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Another attack on Karl Popper’s falsification concept


In what appears to be a progressive rant against careful science, a University of Kent prof manages to smear ol’ Karl Popper (1902–1994) with everything bad anyone did who was interested in his work:

While Hayek et al held the smoking gun of Popperian mischief, there were well-intentioned reasons for sticking with a simple model of sceptical science. Not least that it dovetailed with the meritocratic narrative of postwar science: the notion that science, more than any other discipline, suited the upwardly mobile working and middle classes. It takes a particular kind of education and upbringing to see the aesthetics of completion, or grasp the mathematics of proof, but any smart kid can poke holes in something. If that’s what science is, then it’s open to anyone, no matter their social class. This was the meritocratic dream of educationalists in the 1950s: Britain would, in mutually supportive vein, be culturally modern and intellectually scientific.

That dream backfired. The notion that science is all about falsification has done incalculable damage not just to science but to human wellbeing. It has normalised distrust as the default condition for knowledge-making, while setting an unreachable and unrealistic standard for the scientific enterprise. Climate sceptics demand precise predictions of an impossible kind, yet seize upon a single anomalous piece of data to claim to have disproved the entire edifice of combined research; anti-vaxxers exploit the impossibility of any ultimate proof of safety to fuel their destructive activism. In this sense, Popperianism has a great deal to answer for.

Charlotte Sleigh, “The abuses of Popper” at Aeon

Disparagement of falsification in science has come up quite a bit in recent years, mainly sponsored — we think —by people whose ideas are unfalsifiable in principle and therefore only doubtfully science:

See: If quantum mechanics were a researcher, she’d be fired

Is The Search For Meaning In Quantum Physics A Form Of Religion? (cf Adam Becker)

Laszlo Bencze On The Current Campaign Against Karl Popper’s Falsification Criterion For Science

Does A “Fetish For Falsification And Observation” Hold Back Science?


The difficult birth of science’s assisted suicide: The multiverse

See also: The war on math continues, ramps up. It feels odd to hear math, a multi-ethnic enterprise for as long as we have had written records, described as “white supremacy.”

Eh? I'm not a falsificationist. I also don't seen the need to be prescriptive about the past, especially when I haven't studied the historical period carefully enough. Bob O'H

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