Sunday, 1 May 2011

Two fingers to Karl

Karl Popper is usually cited as the preeminent advocate of falsifiable science. For him, scientific theories must be falsifiable by experiment, otherwise they are not scientific. In fact he went further. In Popper’s world, a successful experiment doesn’t confirm a theory, but is merely a reason not to reject it.

Yet much modern science is more like an investment strategy than traditional falsifiable, experimental science. Because we do inevitably invest in scientific theories, climate science being one obvious example.

Call me cynical, but I have the definite impression that theory falsification is the last thing many scientists actually want. They have careers to build, status to maintain and mortgages to pay. Too many have no glaringly obvious desire to be incommoded by reality. Understandable of course, but what would Karl have said?

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