Nature September 1 issue

J. Kirk Fitzhugh kfitzhug at NHM.ORG
Fri Sep 9 11:29:36 CDT 2005

At 08:34 AM 9/9/2005 -0400, John Grehan wrote:
>A solution to the conflicting evidence [regarding relations among
>orangutans, chimps, humans] has yet to be resolved. Simply ignoring the
>problem is not good science.


The solution for conflicting evidence has been around for a long time. It's
called the requirement of total evidence.  Carl Hempel (2001: 114, Science,
Explanation, and Rationality) provided a particularly lucid description of
the solution you seek.  One might then conclude that rationality is not a
concern of the editors of Nature:

'The general consideration underlying the requirement of total evidence is
obviously this: If an investigator wishes to decide what credence to give
to an empirical hypothesis or to what extent to rely on it in planning his
actions, then rationality demands that he take into account all the
relevant evidence available to him; if he were to consider only part of
that evidence, he might arrive at a much more favorable, or a much less
favorable, appraisal, but it would surely not be rational for him to base
his decision on evidence he knew to be selectively biased.  In terms of the
concept of degree of confirmation, the point might be stated by saying that
the degree of confirmation assigned to a hypothesis by the principles of
inductive logic will represent the rational credibility of the hypothesis
for a given investigator only if the argument takes into account all the
relevant evidence available to the investigator' (Hempel 1962, 2001: 114).


Kirk Fitzhugh

J. Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D.
Curator of Polychaetes
Invertebrate Zoology Section
Research & Collections Branch
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
900 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90007

Phone:   213-763-3233
FAX:     213-746-2999
e-mail:  kfitzhug at

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