Skip to comments.Logical Fallacies, Formal and Informal
Posted on 04/06/2003 10:12:13 AM PDT by Hank Kerchief
The concept of falsifiability is a greatly misunderstood but legitimate part of the scientific method (a rigorous application of reason to evidence). Consider this statement made as an objection to falsifiability, "Falsifiability can be a valuable intellectual tool: it can help you to disprove ideas which are incorrect. But it does not enable you to prove ideas which are correct." In fact, that is exactly what "falsifiability" does do, and without it, no scientific hypothesis can be proven.
In science, a proposed hypothesis is not considered valid if there is no experiment that can be performed that would, if the hypothesis is incorrect, fail. If such an experiment can be performed, and it "fails to fail," it is proof (or at least very good evidence) the hypothesis is correct.
No doubt the prejudice against this very useful objective method lies in the name, "falsifiability." It does not mean the scientist must attempt to prove a hypothesis false, but the very opposite. "Falsifiability," is the method by which a hypothesis may be proven true. It also does not mean that a hypothesis must be assumed correct until it is falsified.
The idea of falsifiability protects the field of science from being obliged to entertain as, "possible," any wild hypothesis on no other basis than it cannot be disproved. If a hypothesis is correct, there will always be a test or experiment that it would fail, if it is incorrect, which when performed proves the hypothesis correct by not failing (or incorrect by failing).
If no test can be devised for testing a hypothesis, it means the hypothesis has no consequence, that nothing happens or doesn't happen because of it and nothing depends on it being right. If this were not true, whatever depended on the hypothesis could be tested. There is absolutely no reason to entertain a notion that has neither purpose or consequence.
"But why not perform experiments to verify rather than falsify?" In fact, all experiments performed to test a hypothesis are attempts to verify it. If such a test could "pass" even if the hypothesis were incorrect, passing the test would prove nothing. Passing a test is only, "proof," if passing is only possible when the hypothesis is true, which means the test must fail (the hypothesis will be falsified) when the hypothesis is untrue. A test which cannot falsify a hypothesis, if it is incorrect, cannot prove it, if it is correct.
To say a hypothesis is not falsifiable means that it cannot be proved (or disproved), and, therefore, is unacceptable as a scientific theory.
It is very unfortunate that this concept is misunderstood by many who are otherwise quite rational and objective. The principle not only applies to science, but almost all complex or abstract concepts. The attempt to verify any conjecture by means of a method that cannot discriminate between those conjectures which are true and those which are false can never discover the truth. Only a method which distinctly demonstrates a conjecture is false, if it is, can verify those conjectures that are true.
The concept of falsifiability sweeps away mountains of irrational rubbish masquerading as science, philosophy, ideology, and religion. One question that must be asked about any doubtful proposition or conjecture is, "how can this be disproved if it is false?" If there is no way to test if the proposition is false, there are no rational grounds whatsoever for assuming the proposition to be true.
(Excerpt) Read more at hpamerica.com ...
Very simple: Try testing: "The laws of science are universally rational and applicable."
Science itself is based on the assumption that the universe is based on rational principles.
When you think about it, God alone could find such an assumption, or hypothesis, falsifiable.
This is very well stated.
Why not? In other words, how would you define a scientific belief?
Any definition would have to include the characteristic of falsifiability. Don't take my word for it; take Karl Popper's.
That's beyond clear. It is self evident. But the question "Does God exist?"is independant of God's existance or non existance. What is actually being discussed is the concept of God, not God. It is our concept of God that ends up determining our behaviour.
Petitio Principii. Again, I ask why?
Don't take my word for it; take Karl Popper's.
I'd rather reason through this than appeal to "authority". Many authorities disagree on this, so I would like to reason with you directly.
All right, reason it out. I propose as a "scientific" belief that all rivers have an invisible nymph that looks after the river. This is, in principle, something that cannot be tested. Now, you're a scientist, and you want to make your mark on the world by working on "nymph theory." Whatcha gonna do with this "theory"? What's your first move?
