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Bencze: What Popper really meant by falsifiability

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Further to: Falsifiability only gained traction as anti-creation move? philosopher (and photographer) Laszlo Bencze writes to say,


 

The passage you quote from “Newton’s Apple and Other Myths of Science” is terribly misguided:

“Part of the appeal of the falsification axiom (if it could never be disproved, it can’t be science) was that it was simple enough for nonscientists to grasp. Yet, when we look at history, falsification simply does not work as a definition of science. As Gordin explains, most historians and scientists accept a sociological definition: Science is what the scientific community says it is (e.g., peer-reviewed work in reputable journals). It’s not a perfect definition, nor a stable one, but it has the virtue of being the one by which scientists actually operate.”

1. There is no “falsification axiom.” Popper never uses this term. He uses the “principle of falsifiability.”

2. Falsifiability is not easy to grasp regardless of whether one is a scientist or a grocery store clerk. Popper had to write an entire book— to explain it.

3. The first book that Popper wrote to explain his views is “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” pulbished in 1934

4. Popper developed his philosophy of science specifically to refute views such as “Science is what the scientific community says it is.” This is what Popper calls an appeal to authority and he dismisses it.

5. “Science is what the scientific community says it is,” is not merely “not perfect” as the author claims, it is false and useless.

6. The genesis of Popper’s philosophy of science had nothing to do with creationsism or refuting creationism. He developed it to explain why Freudianism, Adlerism, and Marxism—which all claimed to be science—were not falsifiable and hence not science.


 

See also: New science mythbuster book should be blockbuster So pointing out that the pop sci lore on these subjects is largely myth is now going mainstream?

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15 Replies to “Bencze: What Popper really meant by falsifiability

  1. 1
    Mapou says:

    On the subject of falsifiability, here’s something that might be of interest: Why evolution may be intelligent, based on deep learning. Here’s a quote:

    A computer scientist and biologist propose to unify the theory of evolution with learning theories to explain the “amazing, apparently intelligent designs that evolution produces.”

  2. 2
    Zachriel says:

    A good test will cleanly cleave the universe of possibilities in two. That hopefully means a narrow falsifiability condition wherein the test gives a definitive answer to which possible universe matches the observable universe.

    However, when working with incomplete data on the edge of empirical science, sometimes we have to deal with fuzzy edges — probabilities of confirmation. This is still important because it helps guides further research. The mistake is giving too much credence to conditional confirmations.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    A good test will cleanly cleave the universe of possibilities in two.

    Is that why Darwin gave us such a clear method for distinguishing natural selection from artificial selection?

  4. 4
    Virgil Cain says:

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” [Darwin 1859, pg. 175].

    Darwin required that we prove a negative but to refute ID you just need to demonstrate a positive, namely that natural selection, drift and neutral changes are sufficient.

    ID wins the test of falsification

  5. 5
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: Is that why Darwin gave us such a clear method for distinguishing natural selection from artificial selection?

    We observe artificial selection. Natural selection is posited to be due to natural fecundity and differential reproduction due to competition for limited resources — which we also observe.

  6. 6
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel is still misrepresenting natural selection. No surprise there.

    Natural selection is differential reproduction (fecundity is included in that) due to heritable happenstance variation, ie random mutation.

    Zachriel needs to get a real education as opposed to spewing its misleading representations of reality.

  7. 7
    Virgil Cain says:

    Mung:

    Is that why Darwin gave us such a clear method for distinguishing natural selection from artificial selection?

    Yes, artificial selection can create the many breeds of dogs and natural selection can take those breeds and over time make one from the many. 😎

  8. 8
    Bob O'H says:

    Virgil @ 4 –

    Darwin required that we prove a negative but to refute ID you just need to demonstrate a positive, namely that natural selection, drift and neutral changes are sufficient.

    No, if we show that that natural selection, drift and neutral changes are sufficient, the ID proponent could argue (i) an intelligent designer mimicked natural selection, drift and neutral changes and/or (ii) that intelligent design may work alongside evolution, and we didn’t examine the cases where an intelligent designer had done their work.

    If you want to falsify ID, you need to put some limits on what ID can do, I don’t see how it can be falsified (even in principle).

  9. 9
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H, The ID falsification is set in stone- meaning it is written down and as far as I know all agree. You are just upset because it requires you and yours to actually step up and make the case for the claims of your position and you know that you cannot.

    Darwinism, Design and Public Education page 92:

    1. High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2. Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

    It’s as if you are totally unaware and think your ignorance and cowardice mean something.

  10. 10
    Virgil Cain says:

    And from Dr Behe:

    Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

    In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.(1)

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.

    Let’s turn the tables and ask, how could one falsify the claim that, say, the bacterial flagellum was produced by Darwinian processes?

    You lose, Bob

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    Give it a month or two Virgil and Bob will be back making the exact same silly claim. They want ID to be unfalsifiable, therefore ID is unfalsifiable.

  12. 12
    Virgil Cain says:

    Yeah, it’s unfalsifiable and besides it has been falsified! That never gets old

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    Mung – I’d actually be happy if ID were falsifiable. Weirdly, I’d like to see more of an effort to make it a respectable science, because that would focus attention on what is being claimed: if it is creationism then it’ll become clear that it isn’t, if it isn’t creationism then we’ll start to get an idea about what the intelligent designer is or does (or was and did).

    Virgil – your two posts fail. The first doesn’t present a falsification, and the second fails because, as I wrote, an intelligent designer could be mimicking evolution.

  14. 14
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H, obviously you are confused. The first post states:

    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    And that means by demonstrating NS, drift and neutral changes can do it falsifies ID.

    Also ID is NOT anti-evolution so you post doesn’t make any sense -“mimicking evolution”.

    It’s as if you are blaming ID because you cannot support the claims of your position.

    ID is falsifiable and we have said exactly what it takes to do so. Your whining just proves that you are a loser and incapable of reason and logic.

    As for ID being respectable science, LoL! Yours requires one to demonstrate a negative and it has nothing for a positive case.

    So ID is falsifiable, IDists have said exactly what will falsify it and Bob O’H is upset because that means actually supporting his position which he knows is impossible.

    Life is good.

  15. 15
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob lacks reading comprehension:

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.

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