Dunning-Kruger Effect in Action: How NOT to Defend a ‘Best’ Explanation

I’m not going to name names, but I recently read something that could have not said more loudly, “I have no clue about inductive logic, Bayes’ Theorem, or inference to the best explanation. I definitely should NOT be defending my position publicly because I have no clue what I am talking about, but I’m going to keep doing that anyway because I am clueless–even about my own cluelessness!”

The context was this. Person #1 said that X is the best explanation for the data, and so probably true. Person #2 objected, “But X doesn’t actually explain anything! It doesn’t explain the data it is supposed to explain.” Person #3 comes along and says, “I’m going to come right out and admit that I don’t see much force at all in that objection.”

I have deliberately not identified X or the data to be explained because I think that is only a distraction. Looking at it in the abstract makes it obvious just how mind-numbingly bad this objection is.

If we’re told that we should believe that X is true because it is the best explanation for the data, but it turns out to be the case that X doesn’t explain the data at all, that’s a decisive refutation of the stated reason for believing X. If X were a city and objections to X were analogous to military weapons, the “X doesn’t explain the data at all” objection would be equivalent to detonating a nuclear bomb. There is literally nothing left (to talk about).