Scientific Thinking LO21993

John Gunkler (
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 08:14:23 -0500

Replying to LO21982 --


Thanks for the thoughtful post. And you're absolutely right that you're
trying (and succeeding remarkably well, by the way) to rewrite the
philosophy of science.

I like your formulation. Let me just add one additional word on
"falsification" since you and others have been troubled by it.

Falsification is important not simply as a stage in scientific method. It
is also extremely important as a criterion for a theory being worthy of
consideration at all. (I believe this came from Karl Popper originally.)

The idea, oversimplified, is this: If someone proposes a theory (or any
statement asking for your belief), it must be "falsifiable." That is, in
principle, there must be some data/observations which, if seen, would
render the theory or statement false.

We get into trouble, often, with "theories" that can explain away any
observations or data. No matter what turns out to be the case in the
world, the theory will deal with it. This is what is meant by a theory
that is not falsifiable. And Popper, and others, would throw such a
theory out as unworthy of consideration.

Other philosophers of science have used a similar criterion but have
focused on the idea that to be worthy of scientific consideration a theory
must have "empirical content." This ends up being much the same idea as


"John Gunkler" <>

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