The perfect theory falsifiable? (1 Viewer)

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Hi. Maybe I don't understand Popper correctly. He says that a proper scientific theory should be falsifiable. Now, let's suppose that there is a perfect scientific "ultimate" theory explaining all physical phenomena accurately. Is this theory falsifiable? Does it then pass the test for a scientific theory?

Is my question flawed perhaps?
 
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toogood said:
Now, let's suppose that there is a perfect scientific "ultimate" theory explaining all physical phenomena accurately. Is this theory falsifiable?
It depends on how the theory is stated. Perhaps you can answer your own question. What does it mean for a theory to be "falsifiable"?
 
wave said:
It depends on how the theory is stated. Perhaps you can answer your own question. What does it mean for a theory to be "falsifiable"?
A scientific law or theory is "falsifiable" if one can show that an exception to the law or theory is logically possible. Hence there cannot be any "perfect" or "final" scientific theory, since per definition it would not be falsifiable - that is if we accept Popper's idea of a proper scientific theory.

Yes, wave, I answered it myself, but are there not many scientists who are looking for a final theory?
 
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toogood said:
A scientific law or theory is "falsifiable" if one can show that an exception to the law or theory is logically possible. Hence there cannot be any "perfect" or "final" scientific theory...
Are you sure? Consider the hypothesis "all ravens are black" and suppose it is "perfect" (i.e. no counterexamples exist). You won't find any instances of albino ravens, but such a counterexample is not necessarily logically impossible, right?
 

selfAdjoint

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toogood said:
A scientific law or theory is "falsifiable" if one can show that an exception to the law or theory is logically possible. Hence there cannot be any "perfect" or "final" scientific theory, since per definition it would not be falsifiable - that is if we accept Popper's idea of a proper scientific theory.

Yes, wave, I answered it myself, but are there not many scientists who are looking for a final theory?

Falsifiable does not mean successfully falsified. And it has nothing to do with the explanatory range of the subject. A "perfect" theory will make predictions in many areas which can be checked, otherwise it wouldn't be perfect (as superstring theory, which does not do this, is not granted the dignity of perfection). And every time such a prediction is checked, there arises the possibility that the beautiful perfect theory could be falsified.
 

arildno

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Note, for example, that any perfect theory must agree with every single correct prediction we can make concerning our everyday world (within experimental error margins). If it doesn't, the theory is wrong.
 
wave, i am not using the term "perfect theory" lightly. If a theory "all ravens are black" is truly blessed with the term "perfect" (i.e. no counterexample exists or will ever exist), no exception is possible, not even logically. Agree? I argue that we will never know when we hit the perfect theory - we will allways have to regard it as tentative. When anyone claims to discover the perfect or final theory, science is inherently abandoned.
 
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toogood said:
wave, i am not using the term "perfect theory" lightly. If a theory "all ravens are black" is truly blessed with the term "perfect" (i.e. no counterexample exists or will ever exist), no exception is possible, not even logically. Agree?
No. Like I said, an albino raven is a counterexample. Why is it logically impossible given the way the hypothesis is stated?


toogood said:
I argue that we will never know when we hit the perfect theory - we will allways have to regard it as tentative. When anyone claims to discover the perfect or final theory, science is inherently abandoned.
I don't see why a "perfect" theory, as you have defined above, cannot be held tentatively.
 
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arildno said:
Note, for example, that any perfect theory must agree with every single correct prediction we can make concerning our everyday world (within experimental error margins). If it doesn't, the theory is wrong.
Question. Can we say then that theory of quantum mechanics is a "perfect" theory, since it would appear that none of the predictions it makes have been falsified by any experiment ?
 

arildno

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Not in the sense of toogood's requirement, I believe:
As I understand it, for toogood a PERFECT theory should be NECESSARILY true, that is, it must have been proven that any possible alternative theory is self-contradictory.

This, at least, is how I read toogood's posts.
 
Terminology is unfalsifiable, except if your a philosopher or ethicist :tongue:

All Zonkerithenes are Weeblethylenes. You can't disprove that because I came up with these words, it's my language so use it. =P
 
First principles cannot arise through reason, and if a principle does arrive by reason, it is not a first principle. A theory made entirely of first principles is unfalsifiable.

History is unfalsifiable to a great extent, insofar as whatever is goes on in the present cannot possibly give any reason that the history is false without first establishing unfalsifiable first principles concerning history.
 
arildno said:
As I understand it, for toogood a PERFECT theory should be NECESSARILY true, that is, it must have been proven that any possible alternative theory is self-contradictory.
Arildno, you said it better than I could. Wave, I suspect we only disagree on terminology. From my side I would appreciate if we could agree that the attribute "perfect" for a theory implies that no counterexample to the theory is possible in whichever sense. If a contradicition is possible logically or otherwise, the theory is imperfect.

