Help with falsifiability!

Use this forum to discuss the philosophy of science. Philosophy of science deals with the assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.
User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 372
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 14th, 2020, 10:10 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 9:22 am
Without a definition for God, the search for empirical evidence cannot occur. What evidence would you look for if God isn't defined? How would you know if you've found evidence? The definition tells you what evidence to look for. It even tells you if evidence exists or not.
I would begin by searching for anything that looked like it had something to do with supernatural beings, or unexplained phenomena, like 'miracles'. Human beings are very good - very good indeed - at vaguely-defined tasks such as this. Lacking precision of definition, we fall back instead on the intrinsic skills of human beings.

But the problem is that, even if we did as I describe, we would find nothing. Nothing at all. Nor would we find any evidence to cast doubt on God's existence. For there is no spacetime-universe scientific evidence available, nor will there be. You mention definitions, again and again, but you pay no attention to this. Even something that can be precisely defined in every detail cannot be scientifically/logically investigated if there is no evidence.
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
Prof Bulani
Posts: 255
Joined: December 1st, 2019, 3:47 pm

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Prof Bulani » February 14th, 2020, 10:47 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 10:03 am
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 9:22 am
What is an example of what you may consider "evidence pertaining to God's existence"?
An example? 🤔 A photograph. [ Other forms of evidence are available. ]
If someone showed you a photograph of God, how would you know it was photograph of God?
"The purpose of life is to survive and replicate" - Erik von Markovik

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 372
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 14th, 2020, 2:38 pm

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 10:47 am
If someone showed you a photograph of God, how would you know it was photograph of God?
That is certainly part of the problem. But the real point is that there is no evidence, nor can there ever be any, so there are no photographs, videos or anything else of the sort.
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
Prof Bulani
Posts: 255
Joined: December 1st, 2019, 3:47 pm

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Prof Bulani » February 14th, 2020, 3:24 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 2:38 pm
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 10:47 am
If someone showed you a photograph of God, how would you know it was photograph of God?
That is certainly part of the problem. But the real point is that there is no evidence, nor can there ever be any, so there are no photographs, videos or anything else of the sort.
You cannot make that claim unless you can first distinguish between what evidence for God is and what it isn't. And you have no means of making such a distinction.
"The purpose of life is to survive and replicate" - Erik von Markovik

Wossname
Posts: 43
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Wossname » February 14th, 2020, 4:12 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 6:21 am
Wossname wrote:
All Xs are like the ones we have seen
...is a proposition that cannot be verified with certainty in finite time because verifying it would require observing every member of an arbitrarily large/potentially infinite set, called "all Xs".
Agreed. Isn't this why Popper made falsification the criteria for scientific statements and scientific theories are only contingently true (i.e. provisionally accepted, for now, until evidence shows they are not true)?

Wossname
Posts: 43
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Wossname » February 14th, 2020, 4:27 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 9:04 am
Wossname wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 5:59 am


Pattern-chaser that certainly had me thinking. I think you are right. Science requires an unfalsifiable statement must be verified by evidence.
My understanding (and I might be wrong) is as follows:

In science “X exists” is a scientific statement if, in principle, it can be empirically verified. Until it is verified, it is not accepted as true. If “a black swan exists” is never verified it is never accepted as true.

All Xs are like the ones we have seen is (unless untrue by definition, i.e. any difference disqualifies other examples from being Xs) is a contingent truth. (E.g. all swans are white). That is, the statement can be accepted as true for now, provided we can in principle prove it wrong. If it can’t be proved wrong, it’s not a scientific statement.

Does this seem right?
No, I don't think so. It is falsification, not verification, that underpins science and the scientific method. As you say later: "If it can’t be proved wrong" i.e. falsified - "it’s not a scientific statement". 👍 But scientific statements are never accepted as true, they are working 'truths' that have not yet been falsified.
If you can't show a thing exists how can it be a scientific claim that it does?
This is why science emphasises the need for empirical evidence. You say purple elephants exist I say why should I believe it? You show me a purple elephant. Now I believe it. You have proved it true. Although, in science, others must be able to see said elephant too (inter-subjective testability). If you can't show me it, I don't believe it. No empirical evidence.

