Re: Def'n of Science

Brian D Harper (
Tue, 02 Mar 1999 11:12:50 -0800

At 07:05 AM 3/2/99 -0600, Neal wrote:
>Jonathan Clarke wrote:
>>Science is a very difficult thing to define.
>>I have erected the following taxonomy.
>>and the verifiability of results.
>The two glaring omissions in Jonathan's taxonomy are the words
>"testability" and "falsifiability."
>Marxism and Freudianism, which came out about the same time as Darwinism,
>were originally thought to be sciences. But when it was realized that they
>weren't testable, they were relegated to the realm of philosophy.

But Darwinism was not. Really, what's your point?

>You can know if something is testable or not by checking to see if *both* a
>verification scenario *and* and falsification scenario exist.
>Generally evolution education intoxicates students with verification
>scenarios and never even defines what the falsification scenario looks
>like. Consequently, no test could ever falsify evolution because
>falsification is undefined.

This is illogical. Even if one granted the intoxication bit of
rhetoric, it doesn't follow that evolution cannot be falsified.

Many attempts to falsify evolution were made in the past.
Refer to a history of science book for details.

>Does anyone here have a *falsification* scenario for the following claim?
>"The cambrian explosion was caused by ____________(fill in here your
>naturalistic mechanism of choice)"
>If no falsification scenario exists then instead of being categorized as
>science, Punctuated Equillibrium is an untestable philosophical claim.

I'm curious why the switch to PE? Is this an anticipated "naturalistic
mechanism of choice" to fill in the blank? If so, then this may be
a source of confusion. PE itself is not a mechanism but a pattern.
Mechanisms would be proposed in an attempt to explain this pattern.
The way to test PE is just to go and look for the pattern. If its
not there then PE has been falsified.

>A speculation.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"He who establishes his arguments
by noise and command shows that
reason is weak" -- Montaigne