Popper's Universalist Vision

I'm usually not a huge fan of Karl Popper, if only because far too many libertarians continue to subscribe to his outdated philosophy of science, but this I like:

Popper regarded the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire as an unmitigated disaster and held nationalism, especially German nationalism, responsible. His response to the predicament of the Jewish liberal and progressive syntheses of German nationalism and cosmopolitanism was to reject both German and Jewish nationalism in favour of uncompromising cosmopolitanism. This was an extremely rare response. It required an individual to give up both Jewish and German identity. Such radicalism left Popper a permanent exile, a citizen only in an imaginary Republic of Science. He freed progressivism from ambivalence about nationalism ... but still inherited progressive dilemmas. He was just as impatient, as they had been with multinational diversity. As an anti-nationalist, he defended diversity in the strongest terms, but it existed almost by default, a result of humanity's failure to realise cosmopolitanism fully. Discounting all national, ethnic and religious identity as culturally primitive and politically reactionary, Popper posited a universalist vision of the scientific community and the Open Society where none of them counted.

~p. 53 of Karl Popper: The formative years

via Catallaxy Files

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"outdated philosophy of

"outdated philosophy of science"

I see. It's sort of like high fashion. It's no longer in style.

No, it's more like Newtonian

No, it's more like Newtonian physics. It was believed to be a true and accurate description of the way science works, but no longer. Science is just more complicated than that.

The complexity critique

Science is just more complicated than that.

This frustrating critique is frustrating common: "You're wrong because your model is too simple. But I'm not going to tell you what your model is missing, at least not in a clear enough way to help you improve your model." Yes of course almost all our models are too simple. We all know that; what we don't know is exactly what complexities we should be adding to our models.

I'm so original! :-)

This post wasn't meant to be

This post wasn't meant to be an in depth discussion of what was wrong with his philosophy of science, so I didn't discuss it in depth.

If you are curious enough to learn what his model was missing, and aren't just itching for a fight, I'm sure you are Internet savvy enough to do so on your own. Here's a few starting pointers: try Wikipedia, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Google.

But in a nutshell, what Popper's philosophy of science was missing was a sufficient emphasis on the human element; science is conducted by humans, not perfectly rational unbiased calculators; we are subject to social effects and cognitive biases, and we are skilled at redefining and reframing questions in a post hoc fashion so that we don't have to admit we were initially wrong about things.

Rejecting Popper

If you are curious enough to learn what his model was missing

I was deeply into Feyerabend twenty years ago. I'm not interested in the general question. I'm interested in what your problem is.

Analogy:

Isaac Newton: Gravity...

Micha: Obsolete!

Me: What do you mean? Newtonian mechanics is widely used. Are you rejecting that? If you want to know why it's widely used: it may strictly speaking have been superseded by general relativity etc., but for most applications it is close enough, and it's computationally much easier to deal with. Furthermore, physics students are generally taught Newtonian mechanics first, making it far from obsolete pedagogically. So the question is, what does your rejection amount to?

It was you who compared Popper to Newton.

Bad analogy. I didn't say

Bad analogy. I didn't say Popper was completely useless. I think the analogy to Newtonian physics was quite apt; Newton and Popper made progress on a difficult problem, their respective solutions are still useful as rough approximations of the truth, but people should (and far too many libertarians, at least in the case of Popper, fail to) acknowledge that there are some major limitations.

So the question is, what does your rejection amount to?

That falsification does not have the final word, that it is incomplete, and that people need to acknowledge that else they look like total rubes.

Good analogy, apparently

That falsification does not have the final word, that it is incomplete, and that people need to acknowledge that else they look like total rubes.

Ah, now we're getting close to the juicy center. But I am still having trouble imagining what specific mistakes you have in mind. Falsification is great even if it's not the final word, so if somebody goes on about falsification, he's just done something great. Under what specific conditions does that greatness transform into rubidity? You don't have to answer as this would probably involve you picking some libertarian as an example and attacking him, which is not everybody's favorite way to spend a Friday afternoon, but still, that's the question on my mind.

Under what specific

Under what specific conditions does that greatness transform into rubidity?

One of the main questions philosophers of science were trying to solve at the beginning of the 20th century was the demarcation problem; i.e. what distinguishes science from non-science. Popper's criterion of falsifiability was a major candidate for quite a while, until it wasn't. Those who think it remains so are mistaken. That doesn't make the criterion useless, but it does make it incomplete.

Application versus metaphysical claim

Here you seem to be talking about people who go around claiming that the very demarcator of science is falsifiability. Has anyone done that, and if they did, was it important?

You were specifically targeting libertarians, so I presume you were targeting people who applied the notion that falsification is a divider to politics. An application is not the same thing as a general statement. When I use a plastic cup to measure out a cup of flour, I am not asserting that my plastic cup is the very definition of a cup.

And even if I went around saying that my plastic cup was the very definition of a cup, that would not invalidate my use of the plastic cup to measure out cups of flour.

Has anyone done that, and if

Has anyone done that, and if they did, was it important?

Yes. See: the evolution/creation debate.

You were specifically targeting libertarians, so I presume you were targeting people who applied the notion that falsification is a divider to politics.

No. It's more of an unfortunate coincidence. Many libertarians have read Popper because of his political views, and his philosophy of science stuck with them. Unlike ethics and political theory, philosophy of science has made a lot of progress over the last few generations, and there is a much greater consensus (at least with regard to what previous philosophers of science got wrong) than there is in political philosophy.

And even if I went around saying that my plastic cup was the very definition of a cup, that would not invalidate my use of the plastic cup to measure out cups of flour.

