) is required to design a tool that promotes or supports or facilitates logical inference by ordinary people about ordinary [non-scientific] problems but the tool thus produced must not require such ordinary people to do mathematical computations.
Two major practitioners of NES-3rd are Douglas Walton and Tim van Gelder. (There are others.) Of course, the third approach to factual inference was, so to speak, there all along, at least in a germinal form: Wigmore's charting method (which appeared in print in 1937) anticipated key ingredients of the third approach. William Twining refurbished and modernized Wigmore's charting notations (and was among the very first to defend the importance of Wigmorean-style charting of evidential inference). David Schum married Wigmorean charting with mathematics and produced probabilistic inference networks. Working from left field (i.e., not starting within NES-1st or NES-2nd), Tim van Gelder is now effectively taking this progression to the final and critical stage. He is doing so by emphasizing how important it is that math- and logic-generated charts, diagrams, pictures, images, and, in general, conceptual tools present and portray problems of inference in a way that is intuitive and natural and intelligible to "ordinary" human beings (whose reasoning capacities are in fact extraordinary).

The most exciting and revolutionary developments in NES are yet to come. And some of the most exciting of these exciting developments are bubbling up from down under.

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The dynamic evidence page

It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

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