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What is "Falsifiability" and O'ism's view of it?

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(Note: This was split from this thread (link) in the Introductions sub-forum - softwareNerd).

Hm, welcome. Perhaps you can explain what it means to be a Falsificationist, for I have no clue what this means.

Sure. A Falsificationist is simply an individual who subscribes to the general principle of Falsification, which, broadly, states that any theory intrinsically impossible to be found false can not be considered a scientific theory. It is a mainstay of contemporary Western scientific thought.

Also, what do you mean by a "rational social platform," this doesn't sound to me like "a guide to live my life by," for the word "social" is in there. Elaboration would be much appreciated.

What I mean is some kind of rational philosophical basis that I might appeal to whenever I must make socially significant decisions, such as voting one way or the other during an election. Do I work to maximize the freedom of the individual? Do I put my interests first, or do I submit to a group for my own ultimate betterment? Et cetera. I need a general ideal upon which to orient socially significant right and wrong. Coming from a long history of nihilism, I have little grounding in this regard.

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The lip-service interest paid to "falsification" in popular accounts of scientific epistemology is unwarranted, and probably does more harm that good in shaping the conduct of scientific research. Sin

Thank you for the elaboration. So any theory that is inherently impossible to be proven false in any way is not a scientific theory? What sort of theory is it, then? Is it necessarily an invalid theory?

With regard to the rational social platform, perhaps you are approaching your study a little misguided having come from a nihilist background. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you are evaluating the value of a philosophy, to you, in the kind of politics it sets forth. Am I then correct in thinking that you have already solved the problem of arriving at an ethics to guide your own personal decisions, whether social or non-social? Have you considered the connection between the politics of a society and the ethics its citizens are guided by?

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Thank you for the elaboration.  So any theory that is inherently impossible to be proven false in any way is not a scientific theory?  What sort of theory is it, then?

An unfalsifiable theory. It could be any number of things in addition to that - it just isn't scientific. To use a common example, a Falsificationist might argue that Psychoanalysis is an ideology, as opposed to a scientific theory, because it cannot be falsified. You could probably regard Falsifiability a principle of exclusion in that it excludes theories from science, but does not subsequently categorize those theories further. The purpose is to distinguish between science and pseudoscience that potentially retards the scientific method by erroneously claiming to be science. Personally, my interest in the classification of theory also tends to terminate there.

Is it necessarily an invalid theory?

I don't think that a theory is necessarily invalid because it is unscientific, no. I do, however, strongly value scientific theory above nonscientific theory.

With regard to the rational social platform, perhaps you are approaching your study a little misguided having come from a nihilist background.

Well, it is possible that I am not seeing the issue clearly. I don't think it likely, but I won't rule it out.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you are evaluating the value of a philosophy, to you, in the kind of politics it sets forth.

I'm not. Any value judgements that I might make upon a philosophy in this case are not simply based upon the politics that it encourages. Actually, it would be the other way around; I would agree or disagree with a given political climate based upon my alignment with a background philosophy. In the case at hand, my lack of ethical direction when it comes to socio-political assertion (or non-assertion) is the impetus behind my search for a philosophy that underlies with such things. See below for further elaboration.

Am I then correct in thinking that you have already solved the problem of arriving at an ethics to guide your own personal decisions, whether social or non-social?

I completely lack such a system of ethics. I basically just restrict my behaviour to what is stipulated by the laws under which I live, and I only do this because I am forced to do so. I do not immediately see right or wrong in any action; beyond not doing what I am not allowed to do, I have been functioning largely on whim.

Have you considered the connection between the politics of a society and the ethics its citizens are guided by.

Yeah. The interplay between the two is transparent.

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Sure. A Falsificationist is simply an individual who subscribes to the general principle of Falsification, which, broadly, states that any theory intrinsically impossible to be found false can not be considered a scientific theory. It is a mainstay of contemporary Western scientific thought.

This is gibberish.