If you are trying to make the analogy to falsifiability here, it doesn't work. Much of what we do (and should continue to) consider to be science in not falsifiable, and much of what is pseudo-science or non-science is falsifiable under certain conditions. Falsifiability can be a helpful criterion, along with other criteria (such as peer-review, consensus, respectability by others working in related fields), but it fails as a stand-alone rule of demarcation.

Analogy works

despite repeated challenges you have failed to come up with a single substantial error. An example with the cup would be trying to use it in the lab for exact measurements. In the kitchen it is good enough.

What?

"... much of what we do (and should continue to) consider to be science in not falsifiable, and much of what is pseudo-science or non-science is falsifiable under certain conditions."

What does that mean? "What we do?" Falsification is suppose to be used as a criteria for theory, and not applied just any old activity of science.

Why on earth would the fact that other things can be falsified count against falsification as a major criteria in determining what is NOT science. How does the fact that we can falsify the statement, "there is an elephant in the room" matter? Of course, it can be used in activities outside science. Big deal.

The claim that some guys from Georgia had bigfoot in a freezer was falsifiable and falsified. Was it science? No it was a hoax.

What's sad is that you think that is all there is to popper. It's like some guy thinking the theory of evolution merely equates to the statement "Survival of the Fittest."

Can you name a scientific theory that isn't falsifiable, and has something to say about the world? All consequences of a theory don't have to be falsifible, nor does the falsification have to actually be accomplished. It only needs to be possible in principle. If it's not possible in principle to falsify a theory in any manner then the theory does not have anything to say about the real world. It is compatible with any state of affairs and thus pretty much useless.

Like the theory "God did it." Which pretty much works whether the plane crashes or not.

Falsification is not suppose to descriptive of all activities of scientists.

What's sad is that you think

What's sad is that you think that is all there is to popper.

I sort of thought the original purpose of this thread was an acknowledgment by me that there is more to Popper than his flawed (but valuable!) philosophy of science.

The claim that some guys from Georgia had bigfoot in a freezer was falsifiable and falsified. Was it science? No it was a hoax.

It's been a while since I read Popper in the original and the scholarship responding to him, but for what ever it's worth, Wikipedia claims differently: "Popper claimed that, if a theory is falsifiable, then it is scientific; if it is not falsifiable, then it is not open to falsification."

This makes intuitive sense, though (at least from what I can remember from studying Popper a few years ago): if falsifiability is the sole criterion distinguishing science from non-science, then (falsifiable) theories regarding the existence of bigfoot, once falsified, are not unscientific, but merely falsified science. The category "unscientific" only includes those theories which are incapable of falsification.

Can you name a scientific theory that isn't falsifiable, and has something to say about the world?

I suppose it's best to quote the man himself, from the same Wikipedia entry:

Popper himself drew a distinction between common descent and the process of natural selection. While he agreed common descent was falsifiable (he used the even more drastic example of the remains of a car in cambrian sediments),[15] Popper said that natural selection "is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme".[16] However, Popper later said "I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection, and I am glad to have the opportunity to make a recantation."[17] He went on to formulate natural selection in a falsifiable way and offered a more nuanced view of its status. He still felt that "Darwin's own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test." However, "[t]here are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as 'industrial melanism', we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were. Nevertheless, really severe tests of the theory of natural selection are hard to come by, much more so than tests of otherwise comparable theories in physics or chemistry."[17]

Popper changes his mind

"Popper later said "I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection, and I am glad to have the opportunity to make a recantation."

Oops, can't use that one as an example, can we. You'll have to find another. Takes a big man to admit when you've made a mistake and Popper did. He came up with the right theory, misapplied it for whatever reason, and corrected himself.

Perhaps you are unaware but one of the main supporting arguments for natural selection as a theory and against creationism and ID is explicitly the fact that natural selection is falsifiable.

Biologists have come up with plenty of new ways to falsify the theory of natural selection. I think the difficulty for Popper is that he was unfamiliar with natural selection. He probably worked on his ideas with a subset of the sciences, like perhaps physics, and then tried to apply it more widely. That falsification does correctly categorize the Theory of Natural Selection without having been specifically crafted to include it says good things about it's robustness and wide applicability.

Note that changing ones mind is completely compatibile with Poppers philsophy also. So he ain't a hipocrite.

Bigfoot, wiki and Popper

Wikipedia claims differently: "Popper claimed that, if a theory is falsifiable, then it is scientific; if it is not falsifiable, then it is not open to falsification."

We'll Wikipedia is wrong sometimes. Did you misquote wiki because that sentence makes absolutely no sense.

I followed the link and see you did not misquote.

Demarcation is more sophisticated than you've been lead to believe.

I've read a couple books by Popper and his students. I've read original Kuhn back in high school. I've only read Putnam via third party sources, or short original articles by Putnam.

"If falsifiability is the sole criterion distinguishing science from non-science,"

It's not the sole criterion. It's a new one in addition to some already established ones, but it's very important and non-obvious. It also rejects one of the older criteria, induction.

Heck he wiki article even says:

Popper uses falsification as a criterion of demarcation to ...

It doesn't say "sole criterion", but says "a" criterion.

Therefore your use of 'then' does not follow:

"then (falsifiable) theories regarding the existence of bigfoot, once falsified, are not unscientific, but merely falsified science."

I was speaking to a specific example of stuffing a bigfoot costume into a freezer. Which would be an attempt to decieve. Which disqualifies it as science and qualifies it as a hoax. Science isn't about willful deception. In the case of the Piltdown man the hoaxer was not doing science, while the victims were doing science and eventually uncovered the hoax.

