Cosmology Intelligent Design News

Aeon puts case squarely: Must science be testable?

Spread the love

From Massimo Pigliucci at Aeon:

The broader question then is: are we on the verge of developing a whole new science, or is this going to be regarded by future historians as a temporary stalling of scientific progress? Alternatively, is it possible that fundamental physics is reaching an end not because we’ve figured out everything we wanted to figure out, but because we have come to the limits of what our brains and technologies can possibly do? These are serious questions that ought to be of interest not just to scientists and philosophers, but to the public at large (the very same public that funds research in fundamental physics, among other things).

What is weird about the string wars and the concomitant use and misuse of philosophy of science is that both scientists and philosophers have bigger targets to jointly address for the sake of society, if only they could stop squabbling and focus on what their joint intellectual forces may accomplish. Rather than laying into each other in the crude terms sketched above, they should work together not just to forge a better science, but to counter true pseudoscience: homeopaths and psychics, just to mention a couple of obvious examples, keep making tons of money by fooling people, and damaging their physical and mental health. Those are worthy targets of critical analysis and discourse, and it is the moral responsibility of a public intellectual or academic – be they a scientist or a philosopher – to do their best to improve as much as possible the very same society that affords them the luxury of discussing esoteric points of epistemology or fundamental physics. More.

From the point of view of a citizen and taxpayer, I would respectfully suggest that if it is not testable or falsifiable, it is not an obligatory public funding goal.

See also: In search of a road to reality

Follow UD News at Twitter!

18 Replies to “Aeon puts case squarely: Must science be testable?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    The belief that there should be a ‘theory of everything’ does follow from materialistic premises, nor does it even follow from the math, but the belief that there should be a ‘theory of everything’ follows from theistic presuppositions as to the overarching unity of nature provided by God.

    “The first major unification in physics was Sir Isaac Newton’s realization that the same force that caused an apple to fall at the Earth’s surface—gravity—was also responsible for holding the Moon in orbit about the Earth. This universal force would also act between the planets and the Sun, providing a common explanation for both terrestrial and astronomical phenomena.”
    https://www.learner.org/courses/physics/unit/text.html?unit=3&secNum=3

    “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator, or Universal Ruler;,,, The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect;,,, from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present:”
    Sir Isaac Newton – Quoted from what many consider the greatest science masterpiece of all time, his book “Principia”
    http://gravitee.tripod.com/genschol.htm

    “Our monotheistic traditions reinforce the assumption that the universe is at root a unity, that is not governed by different legislation in different places.”
    John D. Barrow

    “In materialism all elements behave the same. It is mysterious to think of them as spread out and automatically united. For something to be a whole, it has to have an additional object, say, a soul or a mind.,,, “Mind is separate from matter.”
    Kurt Gödel – Hao Wang’s supplemental biography of Gödel, A Logical Journey, MIT Press, 1996. [9.4.12]

    Cantor, Gödel, & Turing: Incompleteness of Mathematics – video (excerpted from BBC’s ‘Dangerous Knowledge’ documentary)
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1119397401406525/?type=2&theater

    “Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (1931), proves that there are limits to what can be ascertained by mathematics. Kurt Gödel (ref. on cite), halted the achievement of a unifying all-encompassing theory of everything in his theorem that: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove”. Thus, based on the position that an equation cannot prove itself, the constructs are based on assumptions some of which will be unprovable.”
    Cf., Stephen Hawking & Leonard Miodinow, The Grand Design (2010) @ 15-6
    https://books.google.com/books?id=7MzOBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA536#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Stephen Hawking’s “God-Haunted” Quest – December 24, 2014
    Excerpt: “Why in the world would a scientist blithely assume that there is or is even likely to be one unifying rational form to all things, unless he assumed that there is a singular, overarching intelligence that has placed it there? Why shouldn’t the world be chaotic, utterly random, meaningless? Why should one presume that something as orderly and rational as an equation would describe the universe’s structure?
    I would argue that the only finally reasonable ground for that assumption is the belief in an intelligent Creator, who has already thought into the world the very mathematics that the patient scientist discovers.”
    Robert Barron
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....92351.html