What you are literally saying here, is that for something to be scientific, you have to be able to prove it is false. Hence, all scientific knowledge is false.

If something is true, it is not possible for it to be false, hence it is not possible for it to be proven false. The opposite is also true: if something is false, it is not possible for it to be true, hence it is not possible to prove that it is true.

I think what you may be hinting at is that if it is possible for something to be true, then it is also possible for it to be false, which is a confusion of the difference between knowledge of a fact and the fact itself. Facts either are or are not, only your knowledge can exist in indeterminate states such as "possible" or "probable". This idea of falsification is an attempt to equate metaphysics with epistemology.

The term scientific here is also utterly undefined. What is the difference between a "scientific" fact and another kind of fact? Or do you merely mean to draw a distinction between scientific theories and other kinds of theories?

Scientific simply refers to a specific method of approaching questions, no more and no less; the method arrived at by reason and logic. Saying that non-"scientific" ideas can be equally valid means that you accept some means other than reason of understanding the world. What means would this be? Faith? Feeling? Linguistic Analysis?

You cannot be a nihilist and an Objectivist. Period. Unless you change your fundamental underlying view of reality, i.e. your metaphysics and your epistemology, you cannot hope to have any comprehension of the Objectivist ethics or politics. Your only option would be to try to apply two contradicting theories as dogma without integration or understanding, and you would fail.

So, if you do want to understand Objectivism more thoroughly, be prepared to chuck all the other junk you've accumulated.

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This is gibberish. 

What you are literally saying here, is that for something to be scientific, you have to be able to prove it is false.  Hence, all scientific knowledge is false.

Not exactly. A lot of scientists believe that in order for a theory to be scientific, there has to be some kind of test that will determine whether it's true or false. In essence, they are trying to deny God and other arbitrary theories the claim of being "scientific".

Unfortunately, this is a very primitive and inexact way of distinguishing science from non-science. It's a vague, failed attempt to identify the arbitrary as arbitrary.

Ayn Rand, in my view, did a far better job in stating that anything that is unsupported AND unrefuted by our current state of knowledge, has nothing to do with our knowledge, and is therefore ARBITRARY.

What Rei Chi calls "unfalsified", we would supposedly be calling arbitrary. And both of us, supposedly, are treating it the same way: by ignoring it.

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Not exactly. A lot of scientists believe that in order for a theory to be scientific, there has to be some kind of test that will determine whether it's true or false. In essence, they are trying to deny God and other arbitrary theories the claim of being "scientific".

"determine whether it's true or false" is utterly different from "unable to be proven to be false". As I said, things that are true cannot be proven to be false. (They CAN be proven to be true). So, it has to be either possible to prove it is true or possible to prove it is false, not unilaterally possible to prove it is false.

I don't buy into that whole Schroedinger's 50% dead cat thing. Either the cat is dead, or it isn't, whether or not you KNOW that the cat is alive or dead is a different story.

I.e. Metaphysics != Epistemology.

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What Rei Chi calls "unfalsified", we would supposedly be calling arbitrary. And both of us, supposedly, are treating it the same way: by ignoring it.

I would agree, with this exception: he isn't saying the "unfalsified" is arbitrary, but that the "unfalsifiable" is arbitrary.
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Maybe I'm the one equating metaphysics and epistemology, since I don't think the purpose of science is to generate an endless proponderance of theories, but to discover facts. Does falsification apply only to the intermediate theory stage, or also to the end product? If so, it's kind of a pointless statement; if it's not possible to prove something is false, it's not a theory any more!

So, Eran is right that this is just another way of hinting at the status of some things as arbitrary. A very goofy way.

I posit that this idea of falsification leads to the consideration of EVERYTHING as arbitrary, though. Any thoughts?

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You cannot be a nihilist and an Objectivist.  Period.

I agree - not that I have ever posited a reconciliation of Nihilism and Objectivism in the first place. As I mentioned in my very first post, Nihilism is something that I've recently discarded.

