~ Photo from karenkovaka.com

The Philosophy department will present a colloquium, “Fighting about Frequency,” with Karen Kovaka, of the University of Pennsylvania, from 4-5:30 p.m. Monday, March 20, in Room 140 of the Kremen Education Building.

The term “scientific controversy” calls to mind a clash of theories or hypotheses. One contender is right, the others are wrong, and debate is a means of identifying which is which. But this intuitive picture admits of many exceptions.

Very commonly, controversies are not about whether a hypothesis or theory is true, but about how often it is true. Many philosophers doubt that such controversies (called relative frequency controversies) have scientific value and suggest that scientists engaged in such arguments are wasting their time.

In this talk, Kovaka will argue that relative frequency controversies have scientific value after all. She will distinguish between explanatory, epistemic and pragmatic value and show that relative frequency controversies are valuable along all three of these dimensions.

Kovaka is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  She specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology and environmental ethics.