Despite all my rage I am still just a...

(A funny parable)
A Rat is shocked when he touches a wall with his nose and so he stops touching it. Why did he do this? One guess might be that the rat either thinks that (or uses a mechanism that relies on the theory that) the future will resemble the past; if he touches it again he'll get shocked again. Well that seems reasonable, but another person (a Popperian) suggests that perhaps the rat had a former theory about the wall that was just falsified (the wall will not shock me) and he has moved on to a new theory which is- by the sheerest coincidence, of course -"Don't touch the wall" instead of a million other unfalsified theories like "Touch it only with your ear and you'll be fine." Curious, they try it again and again and always the rat the touches the wall once or twice and then ceases to. The Popperian- his master's voice perhaps ringing in his ear- unfailingly exclaims "Why you see- the rats are simply holding their first "Wall won't shock me" theory tentatively, changing it to the next random unfalsified theory (coincidentally it's always "I shouldn't touch the wall") and then maintaining and acting on the new "I shouldn't touch the wall" theory."
A dialogue starts:

Achilles: Wow, so it looks as if he hits upon the correct theory quickly, and you think that's always a function of chance?
Popperian: WOAH WOAH! "Correct theory" you say? Nonsense- his theory that the wall will shock him is no more likely to be true than any other theory (save, perhaps for his falsified theory "The wall is okay to touch")
Achilles: Well but right there we can see the voltage running through...
Popperian: Voltage? (he tentatively licks the place where the wire and electrified wall meet, he's painfully shocked and draws back) eeeeggghhhh!
Achilles: (grabs Popperian) What in the hell do you think you're doing?
Popperian: Oh it's aww in a days wowk. From my random bed of unfalsified theories I drew "The wire/wall connection tastes of delicious chocalate and will not hurt you."
Achilles: Well which new randomly unfalsified theory have you settled on now?
Popperian: Oh, um... "That wall will hurt me every time I touch it and never touch it again."
Achilles: Do you believe that's more likely than not to be true?
Popperian: Why..., er, of course not. It's- by the sheerest of coincidences- the new theory I've settled upon from my stack of possible theories.
Achilles: Why not "The wall wire/connective area will give me a hand massage if I touch it with my hand"? Is your theory better than that one?
Popperian: Oh not at all, they're just two unfalsified theories. No better, no worse.
Achilles: Well give that one a try then- there's no reason to keep your present theory (it's no more likely to be true after all) how about switching?
Popperian: Oh, er, hmmm... Well, I'm not quite certain that it would be er, rational to do so.
Achilles: interesting, but you're certain that your reluctance to touch the area isn't because you think it's more likely than not that you'll be shocked?
Popperian: (indignantly) not in the slightest.
Achilles: You think that the "hand massage" theory is just as likely to be true as you theory that the wall will shock you?
Popperian: Of course {this guy needs to read some Popper, sheesh...}
Achilles: And that you, and the rat, and everyone else who would almost immediately adopt the theory that "the wall will shock you"- they are all doing by the most random of selections? Simply finding a new unfalsified theory and then, for no apparent reason, dogmatically sticking to it even though (as you say) it's no more likely to be true than any other?
Popperian: Well you see, any other way would be irrational.
Achilles: Well in that case I have to ask something. You're obviously quite skilled in ex post facto justification. But your theory, falsification: is it really falsifiable?
Popperian: ...

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He who laughs last...

The entire "dialog" was a strawman. Popperians don't believe the things you claim.

Your anti-popperian screed attempt reminds me much of creationists explaining how a purely random process could never explain how we ended up with things like trees and people and therefore evolutionary theory must be wrong -- the only problem, of course, is that no one ever claimed evolution was a purely random process.

I'm sure the dialog is funny to you, because you clearly don't understand Popper or Bartley. I suspect the folks at the new Creation Museum laugh uproariously at all those ignorant evolution believers, too.

the "reminds me" game

Because there 0 argumentation in that post, I'll have a little fun with it.


The entire "dialog" was a strawman. Popperians don't believe the things you claim.

Oh strawman, you say? Do tell... Is that when someone characterizes one argument A as implying or being similar to another argument B and then spends his or her time trying to refute argument B? Well that just sounds like a horrible arguing tactic! Surely someone who would engage in it would be like some manner of classless fool, no?

Your anti-popperian screed attempt reminds me much of creationists explaining how a purely random process could never explain how we ended up with things like trees and people and therefore evolutionary theory must be wrong --

My argument reminds you of another false argument? How delightfully curious. The resemblance is rather keen now that you mention it, almost like that of a scarecrow as compared with a man. I shall keep its likeness around, for fun.

the only problem, of course, is that no one ever claimed evolution was a purely random process.

Hey, woah, sir! Please; i said I want to keep this curious scarecrow around, and now you're attacking and beating it about the face with a broom handle? Why would you try and destroy this precious scarecrow you've constructed?

I'm sure the dialog is funny to you, because you clearly don't understand Popper or Bartley. I suspect the folks at the new Creation Museum laugh uproariously at all those ignorant evolution believers, too.