What you are literally saying here, is that for something to be scientific, you have to be able to prove it is false. Hence, all scientific knowledge is false.

No. I said nothing about any necessary falsehood. "All scientific knowledge" being rendered false does not follow from the falsifiability of scientific theory. Falsifiability is a potential.

If something is true, it is not possible for it to be false, hence it is not possible for it to be proven false.  The opposite is also true: if something is false, it is not possible for it to be true, hence it is not possible to prove that it is true.

Scientific theory is perpetually incomplete. A theory that is unfalsifiable can never be disproved or decisively challenged; it is posited such that it is intrinsically immune to reproach or expansion by way of the scientific method, and it is therefore unscientific. It looks like you are confusing theory based upon fact with naked facts themselves (but correct me if I am in error).

The term scientific here is also utterly undefined.  What is the difference between a "scientific" fact and another kind of fact?  Or do you merely mean to draw a distinction between scientific theories and other kinds of theories?

Considering the fact that I nowhere said anything about "scientific fact" or "non scientific fact," instead specifically mentioning scientific and nonscientific theory, I think that the answer to this question is self evident.

Scientific simply refers to a specific method of approaching questions, no more and no less; the method arrived at by reason and logic.

Right - and it is a method that depends upon theories that are falsifiable. Ergo, a theory that is not falsifiable is not part of the contemporary scientific method and should not be referred to as if it was.

Saying that non-"scientific" ideas can be equally valid means that you accept some means other than reason of understanding the world.

No. I was asked if I considered a theory to be necessarily invalid simply because it is unscientific. Saying that I do not does not mean that I "accept some means other than reason of understanding the world."

Unless you change your fundamental underlying view of reality, i.e. your metaphysics and your epistemology, you cannot hope to have any comprehension of the Objectivist ethics or politics.

[...]

So, if you do want to understand Objectivism more thoroughly, be prepared to chuck all the other junk you've accumulated.

I am genuinely sorry for all of the confusion that this post seems to have caused. That aside - I don't need to "chuck" any of the "junk" that I have "accumulated" simply to understand Objectivism. Comprehension is a simple process, and in this case it entails nothing but entertaining a neutral perspective while learning - allowing that perspective to be swayed by the new information. I do not find it even remotely challenging to temporarily or permanently disregard ideo-philosophical biases at will, in order to entertain what might be a diametrically opposing perspective for the sake of argument, or the analysis thereof, or the practice thereof.

I would agree, with this exception: he isn't saying the "unfalsified" is arbitrary, but that the "unfalsifiable" is arbitrary.

Correct. It is all important to note the massive, pulsating difference between "unfalsified" (or "false" for that matter) and "unfalsifiable".

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I posit that this idea of falsification leads to the consideration of EVERYTHING as arbitrary, though.  Any thoughts?

I Googled for "Principle of Falsification". It came up with a short explanation supposedly taken from the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The example cited was that "the existence of the demons" is not valid because there was no way to prove it to be false (a.k.a., to falsify it).

Definitely goofy (thank you, Jennifer, for the epistemologically accurate adjective) to say "no way to falsify it", when one means "no way to prove or disprove it".

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Definitely goofy (thank you, Jennifer, for the epistemologically accurate adjective) to say "no way to falsify it", when one means "no way to prove or disprove it".

One does not mean "prove or disprove" - one only means "disprove," hence "Falsifiability". As for online references, try this. At a glance, it is far more complete.

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...  any theory intrinsically impossible to be found false can not be considered a scientific theory.

I think that the problem we are having is that you are using the word "possible" to mean something different from what Objectivists mean by it.

Let me try to reformulate your principle without using "possible" and see whether you agree with it.

An experiment can be considered as having two phases:

1. the experimental setup or inputs; and

2. the measurement of the outcome.

Let us define the range of the outcomes of an experiment as the set of outcomes which has occurred with this setup or ANY OTHER SETUP.

A theory is scientific if it EXCLUDES at least one of the outcomes in the range for some experiment.

Is this what you mean?

