A Bayesian Approach to Absent Evidence Reasoning

Christopher Lee Stephens


  Under what conditions is the failure to have evidence that p evidence that p is false? Absent evidence reasoning is common in many sciences, including astronomy, archeology, biology and medicine. An often-repeated epistemological motto is that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Analysis of absent evidence reasoning usually takes place in a deductive or frequentist hypothesis-testing framework. Instead, I develop a Bayesian analysis of this motto and prove that, under plausible assumptions about the nature of evidence, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.


absence of evidence; arguments from ignorance; Bayesianism; evidence, evidence of absence

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22329/il.v31i1.2967

ISSN: 0824-2577