I see a couple of purple elephants and form the view that "all elephants are purple". It doesn't matter how many elephants I see in support of this view I can't prove it true. Maybe there are pink elephants somewhere. (This is sounding like Friday night alright). But "all elephants are purple can be accepted as true for now (a contingent truth) until such time as a pink or other coloured elephant proves the statement wrong. Falsification applies to general statements, scientific theories are general statements, and that is why falsification is important. If I can't, in principle, disprove "all elephants are purple", it's not a scientific statement.

What say you?

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 6813
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Steve3007 » February 15th, 2020, 5:05 am

Wossname wrote:Agreed. Isn't this why Popper made falsification the criteria for scientific statements and scientific theories are only contingently true (i.e. provisionally accepted, for now, until evidence shows they are not true)?
Yes. But I wouldn't put it like that myself. General Relativity (for example) didn't render Newton's theory of Universal Gravitation untrue. It's still used all the time. It simply meant that the latter is a special case and the former a more general case. i.e the latter works for a particular subset of all possible observations. The former works for a larger subset which contains the subset relating to the latter.

Same for something like the Standard Model of Particle Physics (which encompasses Quantum Mechanics). It doesn't render Maxwell's Equations of classical electromagnetism untrue. It contains them as a special case. They can be derived from the Standard Model, just as Newton's theories can be derived from Relativity.

Wossname
Posts: 43
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Wossname » February 15th, 2020, 5:20 am

Steve3007 wrote:
February 15th, 2020, 5:05 am
Wossname wrote:
Agreed. Isn't this why Popper made falsification the criteria for scientific statements and scientific theories are only contingently true (i.e. provisionally accepted, for now, until evidence shows they are not true)?
Yes. But I wouldn't put it like that myself. General Relativity (for example) didn't render Newton's theory of Universal Gravitation untrue. It's still used all the time. It simply meant that the latter is a special case and the former a more general case. i.e the latter works for a particular subset of all possible observations. The former works for a larger subset which contains the subset relating to the latter.

Same for something like the Standard Model of Particle Physics (which encompasses Quantum Mechanics). It doesn't render Maxwell's Equations of classical electromagnetism untrue. It contains them as a special case. They can be derived from the Standard Model, just as Newton's theories can be derived from Relativity.
If I have understood you I agree.
General statements are often true under certain conditions. Science specifies the conditions. E.g. water boils at 100 degrees C is true if other conditions are met (e.g. air pressure that of sea level). Entire theories need not be abandoned in the face of counterfactual evidence. They can be modified or improved and so science advances. It is never complete or done. All we have is theories which fit the currently available evidence. They are never proved true. At some point they will likely be modified further (and it is still possible they will be abandoned in the light of radical new discoveries).

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 372
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 16th, 2020, 8:31 am

Wossname wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 4:27 pm
If you can't show a thing exists how can it be a scientific claim that it does?
It can't, as I understand it. But who has mentioned, up until now, a "scientific" claim for God's existence? [Ignoring for the moment that no-one has 'claimed' anything about God. We simply accept here that some people believe God exists.] There are more ways to understand the world than just science. Spiritual understanding, for example (again), seems to wind up some objectivists, but others accept it without demur. Other matters are less, er, vague, but still outside the purview of science, such as the metaphysical hypothesis 'we are all brains in vats'. If we stick only with science, we limit what we can see, believe or understand, and I choose not to do this. YMMV. 😉
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

Wossname
Posts: 43
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Wossname » February 17th, 2020, 7:02 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 16th, 2020, 8:31 am
Wossname wrote: ↑February 14th, 2020, 8:27 pm
If you can't show a thing exists how can it be a scientific claim that it does?
It can't, as I understand it. But who has mentioned, up until now, a "scientific" claim for God's existence? [Ignoring for the moment that no-one has 'claimed' anything about God. We simply accept here that some people believe God exists.] There are more ways to understand the world than just science. Spiritual understanding, for example (again), seems to wind up some objectivists, but others accept it without demur. Other matters are less, er, vague, but still outside the purview of science, such as the metaphysical hypothesis 'we are all brains in vats'. If we stick only with science, we limit what we can see, believe or understand, and I choose not to do this. YMMV.
Fair enough. I thought we were on falsifiability and science.
I agree, science is a very useful, but by its nature limited approach to understanding.
Some matters are not within its remit.