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One does not mean "prove or disprove" - one only means "disprove," hence "Falsifiability". As for online references, try this. At a glance, it is far more complete.

Since it is technically impossible to prove a negative (to "disprove" something), this insistance on "disproof" is an epistemological tripper, as well. If you "disprove" something, what you've really done is prove the opposite.

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I think that the problem we are having is that you are using the word "possible" to mean something different from what Objectivists mean by it.

[...]

Is this what you mean?

Not really. Here is an excerpt from the wiki link that I posted earlier:

"A patient regarded by his psychoanalyst as "in denial" about his sexual orientation may be viewed as confirming he is homosexual simply by denying that he is; and if he has sex with women, he may be accused of trying to buttress his denials. In other words, there is no way the patient could convincingly demonstrate his heterosexuality to his analyst. This is an example of what Popper called a "closed circle". The proposition that the patient is homosexual is not falsifiable."

You can replace the word "possible" with "potentially" or "in principle" if you find it especially problematic. Otherwise, I am really at a loss.

Since it is technically impossible to prove a negative (to "disprove" something), this insistance on "disproof" is an epistemological tripper, as well.  If you "disprove" something, what you've really done is prove the opposite.

But it's not an insistence on disproof - its an insistence on potential disproof. And, unrelated to that, how is 'proving the opposite' not an example of specifically proving a negative in a question of true/false? One could uncover information that goes so far as to prove that a related theory is false, without simultaneously proving a countertheory (or "opposite"), which makes the only "opposite" involved a question of the truth or falsity of the original theory.

That asked, the terminology I used in the quoted post was purposely identical to the individual that I in turn quoted, for the sake of a more simple comparison. To be more specific, and to reiterate what I've said earlier, it is only a question of the ability of a theory to be disproved in principle. The opposite of Falsifiability - to potentially disprove - is Verifiability - to potentially prove. They aren't lumped together as you seem inclined to think, and Falsifiability really has nothing to do with the ability of a theory to be "proved." Many scientific theories are posited that cannot yet be completely proved because we still lack information. What they all have in common is Falsifiability - the distinction between scientific and nonscientific theory.

Edited by rei ichi
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One does not mean "prove or disprove" - one only means "disprove," hence "Falsifiability".
The lip-service interest paid to "falsification" in popular accounts of scientific epistemology is unwarranted, and probably does more harm that good in shaping the conduct of scientific research. Since you've disavowed your earlier nihilism, I'd urge you to take a long, hard look at these Popperian tendencies, since Popperianism is just a variety of nihilism dressed up in a lab coat. The proper and rational understanding of the good part of "falsificationism" is in terms of the need to distinguish things that you know (as expressed in a theory) from things that you don't know. Rational scientific conduct is based on the premise that you don't know everything, and the purpose of science is to find out the things that you don't know. Sometimes, unfortunately, when theories are set up, they aren't expressed very well, which leads to implicit claims that we already 'know' the answers in some domain, when we don't (various social science 'theories' have this flaw, in that you cannot even imagine an observation which is inconsistent with those 'theories', meaning that they don't actually distinguish reality from imagination).

Jennifer has correctly pointed out one of the fundamental flaws in Popper's emphasis on falsification, that "falsifiable" is being used by Popperians as a special term meaning something other than what it actually means. If theory is "unfalsifiable", that means it is not possible to show that the theory is false. If a theory is true, then it is impossible to show that it is false, and Popperian epistemology thus encourages evasion of truth rather than embracing of truth. The thing of value which Popperianism ostensibly embraces is that if you don't know the answer, you should try to find out.

I think I have to disagree with an implication of Eran's statement about the relationship between "unfalsified" and Objectivist epistemology. In Popperian (anti-)epistemology, arbitrary statements and true statements are indistiguishable, since a Popperian cannot know the truth -- they can only know that something is false. It also turns out that they cannot know that something is false either, which is what makes the cult of falsification be plain and simple nihilism, but that's a separate issue. An arbitrary statement is one which has no evidence in opposition or in support. But an unfalsified statement is one that simply has no evidence in opposition it. Popperians reject the concept of verifying a theory, so for them there is no distinction between true statements and arbitrary ones. I would hope that you don't make the error of equating the true and the arbitrary as the Popperians do.

