The classical paradigm of scientific reasoning, which has mostly been modeled after physics, is based on the idea that a theory\'s viability must be established by empirical tests of its predictions. In contemporary high energy physics, this canonical picture is being transformed into a more complex and multifaceted understanding of theory evaluation. Theoretical reasoning based on assessments of the underdetermination of theory building becomes increasingly important and may be taken to establish theories as scientific knowledge about the world in the absence of empirical confirmation. While the described development looks surprising in the context of physics, similar kinds of scientific reasoning have always constituted normal scientific praxis in other fields of science. A look at the case of paleontology can provide a more general perspective on the status of theoretical theory assessment in science.
Richard Dawid is a philosopher of science at the University of Vienna and the Institute Vienna Circle. He worked as a theoretical particle physicist in Munich, Vienna, and Berkeley before turning to philosophy. His work focuses on philosophy of physics and on wider philosophical analysis of topics like underdetermination and scientific realism.