Suppose that after finishing the reading, a student says: “Any belief, however unlikely it may appear, can be saved from refutation if you’re willing to make enough secondary elaborations.” Is the student, right? Defend your answer. (For the term “secondary elaborations”, see p. 346.)
I disagree with this student. If they were to propose a belief in an adversarial society, then no matter how many secondary elaborations there are, unless there is evidence to support it then the belief can be refuted. Or what happens if the secondary elaboration is wrong, is there another elaboration after the secondary? Then, what happens if that one is wrong, and so on and so forth. Secondary elaborations can only support a belief to a certain extent if it is at risk of being refuted and the belief is not based on evidence. Secondary elaborations can only justify a belief in an accommodative style of arguing. This style of arguing is less based on evidence and is more for folk philosophy, in which the secondary elaboration is the most applied form of justification. Take the chemistry example and the chicken example used in the text. If the results of a chemistry lab happen to be off, then the hypothetical sources of error stand as a secondary elaboration. However, if the experiment is done without sources of error or minimal sources of error, then there is a change in the results, meaning that the secondary elaboration was right. On the other hand, if we consider the chicken and the oracle where the chicken dies both times showing an inconsistency in the oracle, then the secondary elaboration is witchcraft. But what is the elaboration in the instance where it is proven that the oracle has not been hexed nor broken any taboos, but the chicken dies both times? The explanation for the inconsistency has now fallen apart. The only instance where the chicken and oracle situation is justified is in an accommodative argument where the belief in witchcraft is just as much truth as the belief in atoms and chemical laws since there is no need to refute with evidence.