The fundamental flaw of Popperian scientology is that it encourages embracing the arbitrary -- by refusing to distinguish between the true and the arbitrary, and by allowing unjustified arbitrary statements to have the same logical status as truths. Furthermore, a refutation requires that you posit a "known truth", namely the falsifier -- you have to say "this is a true fact, which shows that X is false". But Popperian logic does not allow you to assert that a statement is true, only that it is "unfalsified", that you don't know that it is false. Objectivist epistemology, OTOH, avoids the circularity of Popperianism by distinguishing the true, the false and the arbitrary (although for the purposes of scientific research, you also need to integrate these concepts with "certainty" and "plausibility").

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Falsifiability is an excellent scientific heuristic in my opinion. The naive falsification of Popper is generally discredited, but more sophisticated accounts have been given and I find them relatively convincing. It is only a heuristic though rather than a complete account - there are very serious problems with falsification (eg underdetermination) which mean it cant really be taken as the centre plank of science. Falsification emerged from a scepticism towards induction which isnt really warranted in such a strong form, and I strongly disagree with the "it doesnt matter where a theory came from - all that matters is that its here and we have to test it" aspect that goes along with some formulations. But then the problems in philosophy of science are exceptionally difficult to solve, so attempts should be interpreted in a somewhat charitable manner.

"determine whether it's true or false" is utterly different from "unable to be proven to be false".  As I said, things that are true cannot be proven to be false.  (They CAN be proven to be true).  So, it has to be either possible to prove it is true or possible to prove it is false, not unilaterally possible to prove it is false.

This is correct, but irrelevant here. A falsifiable theory is one which rules out certain events. It says, in effect, "if theory X is true then event Y cannot happen". This means that we can then go into the laboratory and try to produce Y. If we suceed, then we know theory X is false (this is a hideous oversimplification but you get the idea). Now lets say a person came up with some theory Z that is consistent with any possible observation whatsoever. There would be no way to show that this theory were false even if it actually were false.

Psychoanalysis is the classic example here. A man walks along the street and sees someone drowning. He jumps in to save him. The psychoanalysist says "Of course he jumped in - his childhood obviously predisposed him to care about humanity ". A second man in the same situation ignores the drowning man and walks onwards. The psychoanalysis says "thats to be expected - the man is probably repressing some hatred of mankind from childhood, pehaps he was sexually abused". In other words, psychoanalysis has no explanatory value. Whatever a human does, the psychoanalysist can claim it is consistent with his theory - there is no possible way to show it is wrong, even if it actually IS wrong.

Note also that unfalsifiable and arbitrary are very different. There certainly may be supporting evidence for an unfaalsifiable theory (eg there is supporting evidence for psychoanalysis), but unless it is possible to disconfirm it, it is scientifically worthless

Edited by Hal
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(various social science 'theories' have this flaw, in that you cannot even imagine an observation which is inconsistent with those 'theories', meaning that they don't actually distinguish reality from imagination)
It was the positivists and Popper that first pointed out these kinds of problems, so they deserve credit for that at the very least. 100 years ago, this kind of thing would not have been considered a flaw in those theories.

Jennifer has correctly pointed out one of the fundamental flaws in Popper's emphasis on falsification, that "falsifiable" is being used by Popperians as a special term meaning something other than what it actually means.
No. You might as well say that Objectivism is flawed because it uses the word 'selfish' in a way other than what it "actually" means. Most philosophies have technical terms, and 'falsifiable' is a technical term within the philosophy of science. You cannot seriously argue that a theory is flawed because it uses a word in a non-standard way.