    “So you think of physics in search of a “Grand Unified Theory of Everything”, Why should we even think there is such a thing? Why should we think there is some ultimate level of resolution? Right? It is part, it is a consequence of believing in some kind of design. Right? And there is some sense in which that however multifarious and diverse the phenomena of nature are, they are ultimately unified by the minimal set of laws and principles possible. Insofar as science continues to operate with that assumption, there is a presupposition of design that is motivating the scientific process. Because it would be perfectly easy,, to stop the pursuit of science at much lower levels. You know understand a certain range of phenomena in a way that is appropriate to deal with that phenomena and just stop there and not go any deeper or any farther.”,,, You see, there is a sense in which there is design at the ultimate level, the ultimate teleology you might say, which provides the ultimate closure,,”
    Professor Steve Fuller discusses intelligent design in Cambridge – Video – quoted at the 17:34 minute mark
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nd-others/

    And when the Agent causality of Theists is rightly let ‘back’ into the picture of physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, (instead of the self refuting ‘blind’ causality of atheists in which atheists themselves become illusions), then a empirically backed unification between Quantum Theory and Relativity is readily achieved by the resurrection of Christ from death:

    (Centrality Concerns) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1143437869002478/?type=2&theater

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  2. 2
    jdk says:

    FWIW,I really enjoyed Steven Weinberg’s 1993 book, “Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature.”

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    The fact that the constants of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true, we observe,,,”
    (Weinberg then comments on the multiverse conjecture of atheists)
    “No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. I mean,, the (multiverse) theory would be speculative, but we don’t even have a theory in which that speculation is mathematically realized. But it is a possibility.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video
    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

  4. 4
    jdk says:

    I like what Weinberg said there, and agree. There will always be a point, no matter how deep our explanations go, where all we can do is ask, again, “and why is it like that?”

    And, to make clear, I’m not a multi-verse advocate, so my comment doesn’t extend to the part of the post about the multiverse conjecture.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    The only people who are having problems, banging their heads against the same wall I might add, are atheists who, besides denying the Mind of God, deny the reality of their own mind

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks, Empirical evidence must have a due voice in sciences connected to the physical world; including an ultimate veto. Whether the issue is adequacy of explanations or predicting further observations, or being open to some degree of testing, that is vital. However, that brings to bear inductive logic and we must also be aware of limitations of testability, falsifiability and more, post Popper. Sometimes, there just is not a state of the art ready to test a theory, e.g. it was a century after Newton that the Gravitational Constant could be directly assessed through Cavendish’s torsion balance experiment. In Mathematics — though not an empirical discipline as such — it took a full 2 – 300 years to be seriously addressing foundations of Calculus. And maybe, that is where some of the more complex bits of physics are headed, effectively mathematical and computational modelling linked to the actual physics proper. On which, we will have to recognise the GIGO issue. But, the point is, it may be worth the high risk, high potential payoff investment as Physics has a demonstrated track record of opening up key technologies and energy sources. But, we must understand that we cannot properly present highly speculative modelling with the same air of confidence we give to something like, the local gravity field strength is 9.8 N/kg. Model away, but do not pretend that this is unshakeable gospel truth. KF

  7. 7
    jdk says:

    The Mind of God is a metaphysical speculation that I don’t believe in. I don’t think of myself as banging my head against a wall: rather I think of myself as realistically accepting some of the limits of human nature and its ability to know about the world.

    I accept as a fundamental principle Feynman’s statement (paraphrased) that I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true.

  8. 8
    jdk says:

    kf writes,

    Sometimes, there just is not a state of the art ready to test a theory, e.g. it was a century after Newton that the Gravitational Constant could be directly assessed through Cavendish’s torsion balance experiment.

    This is a good point. The history of science is full of situations where the development of new technology and/or mathematical techniques allowed science to investigate further, and to develop and/or test new or old hypotheses.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    “The Mind of God is a metaphysical speculation that “I” don’t believe in”

    There is no “I” with the free will to choose to believe in, or to not believe in, “the Mind of God” within atheistic naturalism. Only illusions of conscious beings who are seemingly miraculously fed illusions of free will that just so happen to coincide with their the illusory intents of their illusory self. Moreover, given atheistic naturalism, all the perceptions of reality that these supposed illusory selves or having become illusory to!

