Evolution Intelligent Design Philosophy

Popper didn’t repent and believe Darwin after all

Spread the love

From Mehmet Elgin and Elliott Sober at History of the Philosophy of Science:

Abstract: Karl Popper argued in 1974 that evolutionary theory contains no testable laws and is therefore a metaphysical research program. Four years later, he said that he had changed his mind. Here we seek to understand Popper’s initial position and his subsequent retraction. We argue, contrary to Popper’s own assessment, that he did not change his mind at all about the substance of his original claim. We also explore how Popper’s views have ramifications for contemporary discussion of the nature of laws and the structure of evolutionary theory. – Popper’s Shifting Appraisal of Evolutionary Theory, Mehmet Elgin and Elliott Sober
HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 2017 7:1, 31-55 More.

This fact about Popper has been kicking around for years. It keeps falling into popular science culture’s Darwinhole and somehow clambering out for air. Meanwhile, lesser thinkers than Popper are a-marchin’, marchin’

See also: But Darwinism is universally accepted among “real” scientists! Um…

and

Another scholar who dismissed Darwinism – at the end of his life

Follow UD News at Twitter!

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

10 Replies to “Popper didn’t repent and believe Darwin after all

  1. 1
    critical rationalist says:

    Looks like News is at it again. Jumping to conclusions.

    Nothing in the abstract indicates that Popper didn’t consider evolution a good explanation or that it should be superseded by another theory.

    Actually, it’s not even clear that News actually read the paper, since it’s be hind a paywall. What say ye, News? Where is a quote that matches your headline?

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    critical rationalist:

    You seem to be neither: critical, or rational.

    The abstract’s first sentence is this:

    Karl Popper argued in 1974 that evolutionary theory contains no testable laws and is therefore a metaphysical research program.

    “Metaphysics” is not what we now know as “science.”

    Then:

    We argue, contrary to Popper’s own assessment, that he did not change his mind at all about the substance of his original claim.

    This puts us back to the “original claim” that Darwinism is a “metaphysical program.”

    In light of this, how can you then write:

    Nothing in the abstract indicates that Popper didn’t consider evolution a good explanation or that it should be superseded by another theory

  3. 3
    News says:

    PaV at 2, Darwinism does that to people.

  4. 4
    PaV says:

    Is there an antidote?

  5. 5
    critical rationalist says:

    This puts us back to the “original claim” that Darwinism is a “metaphysical program.”

    It does? So, you’re read the paper and followed the argument presented in the paper?

    Does the author exhibit a understanding of what Popper’s position is? Does it reference other authors that exhibit an understand ing of Popper’s position?

    Do you even understand the difference between what Popper called a metaphysical research program and pseudoscience?

    IOW, if you haven’t read the paper, it’s unclear how it suggests Popper didn’t actually consider evolutionary theory science after all or wasn’t self consistent in considering it science.

  6. 6
    PaV says:

    CR:

    IOW, if you haven’t read the paper, it’s unclear how it suggests Popper didn’t actually consider evolutionary theory science after all or wasn’t self consistent in considering it science.

    It’s behind a paywall. The authors argue that Popper never left his 1974 position. That is clear to see for anyone. You seem to disagree with the authors. That’s fine. Nonetheless, it’s clear they are arguing that Popper never left behind his critical attitude of Darwinism.

    [You know, when they stick a gun to your wife’s head and say unless you rob a bank you’ll never see her again, that’s not exactly robbery on your part.]

  7. 7
    CuriousCat says:

    That’s also exactly the view I hold. I do not think Popper actually “recanted” his views on evolution, naively interpreted as “he changed his critical views on evolution after ’78; he took it as a fully scientific theory”. He held it valuable as a metaphysical theory, actually his views on science and three-worlds metaphysics are based on evolution theory; but he still found “most” of the theory to be untestable, and he did not find the rigor, found in other scientific theories, in Darwinian evolution.

  8. 8
    HeKS says:

    I haven’t had a chance yet to read Tom Bethell’s new book, Darwin’s House of Cards, but doesn’t Bethell say in that book that he heard this from Popper himself? I seem to recall reading that somewhere.

  9. 9
    jstanley01 says:

    Didn’t Gould get pressured by the gradualists like Mayr, over the opening that they said Punk Eek gave to the creationists? And didn’t Gould’s late-career public relations efforts represent an attempt to atone for his sin?

    Maybe so, maybe not. But if I were a historian of science, I would test the hypothesis out.

    And was the same kind of pressure brought to bear on Popper? Again, maybe so, maybe not.

  10. 10
    Bob O'H says:

    You can find the pdf online here. Essentially, it looks like evolutionary biology was a bigger problem for Popper than Popper was for evolutionary biology. He accepted that it was a successful scientific idea, but struggled to work out where it fitted into his scheme of how science worked.

    This quote from the paper is, I think, a nice summary of the context:

    In Popper’s view, there are three categories into which you can place a theoretical system: sciences that generate empirical knowledge and understanding through the postulation of universal laws of nature, sciences that do not postulate such laws but nonetheless generate knowledge and understanding through the proposal of methodological rules and the construction of models, and pseudosciences that do not generate empirical knowledge and understanding at all. Popper is placing ET [Evolutionary Theory] in the second category, not in the third.

Leave a Reply