If a theory is true, then it is impossible to show that it is false
This is a confusion of metaphysics and epistemology, as has already been pointed out. There are experiments which could potentially disconfirm a true theory (epistemologically), although it cant metaphysically be proven false (metaphysically).

Popperian cannot know the truth
This is an equivocation. There are a certain class of epistemological statements (universally quantified empirical observations) which Popperians claim cannot be 'known' in the same way that singular statements can. They do not however claim that we "cannot know the truth".

Popperians reject the concept of verifying a theory, so for them there is no distinction between true statements and arbitrary ones
This only applies to a very naive strain of falsification, which noone who supported the principle today would ever adopt.

It also turns out that they cannot know that something is false either,
If youre referring to Duhem-Quine, then I'd be curious how you would go about solving this problem. The problem of underdetermination applies to all theories of scientific practice, not just falsification.

Furthermore, a refutation requires that you posit a "known truth", namely the falsifier -- you have to say "this is a true fact, which shows that X is false". But Popperian logic does not allow you to assert that a statement is true
Yes it does, falsification only applies to universally quantified statements, there is no problem with saying that the outcome of an experiment (for instance) is true.

Objectivist epistemology, OTOH, avoids the circularity of Popperianism by distinguishing the true, the false and the arbitrary (although for the purposes of scientific research, you also need to integrate these concepts with "certainty" and "plausibility").

There is no Objectivist theory of science and Ayn Rand admits in IOE that she doesnt have a clue how to go about addressing the problem of induction or underdetermination, so lets not talk as if Objectivists already have a complete and convincing theory which others are rejecting. As I said, the problems in the philosophy of science are exceptionally difficult to solve. Edited by Hal
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You might as well say that Objectivism is flawed because it uses the word 'selfish' in a way other than what it "actually" means. Most philosophies have technical terms, and 'falsifiable' is a technical term within the philosophy of science. You cannot seriously argue that a theory is flawed because it uses a word in a non-standard way.
Objectivists use the word "selfish" to refer to what it refers to in standard dictionaries. The only difference is that we don't think that being selfish is a bad thing; connotations are irrelevant and are not part of the meaning of a word. Whereas, Popperianism has hijacked the word "infalsifiable" to refer to something different; they are not refering to unfalsifiablity when they use that expression. Of course the refutation of the theory does not come from their corruption of the word, but any arguments about Popperian epistemology which depend on the term "unfalsifiability" of course have to be evaluated in terms of what the word means, and not how they opt to use it. If you want to advance a Popperian argument which uses words correctly, such arguments can be considered and rebutted. If you're arguing that they have the right to redefine any word the way they want, that may be so but I hereby redefine "fraud" to mean "Popperian epistemology". Now let's procede.
This is a confusion of metaphysics and epistemology, as has already been pointed out. There are experiments which could potentially disconfirm a true theory (epistemologically), although it cant metaphysically be proven false (metaphysically).
This confuses epistemology and metaphysics. You appear to be creating a difference between "epistomologically true" and "metaphysically true". All truth is epistemological: the thing you should be thinking of metaphysically is fact. If something is true, it is not false and therefore can't be false.
This is an equivocation. There are a certain class of epistemological statements (universally quantified empirical observations) which Popperians claim cannot be 'known' in the same way that singular statements can. They do not however claim that we "cannot know the truth".
Such statements in science depend on so-called universally quantified statements. Show me a falsifier which isn't grounded in some universally quantified statement. Scientific instruments are the embodiment of universally quantified statements which are presumed to be true. Try thinking about what the act of measuring logically requires.
This only applies to a very naive strain of falsification, which noone who supported the principle today would ever adopt.

If youre referring to Duhem-Quine, then I'd be curious how you would go about solving this problem. The problem of underdetermination applies to all theories of scientific practice, not just falsification.

