Sciences - Other

Falsification – No

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The jury may be out on this one for quite some time. Karl Popper’s notion of falsification does deserve recognition for being the Occam’s razor of modern scientific criterion for credibility, however there are severe proponents and opponents who offer valid arguments against the falsifiability of scientific theories. Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” may offer the necessary prerequisite information regarding how science is done before the answer to this problem may be properly approached. “The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.” — Karl Popper, (Popper, CR, 36)

The reason for reference to Kuhn’s perennial work stems from his piercing and audacious exposure of science as an ideology predicated upon paradigms and predispositions developed within the minds of scientists as they begin to propose theories for examination of natural phenomena. Not unlike working backwards from a mathematical proof using the solution to define the problem, scientists also develop a belief about how a system works prior to developing a hypothesis suggesting its validity. This introduces an inherent mental bias into the construct.

Another poignant expose of the principles and prejudices of science is offered by Jonathan Marks in his “Why I am Not a Scientist.” This book looks long and hard at the many failures and misrepresentations offered as scientific in earlier era’s. One notable example being the notion of an Aryan race offered by the Nazi’s during the years prior to and including WWII.

Kuhn’s landmark work shows the scientist works within a conceptual paradigm that inadvertently influences their perception of the data they accumulate and how they choose to interpret that data. Considered one of the most influential books of the twenty-first century, Kuhn shows that new scientific knowledge is more or less a product of accident and theoretical crisis than any systematic attempt at developing new ideas.

This notion is also illustrated in Arthur Koestler’s “The Sleepwalkers,” wherein he recounts accidental discoveries as they unfold with Johannes Keppler, Galileo Galilee, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. Koestler makes no effort to detract from these achievements. Instead, he simply displays the linear line of reason a human mind follows. Illustrating how difficult it actually is for a mind to deviate from preordained paradigms.

Jonathan Marks identifies the cultural prejudices inherently built into scientific methods developed by scientists. Paul Feyerabend, a student of Popper, draws heavily on Kuhn’s work to undermine and expose Popper’s philosophical ideas about what science is, in his book “Against Method.” The point herein being, not that science is not useful for advancing human knowledge, rather, the goal is to clarify that science is an ideology. As with all other ideologies, science is not a bastion or pillar of wisdom independent of human error or prejudice.

This being the case, falsification is but one tool that helps develop criteria for the validation of human ideas. These scientific ideas are anthropocentric in context and do not necessicarily reflect any fundamental truths about reality, instead, they generate the ability for human beings to have a common origin in which to exchange ideas about similar information and place it within useful context. In this sense there is no most accurate model for advancing understanding, only systems and structures that enable human beings to develop more efficient methods at understanding themselves within the limitations of their own reality.

More about this author: Darrin A Yarbrough

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