Telling Good Theories from Bad and TEST Formula Paper Hi there, I will attach below a PDF of all the instructions for the paper as well as screenshots from my textbook explaining the TEST formula. Short introduction, come up with a theory that explains why Joe is late for work and use the steps of the formula to explain why your chosen theory is credible (these should be your body paragraphs), and of course a short conclusion. Single spaced, one page, MLA format. Let me know if you have any questions! Thank you 🙂 Writing Exercise (Chapters 7
The following assignment replaces the writing assignments for chapters 7 – 9. This assignment is
worth 90 points:
Use the TEST formula to evaluate the most viable
explanation (from the list of theories provided below).
Your essay should not exceed one page in length.
On November 3, 2017, Joseph Oliver Ellington (Joe) did not show for work at his
scheduled time. He works the 8:00 am to 4:30 pm shift as a first level manager for a
wireless communications service provider. Everyone in the office is concerned because Joe
has never been late for work. The office is abuzz with theories ranging from the · absurd to
the credible as the genuinely concerned and skeptically interested troll the depths of the
human imagination for an explanation.
Consider the following information about Joe as you infer the best explanation:
a 50 year old male in good physical condition
no police record
honorable discharge from military service
friendly and well-mannered; no close friends on the job
honorable and trustworthy
has a master’s degree in information technology from a state
Joe has never been late for work or missed a day from work since he was
employed with the company 25 years ago
unmarried; no children
very private person
owns & lives in condominium complex near the beach
does not own a car
takes the train to work
does now have a land line (home phone); cell phone only
does not gamble
meticulous and well-organized
Additional factors to consider:
Joe’s commute is about 45 minutes to 1 hour via train.
There is construction all over the city, particularly infrastructure improvements
to the metro/commuter train system.
There have been reports that employees from other departments and companies
have reported late to work.
There are reportedly a few ‘dead cell zones’ in the area (that affect cell phone).
Several days ago, Joe exited a managers meeting visibly upset. It
was reported that there was a heated exchange possibly between Joe
and his boss, Carl. Someone is quoted as saying that they have never
seen Joe that upset in the 25 years that he has worked for the
company. Unconfirmed reports claim that Joe was passed over for
What follows is a list of theories compiled by Joe’s coworkers:
overslept or went back to sleep
extra marital affair
stuck in traffic
lost name tag
car problems: flat tire, ran out of gas, etc.
wife in labor
locked in bathroom
dementia (got lost)
seeking employment with another firm
eloped with new girlfriend
eluding the FBI
stricken with Ebola
Undercover FBI or CIA operative
Criminal life has caught up with him
Telling Good Theories from Bad
Many (perhaps most) explanatory theories that you run into every day are easy to assess. They are clearly the best (or not the best) explanations for the facts at hand. The dog barked because someone
approached the house. Your friend blushed because he was embarrassed. The senator resigned because of a scandal. In such cases, you may make inferences to the best explanation (using some or all of
the criteria of adequacy) without any deep reflection. But at other times, you may need and want to be more deliberate, to think more carefully about which explanation is really best. In either case, it
helps to have a set of guidelines that tells you how your inquiry should proceed if you’re to make cogent inferences. Here, then, is the TEST formula, four steps to finding the best explanation:
Step 1. State the Theory and check for consistency.
Step 2. Assess the Evidence for the theory.
Step 3. Scrutinize alternative theories.
Step 4. Test the theories with the criteria of adequacy.
(In the next chapter, you will see that this formula is also one way of describing the general approach used in science to evaluate sets of theories.)
Step 1. State the theory and check for consistency. Before you can evaluate an explanatory theory, you must express it in a statement that’s as clear and specific as possible. Once you do this, you can
check to see if the theory meets the minimum requirement for consistency. If it fails the consistency test, you can have no good grounds for believing that it’s correct. And, obviously, if the theory fails
step 1, there’s no reason to go to step 2.