"In 1923, Franz Weidenreich examined the remains and correctly reported that they consisted of a modern human cranium and an orangutan jaw with filed-down teeth. Weidenreich, being an anatomist, had easily exposed the hoax for what it was. However, it took thirty years for the scientific community to concede that Weidenreich was correct."

See how consensus works, not so good sometimes.

Regarding the existence of bigfoot, you are correct in that it is entirely possible to have a scientific theory about bigfoot that is merely falsified science. Common bigfoot theories don't proceed in this fashion, the fail Popper's "ad hoc" test of falsifiable theories. Yes, there's more to it than you quoted.

I just had the thought that the wiki article would have at least mentioned "ad hoc" in passing. I peeked at the wiki article and it was more complete than you let on. You are not even fully reading what you are quoting.

"Popper drew attention to these limitations in The Logic of Scientific Discovery in response to criticism from Pierre Duhem. W. V. Quine expounded this argument in detail, calling it confirmation holism. In order to logically falsify a universal, one must find a true falsifying singular statement. But Popper pointed out that it is always possible to change the universal statement or the existential statement so that falsification does not occur. On hearing that a black swan has been observed in Australia, one might introduce the ad hoc hypothesis, 'all swans are white except those found in Australia'; or one might adopt another, more cynical view about some observers, 'Australian bird watchers are incompetent'."

I see this statement too:

"The Popperian criterion excludes from the domain of science not unfalsifiable statements but only whole theories that contain no falsifiable statements;"

Think about that in relation to your statement:
"much of what is pseudo-science or non-science is falsifiable under certain conditions."

The pseudo-science of bigfoot is excluded because it's ad-hoc. No matter how much falsification is done they just change their theory. Point out that a plaster cast has the wrong geometry for a properly functioning toe, and the claim will be made that the bigfoot who made the foot print in question had a broken toe.

"The category "unscientific" only includes those theories which are incapable of falsification."

Yes, and one can accomplish that by making ones theories 'ad hoc'. The theory then sounds falsifiable but the proponent changes his theory to avoid the falsification. A proper scientist accepts that Newton was falsified, and doesn't claim that Newtons theory includes Einsteins. It doesn't.

Note that Popper is not arguing that scientists don't come up with 'ad hoc' theories. Just that when they do, like Skinner did, they don't say anything about the real world in the way that 'real' science does.

The problem with ad-hoc theories is that they are never actually "tested". The latest revision hasn't really survived any trials, and in many cases ends up being less compact with each iteration, and thus saying less and less about the world. Popper covered this. He didn't use the word 'compact' and I don't recall what word he used. The idea is that "all swans are white" is more compact than "all swans are white except ones from russian, and austrialia, and oops now south america."

You are really playing tricks if you call your theory the "White Swan Theory" and then revise that theory to include black swans once they are discovered. Better to say the theory failed and come up with a new theory, perhaps "All swans of species X are white".

Note that Popper was being more proscriptive than descriptive. That's another mistake some of his critics make. He was trying to get at what should count as science also.

BTW, Popper proved in a Nature article that induction is impossible in a novel way. Specifically he proved that the "induction" part plays no role in determining probability from observation. That's not to say he claimed you can't estimate probability from observation but only that it accrues to deduction and not induction. See footnotes 22 and 23 here.

I've never proceeded from induction and I really think that its something one has to learn. No one thinks their floor is going to turn to werewolves when the wake up in the morning. Doesn't even cross your mind. It takes some philosophizing to get yourself in that position, or at least listening to a philsopher.

I remember as a kid I had an ant farm and it wasn't doing too well. I placed some ant eggs (and pupa) in the farm as additional food. Well, I forgot about it for a week or so and next thing I know it's thriving. Not from the food aspect but because the ants raised the eggs and pupa from the other species. I theorized, as a five or six year old, that the ants somehow thought the babies were family if young enough, and I had experienced mixing ants of different colonies.

Eventually all the original ants were dead and only the ants from the raided colony were left. That gave me an idea to test my 'theory'. So I took some adults from the original nest. Well they fought. So for some reason, yes, if not raised together they fight.

On my theory I then thought it would be cool to impress my freinds that I had "tamed the ants". I then took eggs from a bunch of different species and put them in. Which resulted in a farm with all different kinds of ants coexisting in peace.

None of this was based on 'induction'. I didn't make multiple observations and somehow determine probabilty, etc. My mind was already theory rich at that point. I had believed that ants from different colonies always fought because they 'knew' their own kind. My experience with the eggs falsified that theory and made me consider other possibilities. Possibilities that were compatible with what were fundamentally different observations.

One can't induce from "fight, fight, fight, friendly" to anything. One has to consider and eliminate possibilites at that point using a process of guess and elimination. I didn't figure out why either. I only figured out some conditions where it worked or didn't work.

It also never crossed my mind that the sun was going to rise again the next day because of 'induction' but that's another story. In that case I also moved from one theory (understanding) of the sun to the next. Believe me I was quite upset when I found out the sun was burning out in 6 billion years as a young child.

I don't think the human

I don't think the human element is the strongest criticism of Popper one could make.

Yes, scientists are not perfect and subject to biases--but did Popper ever deny that? I honestly don't know, but I doubt it: Popper was quite responsive to criticisms and I doubt he would have revealed such an easy target. Nor is that imperfection fatal, or even relevant, to the falsifiability criterion (perhaps it's an argument against some other tenet of Popperian philosophy I don't know).