The article you object to names four criteria for objective science:
1. Theories must be falsifiable.
2. Theories must be able to predict.
3. Experiments must be repeatable.
4. Integrable and Non-contradictory. (Must fit and not contradict established science.)
Now, if you want to call evolution science, there is no objection, however, if that kind of investigation, which I think geology, and psychology, are similarly, "scientific," in the rigor and methods, but do not meet all the criteria of objective science above, then we are going to need a new term for those sciences which do meet the criteria. Maybe we could call all disciplines that are are scientific in their approach, and use as many of the criteria above as possible, science, but those sciences which meet all of the above criteria could be called pure objective science.
What I would object to is the suggestion that evolution, which cannot meet the falsifiability or repeatablility criteria, be classified as science in the same way organic chemistry's quantitative and qualitive analysis, which meet all the criteria, are, for example.
plusone asked: Can you devise an experiment to prove (or by its failure, disprove) the idea of evolution? If no experiment is possible, does that mean evolution is not a theory?
Technically, evolution is a hypothesis until it is proven with the above criteria, that is, until it is demonstrated to predict, be verifiable by experiment it can only pass if true (be falsifiable), and others are able to repeat the experiment. Cosmology, and all parts of astronomy dealing with the distant past suffer from the same limitations evolution suffers from. That does not make them less scientific, or less serious, but teir conclusions cannot technically be called theories (only hypothses) until proven by the above criteria. If we choose to call them theories, we will need another term for those hypotheses which have been proven by the above criteria.
The different groups were atheists/agnostics and various categories of Christians.
Really appreciate the extra effort, on your day of rest.
I think you're raising the issue of the distinction between the experimental sciences (physics, etc.) and the historical sciences (including but not limited to astronomy, geology, anthropology, paleontology, climatology, archaeology, criminology, cosmology and evolution). In another thread we've been beating the issue to death. You can pick up the discussion HERE.
So whatcha gonna do? If "social scientists" don't want to behave in a truly scientific manner, and accept the failures of their experiments, one must conclude that they aren't engaged in science at all.
What needs to be done is showcase their frauds. In essence their actions expose them as frauds. Their motives are not compassion and well-being for the public and taxpayers they serve. Their motives are vested self interest in maintaining their job security.
You've most likely reads this or similar. It seems an appropriate addition to a thread that discusses logical fallacies.
How is it that people and society in general have prospered and increased their well being for decades yet the politicians and bureaucrats say we must have another 3,000 laws and regulations each year... That without them people and society face "disaster". People and society have done quite well without next year's 3,000 new federal laws and regulations. Why all of a sudden can people and society not continue to do quite well without them? The fact is, they'd be better off without 99% of them.
So who really benefits from 3,000 new laws and regulations each year? -- not to mention state laws and regulations. Politicians and bureaucrats. They create boogieman problems and with a complicit media towing their boogieman problems cast a net of false fear and unwarranted despair in people.
Quite literally, they create problems where none exist. They're sick in that they chose to frighten people and foist false despair on them and do that to collect their unearned paychecks. Their job security is predicated on deceiving as many people as possible.
Voting for the lesser of evils always begets evil. How can so many people thinking they're right be so wrong?
Wake up! Politics is not the solution -- politics is the problem.
Who are the producers?
Who are the parasites?
Praise the value producers --
ostracizing the parasitical value destroyers.
I do not understand this kind of objection. For those who hold faith as something one believes "without rational evidence", why would it be objectional to call it irrational. It is exactly what it is. Irrational does not mean stupid or dumb, it means without a rational (reasoned from evidence) basis for one's convictions. (Of course all superstitions, stupid ideas, and dumb notions are irrational as well.)
(Note, we do not call what one believes based on rational evidence, "faith," we call it knowledge. It is only called faith when what is believed is not based on reason from evidence.)
Leo Strauss: May I ask you to let me know sometime what you think of Mr. Popper. He gave a lecture here, on the task of socioal philosophy, that was beneath contempt: it was the most washed-out, lifeless positivism trying to whistle in the dark, linked to a complete inability to think "rationally," although it passed itself off as "rationalism"--it was very bad. I cannot imagine reading, and yet it appears to be a professional duty to become familiar with his produtions. Could you say something to me about that--if you wish, I will keep it to myself.