Hence my contention is really a tautology, but an interesting one: We will never know whether any given theory is perfect in the strict sense of the word. Even if we discover the perfect theory, we will never know for certain that we discovered it. Even if the theory survives a thousand years, we can never view it as anything else than tentative. I repeat: when anyone claims to discover the perfect or final theory, science is inherently abandoned.
 
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toogood said:
Wave, I suspect we only disagree on terminology. From my side I would appreciate if we could agree that the attribute "perfect" for a theory implies that no counterexample to the theory is possible in whichever sense. If a contradicition is possible logically or otherwise, the theory is imperfect.
OK. So which types of unfalsifiable theories would qualify as "perfect"? If not all, then please state the complete criteria.
 
wave said:
OK. So which types of unfalsifiable theories would qualify as "perfect"? If not all, then please state the complete criteria.
Difficult question. According to my idea of a "perfect theory", "perfect" certainly implies "unfalsifiable". About the converse I am not certain. I think you are right that my definition of a perfect theory implies the converse - hence a theory is Unfalsifiable if and only if it is Perfect according to my current definition. This seems unsatisfactory and I agree that a proper definition of a perfect theory should be more specific. The theory "everything, past, present and future is a result of the all-powerful will of X" is also a "perfect" theory according to my current definition. This theory does have a powerful ability to explain phenomena, but a complete inability to make specific predictions.

Hence, perhaps the definition of a perfect theory should at least include an ability to predict specific outcomes perfectly and not only explain things perfectly.
 
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Rade

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The perfect theory is like the perfect murder, a contradiction of terms.
 
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Well, a perfect murder is only an ethical contradiction, not a logical, isn’t it?.

Anyway as said, a theory is the promotion of a hypothesis, when its forthcoming predictions proved to be correct. A theory would remain the best possible approximation of the truth until it is falsified by a new “ugly fact”*; that’s all standard Popper

Hence, hypothetically, a perfect theory is only possible when it has survived all new facts and there will be no more opposing facts to be discovered, because we know everything in that area.

But one could also argue that a perfect theory is a universal physical law.

http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/physical-law/chap05.pdf



*”The Great Tragedy of Science, the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.” Thomas Huxley
 
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Andre said:
...a perfect theory is only possible when it has survived all new facts and there will be no more opposing facts to be discovered, because we know everything in that area
Well, no, a "perfect theory" is a contradiction of logic, because science is based on a philosophy of "uncertain knowledge"--thus the situation you talk about above (e.g., the time when humans will know all facts in this area of study or that) is "logically" impossible. One example, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) of physics tells us that this fact (e.g., certain knowledge of simultaneous position and momentum of a thing) is not just difficult, but logically impossible. Thus humans will never "discover" the "perfect theory" (which is same as saying the perfect explanation) of the simultaneous existence of position and momentum.
Andre said:
Well, a perfect murder is only an ethical contradiction, not a logical, isn’t it?
I do not hold a philosophic view of dualism between facts and values, e.g., values do not constitute a separate identity distinct from existence, thus in my mind a perfect murder is not only a ethical contradiction but also a logical contradiction.
 

selfAdjoint

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Rade said:
Well, no, a "perfect theory" is a contradiction of logic, because science is based on a philosophy of "uncertain knowledge"--thus the situation you talk about above (e.g., the time when humans will know all facts in this area of study or that) is "logically" impossible. One example, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) of physics tells us that this fact (e.g., certain knowledge of simultaneous position and momentum of a thing) is not just difficult, but logically impossible. Thus humans will never "discover" the "perfect theory" (which is same as saying the perfect explanation) of the simultaneous existence of position and momentum.
I see what you mean, but I don't think this is right. Logic per se is radically a priori, as Kant would say, while the empirical constraint of uncertain knowledge is just as radically a postiori. Reasoning from one to the other would seem to be a category error. But maybe I misunderstand?
 

HallsofIvy

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No, a "perfect" theory, at least in the sense of the "theory of everything", is not a contradiction. The difficulty is that the original poster seems to assume that a "perfect theory" must be logically perfect as well- there is no logical possibility for it to be wrong. That is certainly not required of a physics theory. The requirement for a theory in physics to be "perfect" is that it pass every conceivable test.

Of course, since there are an infinite number of conceivable tests, while it is possible to have a "perfect theory", it would be impossible to know that it was perfect!
 

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