The stronger argument is in the last sentence of your comment. Peter Singer elaborates thus:

There is an objection to [the idea that we should proceed in science by looking for refutations], urged by both Hilary Putnam and Thomas Kuhn in their contributions to The Philosophy of Karl Popper; it is always possible to deny that a theory has been falsified by an observation that at first does seem to falsify it. One can deny, for instance, that the reported sighting of a black swan was authentic; or one could say that if the bird was black, then by definition it just wasn't a swan, no matter how much it resembled swans in other respects. In general, scientific theories are not tested in isolation, but in conjunction with other assumptions; therefore it is possible to save the theory, and explain away an observation that contradicts it, by claiming that one of the other assumptions was at fault.

Popper has not overlooked this objection; indeed, he mentioned it in his earliest writings. His reply is that as a methodological rule we should avoid "immunizing" our theories in this way, although he admits that there will be times when it is worth trying to preserve a theory despite anomalous observations.

What Popper says on this point is hardly precise, and perhaps for that reason it may not satisfy his critics; at the same time, Popper warns against the search for precision in places in which it is not to be found. We must allow ourselves to be guided by the circumstances of each case. In this way, Popper is able to retain his central point; the asymmetry of verification and falsification.

The objection was indeed already covered

"Popper has not overlooked this objection; indeed, he mentioned it in his earliest writings."

So the question is, why bring it up? In fact, if you truly understand Popper it isn't really that strong of an objection. Popper is not a justificationalist nor a foundationalist. He holds that ALL knowledge is tenative. There is always the possibility of mistake and we should hold all beliefs tentatively. So sure we might just be mistaken that we saw a black swan. What should the response be in that case? Look for more black swans. That's exactly what scientists do.

For example, I could claim that cold fusion is impossible according to my theory x. You could falsify it by producing a cold fusion reaction. I could counter that it was a mistake on your part and that your cold fusion reactor wasn't truly working. Then at that point the reaction should be to try to reproduce the results. If you can't and no one else can then my objection that my theory X was not truly falsified should be (tentatively) accepted.

That, of course, is only part of Poppers philosophy.

So the question is, why

So the question is, why bring it up?

I can't speak for Putnam and Kuhn, as I have not read the piece of theirs Singer refers to. I imagine their response is: because Popper's response to that objection isn't satisfactory. To mention is not necessarily to answer. But that's guesswork.

Satisfactory

Yes, and my guesswork would be that they consider it unsatisfactory precisely because it's not foundationalist, or because they hold to the belief that "true" knowledge is diaphanous and invalid unless it precisely models the real world.

But let me not guess and go out and do a quick search because frankly I haven't memorized every philosophers take on falsification.

Kuhn: "According to Kuhn, it is the incompleteness and imperfection of the existing data-theory fit that define the puzzles that characterize normal science. If, as Popper suggested, failure to fit were grounds for theory rejection, all theories would be rejected at all times. "

This objection just shows a failure to read Popper properly. Popper in fact claimed that scientific theories were in fact all false in this strong sense. Being models they are never precise in the sense Kuhn desires. This doesn't mean they are falsified if they are not intended to be so precise.

I don't think Putnam understood what falsification is because he claims that Newton's theory of gravitation is not falsifiable. Which is nosense. If tomorrow the moon lowered to within five feet of the earth hovered there and then rose back up into it's original orbit it's pretty clear that Newton would be falsified. In fact, it is generally accepted that Newton's theory is falsified, because it fails to take into account the effects of relativity.

Putnum does exactly what I predicted. His criticism rests on falsification not being foundationalist. However, it was never posited as a foundationalist theory.

Some people understand and some don't. Many, many, philosophers have their heads screwed on wrong and that's precisely why scientists don't take them too seriously. Nothing satisfies some philosophers so it's quite silly to make that ones goal.

I note that your summary of

I note that your summary of Kuhn's position does nothing to tar him as a foundationalist. Nor does he appear to desire the unattainable precision you accuse him of--which would be silly. But if you have other evidence, feel free to present it.

Googling around for thirty seconds, from what I can tell Putnam's point is that the theory of gravity is unfalsifiable given that facts not agreeing with that theory can always be blamed not on the falsity of gravity but on one of the auxiliary beliefs that are used in conjunction with testing that theory. Which is of course the original point that Singer referred to.

Or, to use your example, I believe Putnam would say that, should the moon fall within five feet of the earth and rise back up, one could always save the theory of gravity from falsification by attacking one of the auxiliary beliefs--one could blame the observation of the yo-yoing moon on bad optics, or mass delusion. One could hypothesize some gigantic engine on the far side of the moon that suddenly pushed very hard, and then started sucking. Whatever, the possibilities are endless.

I don't think you are denying or can deny this point, so accusing Putnam of not understanding falsification seems a bit premature (moreover, as a methodological rule, one should not blithely accuse experts in a field of being idiots in that field's subject matter).

That's a foundationalist argument

You complain about me tarring Kuhn as a foundationalist and then you give a foundationalist objection to my moon example. Yes, that is exactly what I would expect Kuhn to argue, and it's a foundationalist argument.

Nothing new

... and BTW an argument that Popper had already dealt with satisfactorily. To those who had understood and accepted Poppers original argument this is nothing new. He went into this in great detail.

Misreading

If the objection to the moon example is foundationalist--which I see no need to accept, as a mass delusion or mysterious lunar-propulsion engine could fit within a coherentist epistemology--one should note I used it as an illustration of Putnam's beliefs, not Kuhn's, which is obvious in my comment. Nor did I say Kuhn wasn't a foundationalist--he may be for all I know--all I said was that your quote said nothing in support of that assertion, as you claimed.