    Atheistic Materialism – Where All of Reality Becomes an Illusion – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/1213432255336372/

    Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a framework of illusions and fantasy – July 2016
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q94y-QgZZGF0Q7HdcE-qdFcVGErhWxsVKP7GOmpKD6o/edit

    Do You Like SETI? Fine, Then Let’s Dump Methodological Naturalism – Paul Nelson – September 24, 2014
    Excerpt: “Epistemology — how we know — and ontology — what exists — are both affected by methodological naturalism (MN). If we say, “We cannot know that a mind caused x,” laying down an epistemological boundary defined by MN, then our ontology comprising real causes for x won’t include minds.
    MN entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed (the illusion of) you of that event after the fact.
    “That’s crazy,” you reply, “I certainly did write my email.” Okay, then — to what does the pronoun “I” in that sentence refer?
    Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural?,,,
    You are certainly an intelligent cause, however, and your intelligence does not collapse into physics. (If it does collapse — i.e., can be reduced without explanatory loss — we haven’t the faintest idea how, which amounts to the same thing.) To explain the effects you bring about in the world — such as your email, a real pattern — we must refer to you as a unique agent.,,,
    some feature of “intelligence” must be irreducible to physics, because otherwise we’re back to physics versus physics, and there’s nothing for SETI to look for.”,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90071.html

    And although Dr. Nelson alluded to writing an e-mail, (i.e. creating information), to tie his ‘personal agent’ argument into intelligent design, Dr. Nelson’s ‘personal agent’ argument can easily be amended to any action that ‘you’, as a personal agent, choose to take:

    “You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t open the door. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t raise your hand. Physics did, and informed the illusion you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t etc.. etc.. etc… Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    Human consciousness is much more than mere brain activity, – Mark Vernon – 18 June 2011
    However, “If you think the brain is a machine then you are committed to saying that composing a sublime poem is as involuntary an activity as having an epileptic fit. …the nature of consciousness being a tremendous mystery.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm.....n-activity

    Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, for an audience full of academics at a University, a ‘miracle’ simply by raising his arm,,

    The Intersection of Science and Religion – Craig Hazen, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....qlE#t=746s

    What should be needless to say, if raising your arm is enough to refute your supposedly ‘scientific’ worldview of atheistic materialism/naturalism, then perhaps it is time for you to seriously consider getting a new scientific worldview?

  10. 10
    CuriousCat says:

    kairosfocus
    We must understand that we cannot properly present highly speculative modelling with the same air of confidence we give to something like, the local gravity field strength is 9.8 N/kg.

    But if we cannot test a theory with the possibility of rejecting it, how can we be ever confident about it?

    If one believes in Bayesian statistics, the answer is easy. As the theory explains more and more, i.e. validated by various observations (with the possibility of being rejected or not), its “probability” of being true increases.

    Being a frequentist, the probability used above does not mean anything to me, and I believe here lies the problem of confusing the Popperian view with inductivism (a recent discussion, here). What Popper calls corroboration is the act of null hypothesis, while potentially could have been rejected, not being rejected in a new test. This does not increase the “probability” of the theory to be true. Let’s recall what Box said “all models are wrong, but some are more useful”. Here corroboration points to a more practical aspect; the tested and not falsified theory can now become the default paradigm in the field. This does not mean this theory is true, or it’s “more likely” to be true, but it’s the “best” of what we have. Any new theory should have a higher predictive/explanatory power than the current one, not because of subjective reasoning, i.e. people “believe” in the old theory, but old theory has passed through multiple tests, in which it could have been falsified, and it has not been. The new theory (e.g. multiverse) has been “tailored” according to the results of these tests. The previous theory made “correct” predictions, while the new one just fits the existing data, and cannot make any novel predictions.

    So, corroboration in Popper’s sense (and to which I agree) is not verification in inductive logic, but should be likened to Fisher-Neyman’s (though one may argue that these two views are kind of contradictory) hypothesis testing.