Dear Mr. Strauss, The opportunity to speak a few deeply felt words about Karl Popper to a kindred soul is too golden to endure a long delay. This Popper has been for years, not exactly a stone against which one stumbles, but a troublesome pebble that I must continually nudge from the path, in that he is constantly pushed upon me by people who insist that his work on the "open society and its enemies" is one of the social science masterpieces of our times. This insistence persuaded me to read the work even though I would otherwise not have touched it. You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish crap. Every single sentence is a scandal, but it is still possible to lift out a few main annoyances.
1. The expressions "closed [society]" and "open society" are taken from Bergson's Deux Sources. Without explaining the difficulties that induced Bergson to create these concepts, Popper takes the terms because they sound good to him[he] comments in passing that in Bergson they had a "religious" meaning, but that he will use the concept of the open society closer to Graham Walas's "great society" or that of Walter Lippmann. Perhaps I am oversensitive about such things, but I do not believe that respectable philosophers such as Bergson develop their concepts for the sole purpose that the coffeehouse scum might have something to botch. There also arises the relevant problem: if Bergson's theory of open society is philosphically and historically tenable (which I in fact believe), then Popper's idea of the open society is ideological rubbish . . .
2. The impertinent disregard for the achievements in his particular problem area, which makes itself evident with respect to Bergson, runs through the whole work. When one reads the deliberations on Plato or Hegel, one has the impression that Popper is quite unfamiliar with the literature on the subject--even though he occasionally cites an author. In some cases, as for example Hegel, I would believe that he has never seen a work like Rosenzweig's Hegel and the State. In other cases, where he cites works without appearing to have perceived their contents, another factor is added:
3. Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Through this emerge terrible things, as when he translates Hegel's "Germanic world" as "German world" and draws conclusions form this mistranslation regarding Hegel's German nationalist propaganda.
. . . Briefly and in sum: Popper's book is a scandal without extenuating circumstances; in its intellectual attitude it is the typical product of a failed intellectual; spiritually one would have to use expressions like rascally, impertinent, loutish; in terms of technical competence, as a piece in the history of thought, it is dilettantish, and as a result is worthless.
It would not be suitable to show this letter to the unqualified. Where it concerns its factual contents, I would see it as a violation of the vocational duty you identified, to support this scandal through silence.
Quite well, actually, and very interesting. Will give it some thought before responding more fully.
My first move is to ask a simple question:
What evidence or warrant is there to suggest the invisible nymph is there?
It's not that the invisible nymph isn't possible. It's just that I am not inclined to believe such a nymph exists without something more than your statement concerning the matter.
Hank: I do not understand this kind of objection.
That's why I rephrased the assertion in the next sentence. Y'all are a bit wordy. My simple point was that faith-based religion doesn't lend itself to scientific analysis. Therefore, the non-falsifiability test isn't useful to debunk a faith-based religion.
Most people of faith that I know would no doubt see that statement as a "straw man". Many would say they believe with rational evidence or warrant.
Not sure I'm following you here. E.g., suppose you only "knew about" the primes 3 and 5. Multiplying them and adding 1 gives you 16, which is certainly dividable. (3x5x7)+1 is 106, etc.
Well, sure. Politics, hunches, intuition, socioeconomic background, religious prejudice (including atheism) all figure prominently in human activity - and science is a human activity.
All dogs are carbon based organisms.
All cats are carbon based organisms.
Therefore, cats are really just a kind of dog.
Nonobjective activity like politics, hunches, intuition is human activity.
Science is human activity.
Therefore science is just another nonobjective activity.
This is a formal fallacy called Illicit Major, and is documented here.
Thanks for warning me about those guys. This is a pretty basic error.
Sounds right. Is it that simple?
Consider whether all knowledge is of the same kind or not. tame thinks it isn't when he says people believe with rational evidence. That seems right. I shudder to think this reason thingy to be so totalitarian.
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