As to your other comment, its sheer length and tone say more than anything I could say. I say that your quote about Kuhn did not say what you said it did. You do not seem to deny this, but instead rattle off apparently fifty years worth of anecdotes about Kuhn's reputation--not addressing my original point. All you say may well be true--I'm no great student of philosophy--but three obvious misreadings so far in this thread, one of Kuhn, one of Putnam, and one of me, and a lengthy non-responsive rant riddled with invective--"laughingstock" and constant use of scare quotes around anyone who dares to disagree with you--does not inspire confidence.

More Popper, Kuhn, Putnam

I used scare quote around "paradigm shift" specifically because it's laughable.

The idea that science progresses because the old scientists die off is also laughable. If you brought Darwin back to life and he got to go over what has transpired since he died I am sure he'd change his mind on a lot of scientific questions. Same with Newton, Einstein, etc.

If the fact that I make mistakes like typing Putnam when I meant Kuhn or vice versa while making these comments doesn't ispire you then there isn't much I can do about it. I have a tendency to be interrupted while posting, I don't generally proofread, and yes sometimes I write one word or name when I meant another.

Do you understand that there are very many individuals that are respected in their fields who are full of it on certain topics. Sometimes on the very topics that made them famous.

As an example watch this video presentation by Barry Schwartz. Here's my take on the idiot.

Since you feel I need to address your argument specifically I will Fisk your comment.

"If the objection to the moon example is foundationalist--which I see no need to accept,"

The objection is foundationalist for the reasons I outlined in the other comment. The criticism being that there is no end to possible objections and counter objections. Welcome to Poppers world, that was exactly his point. This is why he says that all scientific theories are tentative. Popper wallows in the fallibility of humans. Seems silly to take that point and try to turn it around on him.

The argument is complaining that falsification doesn't guarantee termination at some end point. That's a foundationalist expectation. Popper doesn't share that expectation and goes into great length as to why.

"as a mass delusion or mysterious lunar-propulsion engine could fit within a coherentist epistemology--one should note I used it as an illustration of Putnam's beliefs, not Kuhn's, which is obvious in my comment."

I just got done with a prior comment in which I was the one who brought this up in connection with Putnam. What is more likely, that I merely misspoke or that I had absolutely no clue what you were talking about?

"Nor did I say Kuhn wasn't a foundationalist--he may be for all I know--all I said was that your quote said nothing in support of that assertion, as you claimed."

In this case I did misread your first sentence. Actually I couldn't make sense of why you said because you also misunderstood my point. You said, "I note that your summary of Kuhn's position does nothing to tar him as a foundationalist." But my point was that Kuhn was treating Poppers theory as foundationalist and criticizing it in that light, not that he was or was not a foundationalist. One can argue against something on "foundationalist grounds" without being in fact a foundationalist.

Not being able to make sense of it I thought you meant to say, "I note that your summary of Kuhn's position does nothing ,[but] tar him as a foundationalist." That seemed a much more reasonable interpredtation than what you calm you meant because you used the word "tar" and not "establish".

"As to your other comment, its sheer length and tone say more than anything I could say."

It's pretty short given the subject matter. The tone is set by the fellow Micha, who claims "that people need to acknowledge that else they look like total rubes." I don't think people who spew ignorance about Poppers theories should really get into that.

"I say that your quote about Kuhn did not say what you said it did. You do not seem to deny this, but instead rattle off apparently fifty years worth of anecdotes about Kuhn's reputation--not addressing my original point."

Not sure what you are on about here. I don't deny what about Kuhn? Do you mean Putnam? I quoted Kuhn and then die not recharacterize what he said at all. I just claimed that he misunderstood Popper. I did so by summarizing some Popper.

"All you say may well be true--I'm no great student of philosophy--but three obvious misreadings so far in this thread, one of Kuhn, one of Putnam, and one of me, and a lengthy non-responsive rant riddled with invective--"laughingstock" and constant use of scare quotes around anyone who dares to disagree with you--does not inspire confidence."

Explain why you think I misread Kuhn and Putnam and perhaps I'll entertain that I did.

The rant was in fact responsive. Responsive to this claim: "moreover, as a methodological rule, one should not blithely accuse experts in a field of being idiots in that field's subject matter" I quoted it right at the beginning of the comment so I don't see how you missed it. There nothing 'blithe' about my accusing them of misreading Popper (not accusing them of being idiots). After you posted your statement I then presented some of Kuhn's views that would tend to undermine him as being any kind of "expert in the field".

You had several insults in your comment and you are insulted that I gave you a little rant. You asserted that I was being "blithe" and then falsely claimed I called them "idiots" when I was actually more polite about it. Do you think that I should always be calm in the face of people are fairly ignorant of a subject that I have read deeply into basically accusing me of being ignorant.

What should give you pause is that there are several "experts in the field" that are arguing certain points and at the same time essentially calling each other "idiots". Althought I didn't outright call Putnam and Kuhn idiots, like I did with Barry Schwartz, I was implying that they had not understood something. That's just a fact however, they didn't.

Are you aware that Popper mathematically proved via probability theory that induction doesn't work?

I highly recommend that you read some Popper if you want to get a better understanding of how scientists really think about these things. You'll then understand why the are on about how a certain experiement is being run to 'test' Einsteins theory of relativity. What they absolutely do not mean is that they are going to make one more observation to add to a pile of observations that are congruent with relativity. What it does mean is that they specifically went out of their way to devise a test that would falsify relativity if it were successful. They've all failed to falsify relativity.

