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Everett and evidence

Greaves, Hilary and Myrvold, Wayne (2008) Everett and evidence. [Preprint]

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    Much of the evidence for quantum mechanics is statistical in nature. Relative frequency data summarizing the results of repeated experiments is compared to probabilities calculated from the theory; close agreement between the observed relative frequencies and calculated probabilities is taken as evidence in favour of the theory. The Everett interpretation, if it is to be a candidate for serious consideration, must be capable of doing justice to this sort of reasoning. Since, on the Everett interpretation, all outcomes with nonzero amplitude are actualized on dierent branches, it is not obvious that sense can be made of ascribing probabilities to outcomes of experiments, and this poses a prima facie problem for statistical inference. It is incumbent on the Everettian either to make sense of ascribing probabilities to outcomes of experiments in the Everett interpretation, or to find a substitute on which the usual statistical analysis of experimental results continues to count as evidence for quantum mechanics, and, since it is the very evidence for quantum mechanics that is at stake, this must be done in a way that does not presuppose the correctness of Everettian quantum mechanics. This requires an account of theory conrmation that applies to branching-universe theories but does not presuppose the correctness of any such theory. In this paper, we supply and defend such an account. The account has the consequence that statistical evidence can confirm a branching-universe theory such as Everettian quantum mechanics in the same way in which it can confirm a non-branching probabilistic theory.

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    Item Type: Preprint
    Keywords: Everett interpretation; many worlds; probability; decision theory; Bayes
    Subjects: General Issues > Decision Theory
    General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
    General Issues > Theory Change
    Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
    Depositing User: Hilary Greaves
    Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2008
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:17
    Item ID: 4222

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