Well, if you're going to reject fraud (in the technical sense, which I explained earlier), more power to you. You'll notice that I never claimed that anyone in science actually believes such nonsense. Obviously, if we were to believe fraud, science would grind to a halt. The Duhem-Quine thesis is, properly understood, simply the epitome of Objectivist epistemology -- that evaluating the truth of a statement requires the non-contradictory integration of the totality of knowledge. The solution to the so-called problem ultimately lies in establishing a tighter connection between fact and conclusion, demanding more solid proof of conclusions before they are accepted as true, before they become a foundation that further experimentation is built on.
There is no Objectivist theory of science and Ayn Rand admits in IOE that she doesnt have a clue how to go about addressing the problem of induction or underdetermination, so lets not talk as if Objectivists already have a complete and convincing theory which others are rejecting. As I said, the problems in the philosophy of science are exceptionally difficult to solve.
First, there is no "problem of induction". Second, you should re-read what I said because your comments are not relevant to what I actually said. Third, OPAR ch. 5 supplies the bulk of what was missing from ITOE in terms of requirements for a philosophy of science. Fourth, if you read the writings of Objectivists on the topic of science, you'll probably be able to figure out what the "theory of underdetemination" is -- I hinted at it when I spoke of establishing a tighter connection between fact and conclusion.
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The whole falsifiable issue looks like a method of insuring that the burden of proof is can not misplaced in certain cases, but I'm no expert on the subject so I thought I'd look up some terms.

The first I took the liberty of looking up was "scientific theory" and found this:

scientific theory

n : a theory that explains scientific observations; "scientific theories must be falsifiable"

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Ok, it looks like falsifiability is directly tied in to modern science, and all of the quibbling will most likely be solved be examining the true meaning of falsifiable.

falsifiable

adj : capable of being tested (verified or falsified) by experiment or observation [syn: confirmable, verifiable]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Now I don't know who Popper is, but I am now able to peer through the above cloud of confusion, and my initial leaning seems to have been born out, at least in part.

Argument from ignorance is bound to happen if you talk to an "average" person about any sort of psuedo-science (UFO's being alien driven, god's existence, and many other topics), but this simple test (falsifiablility) insures that any "theory" that can not be tested (god is spirit, which means he can't be scientifically detected) is rejected out of hand for being unscientific.

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and probably does more harm that good in shaping the conduct of scientific research.

How, exactly, does Falsifiability do any harm to the "conduct of scientific research?"

Popperianism is just a variety of nihilism dressed up in a lab coat.

I don't know about "Popperianism" (we're only talking about Falsifiability here - it isn't some cult of personality), but Falsifiability is not anywhere close to Nihilism. Regarding it as such would be a gross and irresponsible misnomer, one which illogically extends well beyond the contemporary scientific function of Falsifiability. As applied to your post, it also serves as a straw man and is therefore doubly fallacious.

Jennifer has correctly pointed out one of the fundamental flaws in Popper's emphasis on falsification, that "falsifiable" is being used by Popperians as a special term meaning something other than what it actually means. If theory is "unfalsifiable", that means it is not possible to show that the theory is false. If a theory is true, then it is impossible to show that it is false, and Popperian epistemology thus encourages evasion of truth rather than embracing of truth.

No, no, and again no. Even a true theory can quite plainly be Falsifiable, which, as has already been mentioned several times, doesn't have anything to do with actually showing that theory to be false (and does not make it any 'less true' either); Falsifiability is a skeletal component - a property of the empirical structure of a theory - totally without regard to the topical specificity thereof. True or False are irrelevant here: Falsifiability regards the theory in principle and that is as far as it goes. This so-called "flaw" is sophistry.

An arbitrary statement is one which has no evidence in opposition or in support. But an unfalsified statement is one that simply has no evidence in opposition it.

"Unfalsified" is not synonymous with "unfalsifiable," which is the matter at hand. Whether a theory is "unfalsified" or not is absolutely immaterial to the subject.

Popperians reject the concept of verifying a theory, so for them there is no distinction between true statements and arbitrary ones.

Be sure to let me know when you next see one of these mysterious "Popperians." Until then, I'll be scanning the thread for on-topic debate specifically concerning Falsifiability.

