Fbi Analyzed 15 Hair Phi 103 Au Inference To The

Fbi Analyzed 15 Hair Phi 103 Au Inference To The

Fbi Analyzed 15 Hair Phi 103 Au Inference To The

Inference to the Best Explanation

One of the most common inferences in life is the inference to the best explanation (sometimes called abductive reasoning). We use this type of reasoning to infer what would best explain the things that we see. Chapter 6 in our book demonstrates ways in which this type of reasoning helps us to explain the world around us.

Prepare: Review Section 6.5 of the course text on Inferences to the Best Explanation. Choose a topic that is difficult or controversial to explain. Some good topics include hoaxes, unusual sightings (e.g. UFOs, bigfoot, etc.), the supernatural or paranormal (ghosts, levitation, etc.), conspiracy theories, unsolved crimes, court cases, etc.

Reflect: Do a little research to find a specific topic and learn about explanations on both sides. Consider what you think might best explain the observed facts of the case.

Write: Minimum of 75 words: Explain the topic you chose and why it is interesting or controversial. Present good arguments on more than one side of the issue (e.g. competing explanations of the facts). Analyze both arguments that you have presented. Then present your own argument for your theory that you feel will best explain this phenomenon. Are there any holes in your theory? Is there any information that would be likely to strengthen or weaken your case?



Hello Everyone,

Here’s a detailed example of a discussion that models the inference to the best explanation argument form as discussed by our textbook.

The chosen case is the existence of Bigfoot. Citing a popular source from Wikipedia in order to summarize some background information:

In North American folklore (Links to an external site.), Bigfoot or Sasquatch are said to be hairy, upright-walking, ape (Links to an external site.)-like creatures that dwell in the wilderness and leave footprints. Depictions often portray them as a missing link between humans and human ancestors or other great apes (Links to an external site.). They are strongly associated with the Pacific Northwest (Links to an external site.) (particularly Oregon (Links to an external site.), Washington (Links to an external site.) and British Columbia (Links to an external site.)), and individuals claim to see the creatures across North America (Links to an external site.). Over the years, these creatures have inspired numerous commercial ventures and hoaxes.[1] (Links to an external site.) ….

(Links to an external site.)Folklorists (Links to an external site.) trace the figure of Bigfoot to a combination of factors and sources, including folklore surrounding the European wild man (Links to an external site.) figure, folk belief among Native Americans (Links to an external site.) and loggers (Links to an external site.), and a cultural increase in environmental concerns. ( (Links to an external site.)Wikipedia article “Bigfoot (Links to an external site.)” Dec. 02 2019)

The controversial question asks whether Bigfoot is real. Does Bigfoot exist? Keep in mind that the two opposing arguments should be presented in standard form:

Pro Argument

Premise 1: Many people claim to have had encounters with or seen photos of Bigfoot. [The Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin Film (Links to an external site.) from 1967]

Premise2: Their testimony is reliable.

Conclusion: Therefore, Bigfoot exists.

Related image

Con Argument

Premise 1: Perceptions of Bigfoot are based on misperception, fraud, or hoax. [in 2002, R. L. Wallace exposed a fraud regarding alleged footprints from 1958, see Egan “Search For Bigfoot Outlives The Man Who Created Him (Links to an external site.)” New York Times 2003]

Premise 2: Misperception, fraud, and hoaxes are not reliable.

Conclusion: Therefore, Bigfoot does not exist.

Image result for Bigfoot

Once the two opposing arguments are presented, the discussion should present the third argument – the inference to the best explanation one – in standard form too. The textbook lists two forms for this argument type in chapter 6.5:

Inferences to the best explanation generally involve the following pattern of reasoning.

X has been observed to be true.
Y would provide an explanation of why X is true.
No other explanation for X is as likely as Y.
Therefore, Y is probably true.

One strange thing about inferences to the best explanation is that they are often expressed in the form of a common fallacy, as follows:

If P is the case, then Q would also be true.
Q is true.
Therefore, P is probably true. (Hardy et al 6.5 2015)

Try to formulate your inference using one of these forms on your own chosen topic.


Premise1: People have had encounters with or taken photographic/video evidence of things that are allegedly Bigfoots.

Premise2: The misperception, fraud, hoax position provides an explanation why there is evidence of these sightings.

Premise3: No other explanation for these sightings is as likely as the misperception, fraud, or hoax explanation.

C: Therefore, the misperception, fraud, or hoax explanation is probably true.

After this, the discussion should weigh the inference using the tests for inferences also listed in chapter 6.5 of the textbook. If the inference fares well against these tests, then we can commend it as the “best explanation” in the given case.

• Does it agree well with the rest of human knowledge? Suggesting that your roommate’s car is gone because it floated away, for example, is not a very credible story because it would violate the laws of physics.

• Does it provide the simplest explanation of the observed phenomena? According to Occam’s razor, we want to explain why things happen without unnecessary complexity.

• Does it explain all relevant observations? We cannot simply ignore contradicting data because it contradicts our theory; we have to be able to explain why we see what we see.

• Is it noncircular? Some explanations merely lead us in a circle. Stating that it is raining because water is falling from the sky, for example, does not give us any new information about what causes the water to fall.

• Is it testable? Suggesting that invisible elves stole the car does not allow for empirical confirmation. An explanation is stronger if its elements are potentially observable.

• Does it help us explain other phenomena as well? The best scientific theories do not just explain one thing but allow us to understand a whole range of related phenomena. This principle is called fecundity. Galileo’s explanation of the orbits of the planets is an example of a fecund theory because it explains several things all at once. (Hardy et al 6.5 2015)

Let’s apply these six tests to the two competing explanations, 1. Bigfoot sightings are real; and 2. Bigfoot sightings are not real, in order to compare them and find the best one.

1. Coheres with Human Knowledge: Regarding the first test, the misperception, fraud, or hoax explanation is consistent with the rest of human knowledge whereas the Bigfoot explanation must introduce a new undocumented form of Bipedal hominid. [For example, in 1976 the FBI analyzed 15 hair samples sent by Peter Byrne, then Director of The Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition in The Dalles, Oregon. The hair turned out to be deer hair. See Little “Bigfoot Was Investigated by the FBI. Here’s What They Found (Links to an external site.)” History 2019. No accepted evidence of Bigfoot exists.]

2. Principle of Simplicity: Regarding the second test, the first explanation is simpler, since it need not posit the existence of an otherwise mysterious creature.

3. Explains Relevant Observations: Regarding the third test, both positions explain all of the relevant observational evidence.

4. Non-circular: Both of the explanations do not appear to be circular, since they each attempt to explain the data by postulating explanatory entities, i.e. misperception, fraud or hoax vs the existence of Bigfoot.

5. Testable: Each explanation is testable, but whereas we have not been able to confirm the existence of Bigfoot we have been able to confirm that some claims have been fraudulent, etc.

6. Fecundity: Finally, both the misperception, fraud, or hoax hypothesis explains the additional facts of alleged observations.

In this way, the misperception, fraud, or hoax explanation fares better against the tests than the alternative explanation. Hence, we can commend it as the best explanation in the given case.