Abstract

Where there are cases of underdetermination in scientific controversies, such as the case of the molecular clock, scientists may direct the course and terms of dispute by playing off the multidimensional framework of theory evaluation. This is because assessment strategies themselves are underdetermined. Within the framework of assessment, there are a variety of trade-offs between different strategies as well as shifting emphases as specific strategies are given more or less weight in assessment situations. When a strategy is underdetermined, scientists can change the dynamics of a controversy by making assessments using different combinations of evaluation strategies and/or weighting whatever strategies are in play in different ways. Following an underdetermination strategy does not end or resolve a scientific dispute. Consequently, manipulating underdetermination is a feature of controversy dynamics and not controversy closure.

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Author notes

Thanks to Dick Burian, Roberta Millstein, and two anonymous reviewers for Perspectives on Science for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. RASjr also acknowledges the support of the Charles P. Taft Research Center for their support in the form of a Fellowship during the time this paper was written.