Edited by rei ichi
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I don't know about "Popperianism" (we're only talking about Falsifiability here - it isn't some cult of personality), but Falsifiability is not anywhere close to Nihilism.
This is simply your "Falsifiability" theory -- I assume you've never actually read Karl Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery. That is the historical source of the contemporary fascination with "falsifiability" as the desideratum for scientific reasoning. You need to do a bit more reading in the philosophy of science. I recommend

Professor David Stove's works, especially his critique of Popper's irrational method. It may be that you haven't bought into the full nihilistic package that Popper is peddling; however, when you claim that you are a believer in Falsificationsm which is a "mainstay of modern Western scientific thought", then you must be referring to Popper's LSD, since that is in fact widely held to be "the standard" for contemporary philosophy of science. If you don't consider Falsificationism to be the same as Popper's (anti-)epistemology, is there some other source that sets forth the credo of Falsificationism? I'm assuming it's not a theory you made up yourself. So I'm just curious to see whether it really is different from Popperian nihilism.

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Of course I've read Popper's Logik der Forschung. Being a Falsificationist, however, no more makes one a "Popperian" than being an Objectivist makes one a Randroid, or being a fan of modern highways and their gently curving off-ramps makes one an Adolf Hitlerite. What you're doing amounts to nothing better than artificially broadening Falsification into "Popperianism" in order to launch offal at the simple concept from outside of its bounds. And now, instead of attempting to defend your indefensable comments, you instead evade the issue entirely. So then, in further response to your matrix-like evasion, my take on Falsification, as articulated above, certainly isn't something that I simply came up with. This is the orthodox scientific employ of Falsification whenever and wherever I have encountered it used as a division between scientific and nonscientific theory (which is everywhere that scientists make such a distinction). Besides Popper, if you're actually interested in scouring the dry tombs of original impetuses (not that such has bearing on the context of this discussion), you will also find Ernest Gellner, and still others.

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Besides Popper, if you're actually interested in scouring the dry tombs of original impetuses (not that such has bearing on the context of this discussion), you will also find Ernest Gellner, and still others.
Wow. If you're going to pick a bad philosopher to base your view of science on, you did an excellent job there. Not quite in the league with Kant, but much more au courant. An opponent of "the dictatorship of the free market", a thoroughgoing rationalist. Well, you haven't bothered to define this so-called theory of Falsificationism, and you haven't even given us the slightest indication that it is worthy of our interest, nor have you identified any specific work that sets out that belief system (and I'm certainly not going to spend the rest of my life reading the babbling of Gellner just to find out if he did say anything relevant to the topic). The fallacious nature of petitio principii has been known since, yes, Aristotle (en archei aiteisthai), so given how fundamental that principle is to logic, for a Johnny-come-lately neo-Popperian or Gellnerian religion to have anything to contribute to the discussion, there has to be something (1) new and (2) true. The part which is true, is old. You've presented nothing new. What I observe is that you're evading the point that the one theory that is known, Popper's theory which takes the impossibility of knowing whether a universally quantifies statement is true, is the only theory that has a legitimate claim to the name "Falsificationism". And it's nihilism.

Which part of Popper's nihilism do you reject? Or, what aspect of "falsificationism" do you advocate, other than the well-known Aristotelian recognition of the fallacious nature of petitio principii? I'm just looking for any evidence whatsoever that you are not a Popperian nihilist. All I am hearing from you is unsubstantiated denials -- evasion of the reality of your epistemology, it appears to me. Try replacing some of your deconstructionist verbiage with clear statements of philosophical reasoning: that might help make any latent point you have more accessible.

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It looks like DavidOdden and rei ichi are arguing completely different things. rei seems to define a falsificationist as someone who believes that for a theory to be scientific it must be falsifiable (which means that it can be tested not some bullshit that for it to be true it must actually be false!). DavidOdden is talking about the philosophy falsificationism, which I admittedly don't know much about. The first is simply how science works, the second is a philosophy.

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