Step 2. Assess the evidence for the theory. To critically evaluate any theory, you must understand any reasons in its favor-the empirical evidence or logical arguments that may support or undermine
it. Essentially, this step involves an honest assessment of the empirical evidence relevant to the truth (or falsity) of the theory. To make this assessment, you must put to use what you already know about
the credibility of sources, causal reasoning, and evidence from personal and scientific observations.
In this step, you may discover that the evidence in favor of a theory is strong, weak, or nonexistent. You may find that there is good evidence that seems to count against the theory. Or you may learn
that the phenomenon under investigation did not occur at all. Whatever the case, you must have the courage to face up to reality. You must be ready to admit that your favorite theory has little to
Step 3. Scrutinize alternative theories. Inference to the best explanation will not help us very much if we aren’t willing to consider alternative explanations. Simply examining the evidence relevant to
an eligible theory is not enough.
Theories can often appear stronger than they really are if we don’t bother to compare them with others. To take an outrageous example, consider this theory designed to explain the popularity and
seeming omnipresence of an American icon: Mickey Mouse is not an animated character but a living, breathing creature that lives in Hollywood. The evidence for this explanation is the following: (1)
Millions of people (mostly children) worldwide believe that Mickey is real; (2) Walt Disney (Mickey’s alleged creator) always talked about Mickey as if the mouse was real; (3) millions of ads, books,
movies, and TV shows portray Mickey as real; (4) it’s possible that through millions of years of Earth history a biological creature with Mickey’s physical characteristics could have evolved; and (5)
some say that if enough people believe that Mickey is real, then-through psychic wish fulfillment or some other paranormal process, he will become real.
Now, you don’t believe that Mickey is real (do you?), even in the face of reasons 1-5. But you might admit that the Mickey theory is starting to sound more plausible. And if you never hear any
alternative explanations, you might eventually become a true believer. (Anthropologists can plausibly argue that various cultures have come to believe in many very unlikely phenomena and exotic
deities in large part because of a lack of alternative explanations.)
When you do consider an alternative explanation-for example, that Mickey is an imaginary character of brilliant animation marketed relentlessly to the world – the Mickey-is-real theory looks a little
silly. And once you consider the evidence for this alternative theory (for example, documentation that Walt Disney created Mickey with pen and ink and that countless marketing campaigns have been
launched to promote his creation), the other explanation looks even sillier.
Step 3 goes against our grain. The human tendency is to grab hold of a favorite theory-and to halt any further critical thinking right there. Our built-in bias is to seize on a theory immediately-
because we find it comforting or because we just “know” it’s the right one-then ignore or resist all other possibilities. The result is a greatly increased likelihood of error and delusion and a significantly
decreased opportunity to achieve true understanding.
Failure to consider alternative theories is the archetypal mistake in inquiries into the paranormal or supernatural. The usual pattern is this: (1) You come across an extraordinary or impressive
phenomenon, (2) you can’t think of a natural explanation of the facts, and (3) you conclude that the phenomenon must not be natural but paranormal or supernatural. This conclusion, however, would be
unwarranted. Just because you can’t think of a natural explanation doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. You may simply be unaware of the correct natural explanation. In the past, scientists have often been
confronted with extraordinary phenomena that they couldn’t explain-phenomena that were later found to have a natural explanation.
Step 4. Test the theories with the criteria of adequacy. As we’ve seen, simply toting up the evidence for each of the competing theories and checking to see which one gets the highest score will not
do. We need to measure the plausibility of the theories using the criteria of adequacy. The criteria can help us put any applicable evidence in perspective and allow us to make a judgment about theory
plausibility even when there’s little or no evidence to consider.
By applying the criteria to all the competing theories, we can often accomplish several important feats. We may be able to eliminate some theories immediately, assign more weight to some than
others, and distinguish between theories that at first glance seem equally strong.
The best way to learn how to do step 4, as well as steps 13, is by example. Watch what happens when we assess the plausibility of theories for the following two phenomena.
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