If you listen to Putnam or Kuhn, supposed experts on scientists, well you just wouldn't know why the scientists were all excited about this particular test. You wouldn't know why Einstein specifically scoffed at the idea of consensus in science.

You'd actually entertain the notion that science progresses because the old scientists die off. I guess that might sound plausible to someone who didn't know much about the subject, like a philosopher. Some philosophers actually bothered to learn something about science first, and not from the viewpoint of a gossip columnist.

Yep, I'm being snarky but frankly these guys did a lot of damage to popular understanding and they deserve some snark.

Yes, I still haven't fully addressed that original comment about the moon. Do you want me to continue. I think Bartley would be a better read. Try his book "The Philosophy of Karl Popper". It actually improves upon the original, Popper.

The idea that science

The idea that science progresses because the old scientists die off is also laughable. If you brought Darwin back to life and he got to go over what has transpired since he died I am sure he'd change his mind on a lot of scientific questions. Same with Newton, Einstein, etc.

You clearly have a strong grasp of the mechanism behind Kuhn's argument. Wacky sci-fi scenarios make for accurate analogies every time.

Did you graduate from the "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" School of Logic?

Some philosophers actually

Some philosophers actually bothered to learn something about science first, and not from the viewpoint of a gossip columnist.

You do realize that Kuhn had a doctorate in physics from Harvard, don't you?

Kuhn

"moreover, as a methodological rule, one should not blithely accuse experts in a field of being idiots in that field's subject matter"

Let me explain something to you. I'm fifty years old. Many of these objections I heard and examined in detail over thirty five years ago. I recall them as being based on misreading Popper at the time. I don't recall all the details or names often because I don't hold the people involved in very high esteem.

Some of them like, Kuhn, were actually laughing stocks within the scientific community at the time I was going through college. Kuhn's concept of the "paradigm shift" was widely derided in the scientific community as a laughable interpretation of the scientific process at the time I was going through college. I still think it is laughable.

Of course Kuhn was popular at the time with some but so was biorythms. He was also used to deride science by those who had problems with science. There was no need being met by his theories inside the scientific community and the spread of his nonsense was actually happening outside that community.

Within the science classes the actual scientists were using how the move from Newton to Einstein was NOT a paradigm shift in the sense Kuhn meant. In fact I remember specifically my teachers showing how the formulas of Einstein collapse to Newton's when you assume objects traveling much less than the speed of light.

I'm sure this stuff was popular in philosophy class however. Of course, the couple of philosophy classes I took were spent explaining why science was full of holes and trying to elevate religion (and philosophy) to the same level as science.

Science recognized and accepted many pragmatic issues about knowledge, humans, etc. and just worked within those restrictions long before philosophy ever caught up on those issues.

What I also find hilarious is those philosophers and "scientists" who approach science as a sociological project. Constantly and repetitively they fail to understand what it is about science that makes it so powerful, its kernel, and instead focus on trivialities.

Kuhn's analysis of the switch from Newton and Maxwell to Einstein focuses issues you'd expect to hear over a gossip fence instead of what actually intellectually convinced people. Science is after all an intellectual endeavor and not a popularity contest. At least for those scientist who are actually 'following the rules'.

Now it's certainly clear that science can be politicized, corrupted, etc. but that is not what science is 'about'. When science does indeed break down into a popularity contest then those operation on that principle are no longer doing 'science'.

Kuhn held that it was a misinterpretation of his views that they support relativism in belief systems. He claims instead that science through this comples social process always replaces the old paradigm with a better one. This is in fact wrong. The implications of his ideas are the exact opposite and the relativists are correct. Viewed from a social perspective it is entirely possible for science to run off the rails.

When the process becomes not about intellectual rigor and about concensus that is when it is no longer science.

In fact we are witnessing this right now in the area of climatology and it is precisely because of a rejection of Popper and the acceptance of a different standard of methodology that this is happening. It's pissing off a lot of scientists who still love science as an intellectual exercise, instead of a popularity contest.

I have a very deep disrespect for most philosophers and 'historians of science' when it comes to properly describing the process of science. Many view Kuhn himself as revolutionary in his recognition that science wasn't a gradual process. It was supposed to be an epiphany. Meanwhile when I first hear of this 'theory' I (and scientist I knew about) was suffering from any such notion.

This is very similar to an objection Dawkins had to Goulds "punctuated equilibrium". His point being, "Who thought that?" The answer being nobody. In Dawkins objection used the example of the Jews wandering the sinai desert for forty years (I'm sure the place and timeframe is wrong here but it doesn't matter). Sure the story doesn't mention the details of their progress but to be sure NO ONE thinks they crossed in a gradual way, inch by inch. Likewise, no one thought evolution progressed in an absolutely uniform manner either.

Likewise no educated scientist thought science proceeded gradually when Kuhn arrived on the scene. You'd have to be an ignoramous not to be aware of the jerky progress in science at the time. Scientists hit walls all the time, and everyone is aware of it.

Kuhn started from an absurd position to begin with. I guess its easy to be a genius and 'expert in the field' when you assume everyone else is an idiot yourself.

In fact we are witnessing

In fact we are witnessing this right now in the area of climatology and it is precisely because of a rejection of Popper and the acceptance of a different standard of methodology that this is happening. It's pissing off a lot of scientists who still love science as an intellectual exercise, instead of a popularity contest.

Well, good luck with that. I'm going with popularity on this one.

"Well, good luck with that.

"Well, good luck with that. I'm going with popularity on this one."

Well I'm not, because it's based on anti-science. Many climatologists are making claims that totally unsupported by the observations and the math. I see this as going down as one of the worst scandals of science.

