Re: Def'n of Science

Gary Collins (
Wed, 3 Mar 1999 15:26:31 GMT

Vernon wrote:

> Brian wrote in response to Neal's
> > > 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.
> >
> Karl Popper in 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery' drew a clear line of
> demarcation between science and metaphysical ideas. He maintained that
> all statements of empirical science must be capable of being finally
> decided with respect both to their truth and falsity. In a memorable
> quote, he says, "... it is not his possession of knowledge, of
> irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and
> recklessly critical quest for truth." (p.281)
> As I understand the matter, it is widely acknowledged that an
> experiment to falsify the Theory of Evolution is impossible to devise.
> It is largely because of this that Popper, in his later years - bowing
> to intense pressure from the naturalist lobby - allowed 'scientific
> consensus' to overrule his earlier demand that 'falsifiability' be made
> the proper criterion of demarcation for any theory for which the claim
> 'scientific' is being made.
> Brian, I therefore find it hard to understand why you should label
> Neal's remarks 'illogical'.
> Vernon

This is true, but not everyone agrees with Popper's views. Kuhn in particular
discounts falsificationism as it doesn't fit the observed history of the
progress of science. I am currently reading a book about the philosophy
of science - What is this thing called science? by A.F. Chalmers, which
looks at several different ideas. You might find it interesting. In
particular, it is noted that since all observation is theory-laden, it is
not actually possible to falsify anything with 100% certainty. You can
never be sure if the failure of your observation is due to a failure of
the hypothesis under test or to failure of some assumption which was made
when making the observation. The history of science yields examples of each
of these.