, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 347-359
Date: 11 Dec 2012

Anomalies and Coherence: A Case Study from Astronomy

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Abstract

In recent decades, the concept of coherence has become one of the key concepts in philosophy. Although there is still no consensus about how to explicate coherence, it is widely accepted that the appearance of anomalies significantly lowers the coherence of a propositional or belief system. In this paper, the relationship between coherence and anomalies is analysed by looking at a specific case study from astronomy. It concerns anomalies that occurred in the first half of the twentieth century during the attempt to develop a cosmic distance scale. These anomalies could not be removed until several decades after their appearance, which required a fundamental change in astronomical theory. During this process, the astronomical distance scale had to be adjusted by a factor of about 2. This paper focuses on the role that explanatory relations played with respect to the elimination of these anomalies. Thereby, special attention is paid to the explanatory work of astronomical theories or models that were not especially designed for this task.