Lakatos and the hard core

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Mon Sep 06 2004 - 14:57:54 EDT

The name of Lakatos has been raised but in my opinion used in a slightly
wrong manner. Lakatos's view of science is that there is a hard core at
the center of each major theory. This part of the theory is surrounded
by a protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses. Anomalies and
counterfactual data can't easily get through to the hard core without
going through a huge number of auxiliary hypotheses, all of which
support the hard core and which can be altered in manners that maintain
the intellectual cogency of the theory without affecting the hardcore of
the theory. An example on the old evolution list was a discussion
between Paul Nelson and I on neutrinos. Paul was saying that the
missing neutrinos would bring down the current theory of solar energy.
I noted, at that time, in lakatosian terms that that wouldn't happen
because it was too close to the hard core center of the theoretical
construct. I predicted that neutrino mass would be found or that
switching between neutrino types would be found. A few weeks later a
report came out saying that neutrinos had some mass. Now, I don't know
the eventual fate of that mass, but it illustrates how science works.

Now, it has been claimed that one can use the hard core of the
resurrection as center of Christian theology. But if one has to beg the
question of christianity's truth in order to defend this hard core, it
no longer is a Lakatosian defense. Lakatos clearly would allow for the
falsification of the hard-core. He specifically says that the hard core
can't be held against all evidence and the loss of all support. He says:

""We may rationally decide not to allow 'refutations' to transmit
falsity to the hard core as long as the corroborated empirical content
of the protecting belt of auxiliary hypotheses increases. But our
approach differs from Poincare's justificationist conventionalism in the
sense that, unlike Poincare's, we maintain that if and when the
programme ceases to anticipate novel facts, its hard core might have to
be abandoned: that is, our hard core, unlike Poincare's, may crumble
under certain conditions. In this sense we side with Duhem who thought
that such a possibility must be allowed for but for Duhem the reason for
such crumbling is purely aesthetic, while for us it is mainly logical
and empirical.". Imre Lakatos, "Falsification and the Methodology of
Scientific Research Programmes," in Criticism and the Growth of
Knowledge, Proc. Intl. Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London,
1965, volume 4 edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1972), p. 134

George raised the issue of Leninist theology failing to anticipate novel
facts. And that is why I asked the question about Christian theology's
failure to anticipate novel facts. That question is crucial to really
having a Lakatosian view of the world. If the hard core can't crumble,
then it isn't Lakatosian. Lakatos clearly says that logic and
empiricism are valid reasons for the hard core to crumble. That is what
I am saying about the accommodationalist mode of operation. It tries to
defend the hard core with poor logic (question begging) and empirical
laws of physics(communication theory) against it. When you are in that
place, Lakatos says the hard core has to crumble but we fail to let it
do that. We beg the question of what world view is true in order not to
let that hard core fail.

That leaves us with two options. Be in denial about the problems or work
to find a new view which doesn't have God transmitting mumbo-jumbo of
the false kind.
Received on Mon Sep 6 15:20:25 2004

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