As an example. Tree ring data does NOT accurately follow known and recorded local temperatures. So it is not even a good proxy for local temperatures, local climate. Yet, by some magic it becomes very important in determinining global temperatures. The experts in this field say that they aren't sure why these particular trees are growing faster but are certain that it does not track the local climate. Meanwhile it is well known that increased CO2 acts as a fertilizer.

You'd have to believe in magic to think that this tree ring data can be used to predict global basis.

There are many other examples like this.

The fact that the tree rings do not correlate to local temperatures should have falsified the hypothesis that the rings were recording temperatures. Dendrochronologists believe rings correlate well to wet and dry years, but not temperature. They believe the hyphothesis that it tracks temperatures is falsified.

Without the tree ring data all the other proxies for tracking past temperatures do not show the dramatic upswing claimed by the chart created by Mann.

Much of the climatology claims are chicken little hyperventaling. They tell you the northwest passage is opening up and that it is unprecidented, but also fail to tell you that the record for the first ship to sail through the northwest passage was in the early 1900s.

The tell you that temperatures are rising, which is true, but fail to tell you that temperatures were very high during the Roman empire, and that the tree line back in Roman days was much further north than now. They fail to tell you that Greenland was colonized at that time.

They scare you with claims of oceans rising when the icecaps melt but fail to tell you that floating ice doesn't raise sea levels, that there is no real danger of such in the antartic as ice is accumulating on land there, and will accumulate more as temperatures rise.

They fail to point out that there was a net increase is usable land when the glaciers melted during the last ice age. Glaciers stood more than a mile deep over much of the north and when they melted it did not raise sea levels enough to marignally remove the large areas being exposed by the ice melting.

If all of Greenland were to melt then we've exposed a very large area of land, yet suffered very little loss due to rising seas.

They fail to point out that in around 10,000 to 20,000 years the interglacial is scheduled to end and that the normal course of events is far worse than warming temperatures.

Climatologist are also committing scientific fraud, and using bad statistics. Instead of admitting to mistakes when they are caught they are covering them up. It's fine to make mistakes in science, but covering them up is scientific fraud. The Mann hockey stick graph was shown to use improper statistics but when caught, reviewed by the most prestigious statisticians, and failed the whole affair was swept under the rug.

Not outdated

by that criticism. It would at any rate seem odd to claim that Popper's philosophy was outdated on account of an objection which Popper mentioned in his earliest writings.

I'm not feeling the "odd"

I'm not feeling the "odd" part. It's perfectly plausible that an objection could be mentioned, an answer given, that answer found by later critics to be lacking, and as a result the philosophical edifice falls down--or becomes outdated.

I'm not sure that's the case here, but it's not a silly notion.

Something new

that answer found by later critics to be lacking

Any way I try to imagine this, I imagine some sort of progression, some novelty. If the later critics were merely exact duplicates of the earlier critics, then the edifice would not fall down because it would never stand up. So... what's new? What new perspective do the later critics bring to the table? That's where, if anywhere, we should find a new attack on Popper, one he had not seen early on.

So... what's new? What new

So... what's new? What new perspective do the later critics bring to the table?

Among other things, that falsifiability does not serve as a reliable criterion demarcating science from non-science. Some people don't seem to have heard this message, and that is who I am criticizing.

We seem to have a simple

We seem to have a simple difference in imagination then. (I note that, ironically, this discussion has taken on a "foundationalist" tone, and Macker defines foundationalism as the Anti-Popper.)

As I see it, it's perfectly possible to build an edifice even with the initial flaw. Think of all the ridiculous belief systems out there, some intricately rule-bound and nevertheless, complete crap. Earlier critics could have been ignored in the fervor of the love for something new. Earlier critics could have been told to hush up--a solution would be coming. Earlier critics could have been inarticulate. Etc. Hindsight's 20/20 and we can see where a sticking point has sorely remained, all along.

still expect change

As I see it, it's perfectly possible to build an edifice even with the initial flaw.

But you're now talking about the flaw having been there all along. What seems to be the case here is specifically that the criticism of Popper's philosophy was being made all along.

Hindsight's 20/20 and we can see where a sticking point has sorely remained, all along.

But this awareness is new - otherwise it wouldn't be hindsight. What is seen all along from the beginning isn't hindsight. Suppose there was a criticism all along but nobody thought much of it. In hindsight, the criticism turns out to have pointed out something important. But at that point something new is added to the criticism. Hindsight brought some specific new information with it. It's not just the original criticism itself working alone. More has been added.

I'm saying that something must be new. When people see things with hindsight, they do have a new understanding, which people didn't have before.

I'm saying that something

I'm saying that something must be new.

One of the things Kuhn is famous for is the idea that one generation of scientists must die out before major changes in ideas can take place. So it's not that any understanding of the science changed, but that reputational effects and other social factors kept people from changing their minds, or at least publicly advocating certain views.

kuhn

Kuhn was old hat decades ago. Youre not telling me anything new. So I guess the difference between us is that for some reason you have a bug up your ass aBout something that I'm just not seeing.

So I guess the difference

So I guess the difference between us is that for some reason you have a bug up your ass aBout something that I'm just not seeing.

This is a pretty good summary of the disagreements between us in general, no?

Flux

Of course change is constant in one sense--nothing stays the same from moment to moment. Electrons always spin. Heraclitus said this, reputedly, long ago. So, if one wishes to adopt a viewpoint by which everything is flux, then yes, something must have changed, because nothing is the same from moment to moment.