Sir, the Scarecrow has been rather destroyed, and by none other than the man who's created it (you.) I must say I'm puzzled. Nevertheless, I would be ungrateful if I were to refrain from thanking you, at least, for reminding me of how bad straw man arguments were.

Popperians Are Inconsistent, True

It's true that no Popperian really acts like the Popperian in the post -- but, per their own avowed principles, they ought to act that way. Of course, in daily life, they all use induction, all the time.

Or there would be no Popperians!

nice

You hit the nail on the head, Nick.

No Nick That Rat is Not Behaving as a Critical Rationalist

I've just read the post and the rat doesn't behave the way a Popperian (Critical Rationalist) would. When I get time, perhaps I'll write my own dialog. The arguments that Popperians use against Inductivists arguments don't reveal their own strategies for theory selection. 

The right thing to do is to believe that "This wall shocks".  Notice here that the both of you seem to think this was a case of the “use of induction”. That however is not the case. Falsification was used, not induction.

Before the rat saw this shocking wall he had no reason to change his beliefs about walls regarding shocking. He might not even have known about shocking. Having many past observations where something doesn't happen is not the same thing as actually holding to a theory about those things in combination. Sure I've never see a tree turn into a beaver but that doesn't mean that I actually bother to conjure up the theory "trees don't turn into beavers". I'd have no reason to. This is especially true if I'd never heard of a beaver. So if this is the first encounter with this wall there is no reason for the rat to have any theories concerning both walls and shocking.

To think otherwise is to believe that we have near infinite storage capacity in our brains. That is because if we don't rely on existing theory to guide us we can bolt our concepts together in a near infinite number of ways. I can invent the theory that my maple tree can turn into a beaver today, tomorrow, in the next second, on any particular day in the future, etc. I can invent the theory that it might turn into any of an near infinite number of other objects. I can imagine all sorts of other things too. The thing is that I am not actually holding that infinity of ideas in my head. Considered individually I can certainly reject them based on the beliefs I do hold about the way objects behave, but that doesn’t mean I hold actual individual beliefs about an infinity of theories.

So the inexperienced rat has no reason to consider the concepts of shocking and walls together before he sees them together (or considers them together for some other reason). <b>Now once the rat gets shocked he has a reason to consider the two together, and what he ends up doing is falsification and not induction. Once shocked he has a reason to consider theories about how walls behave with regard to shocking. For instance, he might come up with the possible alternative theories, "This wall shocks" vs. "This wall does not shock". Well it's obvious via falsification that "This wall does not shock" is a false theory since the single observation was a counterexample that falsified that theory. </b>

Induction doesn't help in this case, in fact it hinders. Falsification would immediately choose the slightly different theory "Walls can shock" over "Walls cannot shock" whereas induction without falsification has problems. If you've touched a thousand walls prior to getting shocked by this one wall then using probabilistic induction you might have to get shocked by the wall a thousand more times before you think the idea that walls have a 50% probability of shocking. Without touching the shocking wall again you would have to believe by probabilistic induction (and the inherent generalization that is a part of induction) that there was only a one in a thousandth chance of being shocked on the next touch of a wall.

Now you could claim "Well we are talking about this wall. I observed it once and it shocked me so the probability should be 100%". My answer to that is the rhetorical question "then how do you decide between the two ways of proceeding?" Even if you accept the theory that each of your observations are true I don't see how you decide which observations are relevant.. If you include all observations of walls you come up with an entirely wrong answer. If you restrict yourself to the single observation of “this wall” then you don’t have enough observations to exercise the purported basis for the validity of induction, repetition.     So I see no way to "use induction", although it is obvious how to "use falsification", to alter my beliefs.

That on the basis of an observation of a “wall shocking me” I don’t in turn alter my theories about walls turning into werewolves, or an infinity of other theories, is hardly surprising and has nothing to do with induction. The simple fact is that the observation is irrelevant to that issue. One cannot use the observation that a wall shocked you to decide whether walls can turn into werewolves or not.

Neither falsification nor induction can tell you whether it is absolutely true that the wall is going to shock you the next time you touch it. It might have been a static shock, or maybe the scientist turns off the apparatus at night. With falsification you can test whether it was static shock by immediately touching again and if you are not shocked that disproves the theory that "This wall always shocks" and is compatible with it being static shock. Being a critical rationalist you know that the idea is not to justify your beliefs but instead to test them. If you have reason to suspect that the scientist is turning off the grid at night when he's not there to observe well you can touch the wall at night to test that theory out.

If you had read and understood Popper you would know that falsification is only one aspect of critical rationalism. It's not so much a prescriptive as a proscriptive approach to things. It tells you what you shouldn't do so you can avoid error. One thing you shouldn't do is rely on induction because it doesn't work. It also tells you that you shouldn’t try to justify but instead you should try to criticize your theories. It’s not proscriptive because it doesn’t tell you what you how to come up with specific theory. The Theory of Relativity, is not a deterministic result of following the principles of critical rationalism any more than it is of “using induction”.

