Past Event

Lee McIntyre - Is Rational Belief in Improbable Theories Ever Warranted?

December 6, 2023
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.
International Affairs Building (Room 1512), Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, New York

Event Description

Scientists, philosophers, and professional skeptics justifiably criticize science deniers and pseudoscientists for their gullible acceptance of improbable theories that have little to no evidence. But what to say then about an improbable event that has apparently good evidence in support of a dubious causal claim? One of the hallmarks of scientific reasoning is the scientific attitude: the ability to embrace fallibilism and to change one’s mind in the face of new evidence. What is the appropriate response when confronted with evidence in favor of a theory one does not want to believe? Dismiss it as a coincidence? Contend that although the event was unlikely it was not impossible? At what point do such responses violate the scientific attitude? This lecture considers the fascinating case of a Roman fortune teller who predicted the specifics of his own death. This is a lecture meant to tweak the standards of warranted belief and to challenge the skeptic to specify in advance what those conditions may be.

Event Speaker

Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow at Boston University

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required. For more information, please visit the event webpage or email [email protected]

Hosted by the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and the Aspen Institute