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Falsification for scientific theories

  1. Feb 24, 2007 #1
    I am interest how one might falsify a scientific theory when we consider the objection from the quine-duham thesis. We can always blame one of the hypothesis that goes to making a perdiction, when the prediction does not correspond to reality.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2007 #2
    If a theory does not correspond to the results of an experiment then it is not correct in those circumstances. If it does not correspond to any results in any relevant experiment and cannot be used in any application then it's a load of crap and needs to be disregarded. Aditionally, many theories exist that can't be tested through experiment, they too should be disregarded.
  4. May 13, 2007 #3

    The short answer is that the criterion of falsifiability is applicable only to systems, not to statements taken in isolation. In Popper's own words:

    But this does not end the problems. In order to not exclude 'universal laws of nature' from science* - those which cannot be tested in isolation - he should accept that a falsifiable system (S) formed by the conjunction of such a theory (S1) with other theories (S2, S3 etc) makes S1 scientific too (S is scientific upon the above criterion of falsification).

    But if this is the case - critics observed - then this acception of falsificationism is sensible to the same criticism** as weak verificationism, thus it is not a clear cut universal criterion of demarcation as Popper claimed. In conjunction with other criticism we can conclude that Popperian falsificationism fails to offer a clear cut criterion of demarcation between science and pseudo-science (of course it is still very useful in many practical situations but we should always make clear its limitations).

    *in his criticism of logical positivist tenets he argued convincingly that verificationism does actually exclude such theories from being considered scientific

    **the 'tacking problem'; we can always attach obvious metaphysical statements to (otherwise very sucessful empirically) systems of theories (falsifiable), thus those metaphysical statements appear as being scientific in the above mentioned context.
    Last edited: May 13, 2007
  5. May 14, 2007 #4
    In some cases it is enough to change only a small number of (relatively unimportant) auxiliary hypotheses* to obtain an empirically adequate, progressive, program. Since the 'core' of the old system remain basically the same we can safely say that we deal with the same scientific theory in spite of the fact that, strictly speaking, the initial system is falsified. These problems (and others) convinced many popperians to distance themselves from strict Popperian falsificationism.

    *usually a falsifiable 'system' is of the form Theory + Auxiliary Hypotheses (the strong holism defended by the early Quine is too strong)
    Last edited: May 14, 2007
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