Did Einstein use induction to come up with the theory of relativity? Well of course not. Was Einstein privy to observations that other scientists weren’t? Of course not. If induction was a means to new theory then one would expect that the other scientists that were privy to the same observations as Einstein would have just immediately realized that Relativity was the answer. That obviously is not how science proceeds. The right answer doesn’t just flop out like a fish from the net of induction. This doesn’t even happen in this simple case of a shocking wall. Induction was not involved, but falsification was.

As to this all “theories are equally probable” nonsense let me have a few words. Critical Rationalist do not operate on the basis of believing that every theory is just as likely to be refuted as the next by any observation as this ridiculous dialog assumes. This equal probability nonsense it something Inductivists came up with to justify induction. They are the ones that are claiming that all theory is equally probable and that induction allows one to probabilistically decide between possibilities, not the Critical Rationalist. Induction is totally useless in this case. Making the observing “Well but right there we can see the voltage running through...” doesn’t rely directly on observation to decide as induction claims. No it in fact is basing a decision on prior accepted theory and a new observation. Prior accepted theory about how electricity works, that metal conducts electricity, etc.

So this entire dialog is a sham argument. It’s a straw man from start to finish.

BTW, I saw your comment where you claimed that I’m wrong because I belong to the cult of Popper, and that “most scientists believe in induction”. I hope you realize that both of those are not convincing arguments. The first is just ad hominem, and the second an unsupported statistic that would be “ad populum” even if it were true. I suspect it’s true of some sociologists and philosophers but do they really count? Kuhn is popular with sociologist precisely because he turns the investigation of scientific methodology into a sociological exercise instead of an exercise in reason and rationality.

I had a philosophy professor in college, Dr. Magania, that used to be really into Plato, Kuhn, Zeno’s Paradox, immeasurability, etc. precisely because it put religion on the same footing as science. He thought Popper was wrong. Of course, his doctorate was in Theology, not any hard science. I spent the entire semester pointing out to him things like the solution to Zeno’s Paradox, that Newton’s theory was a special case of Einsteins at slow relative speeds, etc. He never did work his way out of his fog. It doesn’t surprise me if Popper isn’t popular with philosophers either. Most people who understand the ideas of science would be attracted to doing science. Those interested in the dead ends of philosophy and religion would tend to be attracted to philosophy.

This is especially true if

This is
especially true if I'd never heard of a beaver. So if this is the first
encounter with this wall there is no reason for the rat to have any
theories concerning both walls and shocking.

But say you have had experiences with Beavers and Trees- why don't you use that theory? Because it would require "infinite storage capacity"? Well that sounds like a good argument against your theory, yeah, but why don't you- personally- hold that theory? After all, according to your beliefs that is 100% as likely or more likely than any other theory you presently have about trees.

and, just curious: in the initial state what's your theory about this wall? And what does "holding your theory tenatively" about the wall change in your behavior?

For instance, he might come up with the possible alternative
theories, "This wall shocks" vs. "This wall does not shock". Well it's
obvious via falsification that "This wall does not shock" is a false
theory since the single observation was a counterexample that falsified
that theory.

This part is absolutely key though. Why did you pick, as your example, those two choices out of a bed of other choices? I haven't read your whole post so it's still possible that you've understood a little of that dialogue but so far it's not looking good. The point, obviously is that there are so many other possible theories the popperian could pick and yet doesn't. If you can't overcome this objection then you should drop this. From the bed of all of the unfalsified theories how and why do you act on one and not another?

Induction doesn't help in this case, in fact it hinders.
Falsification would immediately choose the slightly different theory
"Walls can shock" over "Walls cannot shock" whereas induction without
falsification has problems.

How many times must I say this: my position has nothing to do with "induction without falsification"! In fact many of my points have been directed toward showing that insofar as one uses falsification one neccesarily relies on induction. That is to say you're again arguing my point for me it seems.

Neither falsification nor induction can tell you whether it is
absolutely true that the wall is going to shock you the next time you
touch it.

That's right. I'll cite some old quotes of mine if you'd like further evidence of this. I think I put this point pretty well 1 month ago. But what can falsification tell you about what's probably true about the wall?

As to this all “theories are equally probable” nonsense let me have
a few words. Critical Rationalist do not operate on the basis of
believing that every theory is just as likely to be refuted as the next
by any observation as this ridiculous dialog assumes. This equal
probability nonsense it something Inductivists came up with to justify
induction. They are the ones that are claiming that all theory is
equally probable and that induction allows one to probabilistically
decide between possibilities, not the Critical Rationalist.

I've got a good idea for how you could improve this paragraph: add at least 1 actual argument. On what basis do you assume one of your unfalsified theories is more likely true than another?

So this entire dialog is a sham argument. It’s a straw man from start to finish.

BTW, I saw your comment where you claimed that I’m wrong because I
belong to the cult of Popper, and that “most scientists believe in
induction”
.

Eh? http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22most+scientists+believe+in+induction%22&btnG=Google+Search