But this is a sense of change far too extreme to be useful in everyday discourse. I maintain that there is a perfectly understandable sense in which the point Popper originally addressed is the same one that remains today. It differs from its original appearance--as the chair I'm sitting on differs from moment to moment--but in a sense it's the same argument, and this is the same chair.

Nothing much seems to turn on this, so I question the use of further discussion--but correct me if I'm wrong.

Not that

something must have changed, because nothing is the same from moment to moment.

But I didn't say something must have changed because nothing is the same moment to moment, but something must have changed to produce a certain other change.

Look, if somebody weighs 100 pounds year after year, and then I see them and they weigh 300 pounds, and they say, "I've been eating the same", I might respond (not to them, since it might be impolite, but in my mind):

Oh, come on, something must have changed. Maybe you didn't really eat the same. Maybe you didn't exercise the same. Maybe your metabolism has gone down generally.

And if they say (assuming I actually speak the above point out loud):

Heraclitus says all is change but that notion is far too extreme for everyday discourse.

My response is a huge eye roll and disgusted head shake on account of the other person having evaded the issue. Though it might be more mental than physical, since I try not to get into arguments about people's bodies.

Foundationalism

"We seem to have a simple difference in imagination then. (I note that, ironically, this discussion has taken on a "foundationalist" tone, and Macker defines foundationalism as the Anti-Popper.)"

I think foundationalism doesn't mean what you think it means in this discussion. The expectation that falsification is a one step process, and furthermore that it terminate at some foundation is in fact a foundationalist objection. Popper didn't say that it would terminate in this fashion and in fact explicitly stated otherwise.

In other words if some experiment is done to falsify a theory and the result are falsification then there is always the possibility the experiment was done incorrectly. One can always object that perhaps the guys kid came in when he wasn't looking and fiddled with some knobs.

To object on those grounds is to misunderstand Popper.

Your objection in the moon case is certainly not induction and in fact describes exactly issues Popper. Such objections certainly are valid if you do find an alien machine on the other side of the moon. The question then would be how that alien machine operated. Does it operate in a way consistent or inconsistent with the theory? If it achieved the movement in the orbit of the moon in a way that violated theory then the theory would still be falsified.

Poppers view is analogous to the difference in viewing something continous journey vs. traveling to a specific end point. It's also analogous to the difference between viewing the universe as having a stable background aether vs. a non-fixed system like relativity.

What is clear however is that these objections and counter objections do not follow the pattern of induction. No one should ever really believe that if we have some pattern of observations that there is an philosophical reason why the pattern should persist. No matter what the pattern. As a matter of fact there will come a day when the sun will not rise and that we know by a process quite different from induction. That process is much more close to the model Popper built. Can his model be improved upon. Sure. Can it be falsified. Sure.

If you find a foundationalist theory of knowledge that works that is one way to falsify Poppers theory. I haven't seen that happen yet. Until I do I will tentatively believe that Popper got things right, in the same fashion as Newton got things right. His theory was much better than prevailing theory, is falsifiable, isn't self contradictory, etc.

I have read of improvements on his theory that have filled in weaknesses but if the original theory admitted to weakness in these areas then it's not a falsification.

Darwins theory of evolution didn't try to explain every aspect of biology. He didn't for example have a theory of how heredity actually worked. He did admit that certain kinds of heredity models were compatibile with his theory and certain kinds were not. He recognized that blending models of heredity if shown to be true would spell doom for the possibility of his mechanism to work. The fact that Darwin's model doesn't cover RNA, DNA, etc. doesn't mean it's "out of date".

Come up with an example of something that actually violates Popper's theory in a way he didn't consider and refute, and then I will entertain it.

BTW, I don't believe Popper was right merely because he addressed the issues at the time. I believe him correct because I read how he addressed them and evaluated them as correct at the time. You haven't brought up any new objections that I haven't seen before. It's entirely possible for you to 1) Find a new objection I don't know about which you haven't done. or 2) Expand upon an old objection in a new fashion that I didn't consider.

You didn't do either. Even if you did it is possible that I might find a reason for either to be mistaken.

I did do a internet search for philosophers who are objecting to Popper. In every instance the objection was either wrong or was a misunderstanding of what Popper was getting at and thus it failed on the grounds of being a straw man argument.

I vagely remember Popper being expanded upon by Bartley in a way that improve, and not disproved his model. Just like Mendel improved upon Darwin, or Einstein on Newton.

All I see on the other side is wheel spinning. Exactly how do you distinguish pseudoscience, religion, intelligent design, creationism from science if you throw out falsification (referring to something broader than a soundbite or slogan) as a criteria? I don't think you can do it without using an argument very similar to Poppers.

Certainly "induction" doesn't do the trick. Induction doesn't even cover the idea of competing theories. You just observe and presto the truth falls out of a hat.

That's why I find the notion that AI can be founded upon a base algorithm of universal Bayesian induction to be hilarious. It's an algorithm that is bound to fail. The only algorithms that we know works from the ground up are in skeleton form, trial and error, and not inductive. Poppers falsification theory is fundamentally trial and error.

Trial and error algorithms all have guess and select phases (among other things). One can certainly plug Bayesian induction into this for elimination of guesses, or in generating educated guesses. However Baysesian induction is not the wrapper algoritm, and anyone who thinks that is just confused.

What the model is missing

Popper is missing the important complication that some scientists screw their secretaries, you know, the human element.

Hmmm...

No, it's more like Newtonian physics. It was believed to be a true and accurate description of the way science works, but no longer.

Sounds very Popperian.

Haha. I did once title a

Haha. I did once title a paper, "Falsifying Falsifiability".

Impossible!

Impossible!

So post it

Go ahead and post it.