    My point is that if one is a frequentist, then falsifiability of a scientific theory is a must. Otherwise how can a theory gain “acceptance” in an objective sense? For instance, why should I accept that a theory, not testable now in any sense, hence cannot be corroborated, to be scientific? Call it speculation, metaphysical theory, anything that you like; and let it live among its believers, but do not let it out as a scientific theory until it passes some objective test.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    CC, the proper thread for discussing your points is the other one: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....s-evo-mat/ . There, you will see a discussion i/l/o Putnam’s rejoinder to Popper; which highlights the problem of corroboration and the linked issue that scientific findings are not in vacuo, they need to be reliable enough to be applied — which brings the problem to focus, tested empirical reliability. And statistics is in large measure applied inductive reasoning in the modern sense, complete with issues on world models including distributions. In the case of models that are explanatory and integrative but are largely untried relative to direct predictions, the point that they have a lesser degree of testing obtains; and there is a not yet tested dimension, multiplied by the issue of auxiliary hypotheses and the enduring state of explanatory gaps (cf the linked discussion). As for subjective vs frequentist probability, there are many schemes and views. As to the oh it’s metaphysics or the like, the paradigm case is Gravitation, which did not have a full orbed empirical predictive test (as opposed to explanations) until Cavendish, 100 years after Newton [the Haley’s comet case was a half way house], and long after it was accepted; accepted on its explanatory power. Where, this case is in effect a defining case of what science is; a key step of the scientific revolution. KF

  12. 12
    Axel says:

    Quantum mechanics, itself, inevitably put an end to the old reductionist, mechanistic paradigm, as the ‘ultimate’ : the death of materialism.

    Far from being the swish, classy, epistemic stratosphere, empirical science was always the most contemptibly-base form of knowledge, dealing as it did with matter in its grossest manifestations. Although conversely, at least until the reality of human crookedness perverted its pristine character, it could in itself be viewed as the most admirably-honest sphere of learning. But only fools could have believed in materialism even prior to QM.

  13. 13
    Axel says:

    jdk, brighter men than Feynman have always believed that what he so confidently designated as untrue, is indeed true.

    Feynman was very wary in a video-clip I saw, of speaking so brashly. He had obviously had a thorough mauling by his confreres in the Philosophy Department. I think he tended towards agnosticism, normally, didn’t he ?

  14. 14
    EDTA says:

    Alternatively, is it possible that fundamental physics is reaching an end not because we’ve figured out everything we wanted to figure out, but because we have come to the limits of what our brains and technologies can possibly do?

    I have wondered about this for some time now. Science has already passed the point where most of humanity cannot understand our most advanced findings. (Not that I want us to stop searching and asking questions. Don’t peg me as that sort of person. I’m very curious myself, but I have to admit that our minds are finite, and even putting more than one mind together may have limits. (If not technological, then political, as in the problems with peer review, falsified data, pressure to publish, etc.))

  15. 15
    jdk says:

    Axel writes,

    Quantum mechanics, itself, inevitably put an end to the old reductionist, mechanistic paradigm, as the ‘ultimate’ : the death of materialism.

    Quantum mechanics, as well as relativity and chaos theory, have “put an end to the old reductionist, mechanistic paradigm.” I agree with that: this is how science works, refining older models as we learn more. We have learned both that the world is not strictly deterministic and that systems have emergent properties not at all apparent by looking at their constituent parts. (We have used simple table salt as example of that.)

    I don’t see, however, how this is the “death of materialism.” We have just learned more about how the physical world works, including that our old model of “matter” is not correct. Again, this is how science works: we refine our models, both mathematical and metaphorical as we learn more. (An example: an early model of the atom was that of a big lump with electrons stuck on like raisins in cookie dough.)