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 6813
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Steve3007 » February 17th, 2020, 12:16 pm

Wossname wrote:I agree, science is a very useful, but by its nature limited approach to understanding.
Some matters are not within its remit.
Arguably science is not about understanding at all. It's just about being useful. It's simply a process by which we describe and predict. Many people would say that "merely" describing and predicting is not understanding. But, then, what does it mean to understand something?

User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 372
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 17th, 2020, 12:30 pm

Yes, science gathers knowledge, not understanding. Some scientists must derive some understanding from the work they do, but my suspicion is that this is something the scientists do of themselves, independently to the science they practice. Maybe I'm wrong? Whatever the truth, to grok is very different from fact-gathering and testing.
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"

User avatar
Steve3007
Posts: 6813
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Steve3007 » February 17th, 2020, 12:57 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:Yes, science gathers knowledge, not understanding. Some scientists must derive some understanding from the work they do, but my suspicion is that this is something the scientists do of themselves, independently to the science they practice. Maybe I'm wrong? Whatever the truth, to grok is very different from fact-gathering and testing.
So, as I asked in that last post, what does it mean to understand something?

Suppose that science tells us there is a force called gravity which, if we propose it to exist, very successfully describes and predicts the movements of various objects. Does this mean that we have, in any sense, understood why objects fall to the ground? Or does it just mean that we can predict when and how they will? Is there some way in which we could grok the phenomenon of objects falling to the ground or grok gravity?

Wossname
Posts: 43
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: Help with falsifiability!

Post by Wossname » February 17th, 2020, 2:04 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 17th, 2020, 12:57 pm
by Steve3007 » Today, 4:57 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
Yes, science gathers knowledge, not understanding. Some scientists must derive some understanding from the work they do, but my suspicion is that this is something the scientists do of themselves, independently to the science they practice. Maybe I'm wrong? Whatever the truth, to grok is very different from fact-gathering and testing.
So, as I asked in that last post, what does it mean to understand something?

Suppose that science tells us there is a force called gravity which, if we propose it to exist, very successfully describes and predicts the movements of various objects. Does this mean that we have, in any sense, understood why objects fall to the ground? Or does it just mean that we can predict when and how they will? Is there some way in which we could grok the phenomenon of objects falling to the ground or grok gravity?
I take your point and that of Pattern-chaser.

I am unsure what it would mean to truly understand something in the way that you describe.

It’s an interesting question.

I don’t think we can understand ourselves or external reality fully. (I’d prefer not to debate idealism here). Our understanding is at best partial. And some (much, most?) is likely inaccurate.

Are you hinting perhaps at the Kantian distinction between noumenal and phenomenal? We are necessarily stuck with the phenomenal universe (how it seems to us) because the noumenal universe (the thing in itself) is a universe seen from no perspective at all and so is unknowable? Science describes the relations between phenomena (and as you say tries to predict). What else can it do?

I think you will agree that is no reason to abandon science. It is a reason for science to acknowledge some pretty severe limitations. Do you say many have forgotten those limitations and would benefit from some reminding? I am not sure if that is fair. I am not sure it’s not fair either. It certainly seems true of some.

Do you think that, in general, Western culture tends to value scientific enterprise, and efforts to answer scientific questions, more than other sorts of questions which are equally if not more important? The modern “age of reason” if it be such, is inherently unreasonable? A reflection of cultural bias perhaps?

Post Reply