The Scientific Challenge

  • Louise Cummings


In the last chapter, I described how a number of argument forms that had traditionally been characterized by philosophers as weak or fallacious modes of reasoning could be shown to facilitate scientific inquiry into BSE when little was known about this new brain disease in cattle. The point was made that these argument forms have relevance to the epidemiologists and public health scientists whose task it was to identify and respond to this emerging infectious disease. However, this point requires some explanatory work if it is to have more than a very general application to the work of these public health professionals. For these professionals might ask with some justification why they should treat seriously argument forms that have been deemed to be logically inadequate by generations of philosophers. They might also wonder if philosophical discussion of reasoning has anything but the most abstract lessons for scientists who are charged with containing infectious diseases. In this chapter, I undertake this explanatory work by arguing that philosophical contributions on reasoning and argument are not only relevant to epidemiology, but that they also represent the very best prospect for investigators of addressing some of the criticisms of epidemiology that have been raised in recent years. These criticisms have been expressed most clearly by Christakos et al. (2005), although other theorists have also added their voices to the exchange.


Prion Disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Molecular Similarity Bone Meal Scrapie Agent 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and HumanitiesNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

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