    So matter isn’t what we thought it was, and things doesn’t deterministically run like clockwork the way we thought they did. However all of this is still about the physical world that we live in and can investigate empirically. Yes, the old model that started with Newton of a clockwork world full of matter like billiard balls is dead, and has been for a long time, but all that means is that we have a much different view of what we consider the physical (or material) world.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    BA & JDK:

    [J:] “The Mind of God is a metaphysical speculation that “I” don’t believe in”

    [B:] There is no “I” with the free will to choose to believe in, or to not believe in, “the Mind of God” within atheistic naturalism. Only illusions of conscious beings who are seemingly miraculously fed illusions of free will that just so happen to coincide with their the illusory intents of their illusory self. Moreover, given atheistic naturalism, all the perceptions of reality that these supposed illusory selves or having become illusory to!

    B has a sobering point, and one directly relevant to the possibility of real testing. As, unless we are responsibly and rationally free enough to reason, evaluate, judge and conclude on the actual merits, not only scientific testing but all rationality collapses. This is part of the catastrophic, irretrievable failure of evolutionary materialist scientism. (And if we are able to go beyond GIGO-limited blindly mechanical programming of computational substrates [with some chance processes] — including brain tissue — to get to genuinely rational and responsibly free reasoning, then that points to a grounding for the moral government implied by responsibility and the ability to have mind beyond blind, strictly non-rational processing. This opens up the issue of root of reality in necessary being and the IS-OUGHT gap that can only be solved at that level. That is, mind of God is a world-root issue that one cannot simply wish away without serious worldview consequences. [Cf here: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot....._brnz_putr ] )

    Adm Beatty at Jutland, with two battlecruisers already blown up and the one he was on saved by a VC-winning heroic act of a dying Royal Marines Officer: “there is something wrong with our . . . ships today!”

    Yup.

    (And apparent scare quotes around “I” seem to be a hint.)

    KF

  17. 17
    CuriousCat says:

    kairosfocus

    I think we disagree on the difference between the potential falsifiability of a theory and an actual test to disprove/corroborate the theory. A test may not be conducted at the time when a theory is suggested, maybe due to technological difficulties, or some seasonal effects, etc. Nevertheless, a theory may be potentially falsifiable or not, irrespective of the realization of the test.

    If I say “parts of world which I do not perceive for the time being does not exist objectively”, then this argument is potentially unfalsifiable. If I say “in the universe, there is nothing which may exceed the speed of light” (of course, using a properly -logically, mathematically and physically- constructed framework), then this suggestion is potentially falsifiable, though the current equipment at hand may not be able to make such measurements.

    One sidenote: I may agree that, at times, it may difficult to determine whether a theory is potentially falsifiable. Currently, there may be no conceivable test, which will potentially falsify a theory, but a finding in the future may enable constructing (not necessarily realizing) such a test. My quick solution, for this problem, would be again to give a metaphysical status for that theory, till it is potentially falsifiable.

    My second objection to your view is the reasoning you use in people accepting theories. We cannot, for sure, say that people accepted a theory “on its explanatory power”. As pointed out in “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science” by Burtt, there are multiple (historical and metaphysical) reasons for people accepting a theory. Hence, one cannot reduce it to a simple explanation vs. prediction issue.

    Actually, I would like to write more about explanation vs. prediction, particularly the falsifiable vs. nonfalsifiable components in explanations, but I’m going to leave it here, now.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    CC, really this is the wrong thread for this, but I will note that Newtonian Gravitation was in fact accepted on its explanatory power in the main, long before serious empirical tests were done; where this case was actually the key triumph that launched modern science to its cultural status. In short the issue is, that science is a matter of history, not just some school of thought on philosophy or the views of current thinkers. A sound assessment will have to recognise that a lot of accepted science stood on explanatory power, long before tests were in place; other factors are of lower degree of impact . . . or (I think here of Eugenics) may all too closely reflect the prejudices, ideologies and power agendas of a given era. My point is, recognise the effect of that history and acknowledge that things that prevail largely on unifying, explanatory power or elegance etc have much less firm support than something that is actually empirically tested per reliable predictive power on significant points; which in turn does not amount to proof of truth. And even so, the issue of ever present explanatory gaps etc and the issue of the belt of auxiliary hypotheses, instrument constraints and world models held more loosely than the core theory also obtain. Falsifiability is very hard to achieve in practice, and Lakatos et al have a serious point when they speak of research programmes and being progressive or degenerate. KF

Leave a Reply