•  87
    Bad luck or the ref's fault?
    In Ted Richards (ed.), Soccer and Philosophy, Open Court. pp. 319-326. 2010.
    In this book chapter written for a popular audience, I discuss classic issues surrounding luck, determinism and probability in the context of the penalty shoot-outs used in football’s World Cup. Can it ever make objective sense to blame an outcome on bad luck? I go on to discuss whether we can legitimately pin the blame on any one factor at all, such as a referee. This takes us into issues surrounding the apportioning of causal responsibility.
  •  331
    Genetic traits and causal explanation
    In Kathryn Plaisance & Thomas Reydon (eds.), Philosophy of Behavioral Biology, Springer. pp. 65-82. 2012.
    I use a contrastive theory of causal explanation to analyze the notion of a genetic trait. The resulting definition is relational, an implication of which is that no trait is genetic always and everywhere. Rather, every trait may be either genetic or non-genetic, depending on explanatory context. I also outline some other advantages of connecting the debate to the wider causation literature, including how that yields us an account of the distinction between genetic traits and genetic disposition…Read more
  •  207
    Opinion Polling and Election Predictions
    Philosophy of Science 82 (5): 1260-1271. 2015.
    Election prediction by means of opinion polling is a rare empirical success story for social science. I examine the details of a prominent case, drawing two lessons of more general interest: Methodology over metaphysics. Traditional metaphysical criteria were not a useful guide to whether successful prediction would be possible; instead, the crucial thing was selecting an effective methodology. Which methodology? Success required sophisticated use of case-specific evidence from opinion polling. …Read more
  •  379
    Causal efficacy and the analysis of variance
    Biology and Philosophy 21 (2): 253-276. 2006.
    The causal impacts of genes and environment on any one biological trait are inextricably entangled, and consequently it is widely accepted that it makes no sense in singleton cases to privilege either factor for particular credit. On the other hand, at a population level it may well be the case that one of the factors is responsible for more variation than the other. Standard methodological practice in biology uses the statistical technique of analysis of variance to measure this latter kind of …Read more
  •  294
    Progress in economics: Lessons from the spectrum auctions
    In Harold Kincaid & Don Ross (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics, Oxford University Press. pp. 306--337. 2009.
    The 1994 US spectrum auction is now a paradigmatic case of the successful use of microeconomic theory for policy-making. We use a detailed analysis of it to review standard accounts in philosophy of science of how idealized models are connected to messy reality. We show that in order to understand what made the design of the spectrum auction successful, a new such account is required, and we present it here. Of especial interest is the light this sheds on the issue of progress in economics. In …Read more
  •  373
    Verisimilitude: a causal approach
    Synthese 190 (9): 1471-1488. 2013.
    I present a new definition of verisimilitude, framed in terms of causes. Roughly speaking, according to it a scientific model is approximately true if it captures accurately the strengths of the causes present in any given situation. Against much of the literature, I argue that any satisfactory account of verisimilitude must inevitably restrict its judgments to context-specific models rather than general theories. We may still endorse—and only need—a relativized notion of scientific progress, un…Read more