Does a theory have to be "falsifiable?"

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by JohnStOnge, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. JohnStOnge
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    JohnStOnge Member

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    Frankly, I never saw the idea that a theory has to be "Falsifiable" emphasized as "essential" until I saw it used as an argument that intelligent design can't be a theory. The understanding of the scientific method I grew up with did not include that as a necessary condition. Instead, the basic steps of the scientific method as I understood them are pretty much summed up by the author of the notes at http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/phy_labs/appendixe/appendixe.html#Heading6:

    "1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

    2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.

    3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

    4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments."


    Ever since the idea of "falsifiability" as a necessary aspect of a theory came up in association with the "intelligent design" thing I've been skeptical. In my opinion, for example, the germ theory of disease is not falsifiable. Even if we were to infect a population with certain "germs" and no illnesses resulted, that would not falisfy the theory because other factors could be involved. Instead, the germ theory of disease is based on positive demonstration. Falsification has been involved, but it's been falsification of null hypotheses in order to infer acceptance of the alternative hypothesis that "germs" cause disease. Anyway, today I got around to just doing a Google Search on "Does a theory have to be falsifiable." What I found is that it's not an element of the scientific method. It is a philosophy proposed by Karl Popper and it is not universially accepted.

    Here's an example of what I found:

    Falsifiability: Definition from Answers.com

    Here's another interesting article:

    Association for Asia Research- Defining science

    A key quote:

    "Many modern scientists believe that falsifiability is a necessary feature of a scientific theory.

    However, Thomas Kuhn, who is the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, disagreed with Popper. According to Kuhn, scientists tend to be dogmatic in seeking confirmation of established paradigm even in the light of conflicting data. Scientists stubbornly try to fit observed anomalies into their paradigm. Scientific revolutions have occurred in history, but only rarely, when an entire paradigm is in crises. In short, according Kuhn, falsifiability cannot be a criterion of science because it excludes the larger aspect of what scientists actually do."


    I think you can pretty clearly see from that discussion that Popper's philosophy is not a "rule" of the scientific method.

    I should have known. Once confident, dogmatic, and false statements were made. Don't get me wrong, I don't see how "intelligent design" could be inferred as the cause of what we see through the scientific method. But this thing about "it can't be a theory because it's not falsifiable" as though that an established rule of the scientific method is a crock.
     
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  2. Red Dawn
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    Red Dawn Senior Member

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    then you don't understand science. Which doesn't surprise me, given your flat earth position on global warming.

    that dude was 100% correct. Science isn't about proving anything. Science doesn't prove. The scientific method is desinged to disprove. Nothing is provable in science. That's not the way it works. Absolute 100% certainty is the realm of religion and faith.

    The scientific method cannot, and does not, assert absolute proof of anything. Science isn't about truth. Its about knowledge. The core of the scientific method is to propose hypothoses and then try to shoot them down. Disprove them, as it were. That's the whole god damn point. If a hypothesis can't withstand utter scrutiny and testing it gets thrown out. If a hypothesis is tested, over and over, and scientists are unable to disprove it or shoot it down, it eventually gets elevated theory. Some theories withstand so much scrutiny and testing they become basic tenets of science. Like evolution or gravity. But nothing in science ever becomes "truth", and nothing in science is known with absolute 100% bullet proof certainty.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 26, 2009
  3. KittenKoder
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    KittenKoder Senior Member

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    John one major flaw is that modern science itself has evolved. The method you posted was from a long time ago, when people actually thought everything was binary. Science itself however proved that nothing, even the more static events, is binary. For those portions of science we can use mathematics they still have more theories and many formulas that were once considered "fact" have been found to need expanding with each new discovery. Gravity for instance, is not longer just E=MC^2 because we have discovered that other factors can modify the formula. The ONLY portions of science that can be considered truly static (with a very loose definition because we still haven't uncovered it all yet) are the historical sciences. Hell, chemistry is still mostly theory and very little static concepts. Even computer sciences are mostly theory. As Red Dawn said, the objective of science is now to be disproven.
     
  4. KittenKoder
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    KittenKoder Senior Member

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    Oh, and going to add what is actually wrong with intelligent design and why I never say it's "not science" ... because really it isn't even theory.

    Intelligent design cannot be proven or falsified because it only shows one part of scientific theory, the why. It has no how, not even steps. It cannot falsify any other scientific theories, and can even be applied to the current theories such as evolution. The only problem I have with creationists is that they think it does. Many have this strange notion that just because their myth say it was all put in motion by their god that all other sciences are wrong, when all it does is answer the one question science cannot, the why.
     
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  5. RetiredGySgt
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    RetiredGySgt Platinum Member

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    Except most religious types do NOT claim creation nullifies basic science, not even the base concepts of evolution. You need to actually learn what you are talking about. Ohh and remind us how you know what MOST wards of Mormons in California think and believe cause your family is Mormon.
     
  6. KittenKoder
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    Cue the "I have to argue even when someone posts something that agrees with me just because they aren't the same as me" crowd ...

    Funny, I didn't expect you until tomorrow. However, even in your own post you do deny something that has a ton of evidence to support just because you don't want to face the truth: base concepts of evolution. Sorry, but that's denying it based on a myth that doesn't even deny it nor cut out the possibility. Why do you fear being a natural creature?
     
  7. michiganFats
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    michiganFats BANNED

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    Much ado about nothing. Popper just reworded an ancient concept. The only surprising thing here is that he gets credit for stating the obvious.
     
  8. JohnStOnge
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    JohnStOnge Member

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    Oh really? Life exists on planet Earth. Do you have some doubt about that? Or are you going to tell me that there's no such thing as absolute certainty except in the realm of religion and faith?
     
  9. JohnStOnge
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    JohnStOnge Member

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    Kitten, the method I posted is not "from a long time ago." It's from a recent physics lab at the University of Rochester.

    Otherwise, just do a Google search yourself on the idea of Karl Popper's idea that potential for "falsification" is an essential element of theory. You'll immediately see that there's an awful lot of people who disagree with that.
     
  10. JohnStOnge
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    JohnStOnge Member

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