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Is Objectivism Falsifiable or Merely Explanatory?

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Science leaves weak theories behind. Phiosophy does not. But does Objectivism? Is there any claim within the philosophy that can be tested by replication, the failure to replicate being falsification?

<...>

But, perhaps, falsification does not apply to philosophy. But if not, why not? Is some knowledge - some classes of knowledge - not amenable to the scientific method?

It depends on what is presented as 'truth' by a philosophy. If the assertions can be subjected to scientific testing, they are falsifiable.

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Does the McCaskey flap relate to this question in any way? Was the Logical Leap an attempt at scientific justification for Rand's philosophical basics?

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Does the McCaskey flap relate to this question in any way? Was the Logical Leap an attempt at scientific justification for Rand's philosophical basics?

Carol--Harriman and McCaskey disagreed about some complex issues related to the Objectivist philosophy of science. The bone-headed skepticism of Karl Popper is neither complex nor controversial as far as Objectivism is concerned.

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Dennis,

I think the issue was the history of science.

McCaskey says Harriman fudged history to suit his thesis. And from the looks of things, he actually did.

The Ortho-Objectivist side always seems to be history-challenged. I long for the day they no longer feel the need to rewrite the works and lives of others to present their ideas.

There are plenty of good ideas in Objectivism. It doesn't need the distortions of these folks to make it in the world.

I am tempted to say that the reason they distort is intellectual insecurity.

Michael

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Aristotle didn't ignore facts. In fact quite the opposite. He concluded for example that moving bodies if left alone, will come to a stop. This is backed up by facts - well sort of - this is what he observed around him. The error is in the logic. The exact opposite is true - moving bodies if left alone will NOT come to a stop.

Aristotle could have dismissed his hypothesis that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter bodies by dropping two stones of unequal weight of the nearest tall building or cliff. Why didn't he? Phillip the Grammarian (John Philliponus) wrote of just that experiment in the sixth century c.e. and dismissed Aristotle's claim as incorrect.

Why did it take so long?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Because the actual experiment needed was highly sophisticated.

--Brant

A kid holding a one pound rock and a ten pound rock dropped at the same time from the nearest temple of Athena. Both hit the ground a pretty near the same instant. The ten pound rock never reaches a velocity ten time larger than the one pound rock.

On Apollo 15 one of the astronauts dropped a feather and a hammer from the same time and height. Both hit the lunar surface virtually at the same time. Some sophistication.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Aristotle didn't ignore facts. In fact quite the opposite. He concluded for example that moving bodies if left alone, will come to a stop. This is backed up by facts - well sort of - this is what he observed around him. The error is in the logic. The exact opposite is true - moving bodies if left alone will NOT come to a stop.

Aristotle could have dismissed his hypothesis that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter bodies by dropping two stones of unequal weight of the nearest tall building or cliff. Why didn't he? Phillip the Grammarian (John Philliponus) wrote of just that experiment in the sixth century c.e. and dismissed Aristotle's claim as incorrect.

Why did it take so long?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Because the actual experiment needed was highly sophisticated.

--Brant

A kid holding a one pound rock and a ten pound rock dropped at the same time from the nearest temple of Athena. Both hit the ground a pretty near the same instant. The ten pound rock never reaches a velocity ten time larger than the one pound rock.

On Apollo 15 one of the astronauts dropped a feather and a hammer from the same time and height. Both hit the lunar surface virtually at the same time. Some sophistication.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Aristotle, the first man on the moon.

--Brant

I had no idea

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Dennis,

I think the issue was the history of science.

McCaskey says Harriman fudged history to suit his thesis. And from the looks of things, he actually did.

The Ortho-Objectivist side always seems to be history-challenged. I long for the day they no longer feel the need to rewrite the works and lives of others to present their ideas.

There are plenty of good ideas in Objectivism. It doesn't need the distortions of these folks to make it in the world.

I am tempted to say that the reason they distort is intellectual insecurity.

Michael

Michael,

Stalin found Siberian labor camps to be a helpful educational resource for correcting misinterpretations of Soviet history. Their position on limited government has been a real handicap for the Objectivist hierarchy. It occurs to me that branding all dissidents as irreconcilably evil hasn’t proven to be nearly as effective.

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Interesting! Since the only means of measurement would be subjective (people with different philosophies reporting their levels of happiness, etc., and attributing the happiness to right philosophy), it would seem that falsification cannot apply.Perhaps we must leave it to intellectual market forces and just count heads as the knowledge seekers vote with their feet.

Perception is subjective in that it takes place within us and for each of us it is a little bit different. But if it were not verifiable, you could not play baseball. Two or more people can engage in common activities specifically because preceptions are objectively verifiable.

I do agree, though,that membership would be a measure of success for a belief system. Massive populations of religious folks would then validate the usefulness of religion. It is falsified, however, because none has produced the better world promised here. The claims of afterlifes and heavens remains unvalidated.

Well, it is possible to prove that man needs food and shelter to live, and he needs to work to obtain those things. Most personal philosophies I encounter revolve around giving and receiving rather than making.

I agree that specific claims may well be falsifiable. When classroom colleagues expressed agreement with Feyerabend and the post-modernists who say that there is no science, only a scientistic discourse that excludes women and minorities, it was easy to point to the elevators which we all took to the 7th floor classroom. The science that explains the technology is known to work every time you press the button, regardless of your opinions on gender, race, and imperialism. So, specific claims can be tests. (See below to Dennis Hardin about Popper to be posted later.)

If so, philosophy is like mathematics which is purely deductive and non-empirical. How do we judge mathematics then? One two grounds: One on its usefulness when applied to something empirical (like physics) and two on its beauty and symmetry ...

I believe that mathematics is objective because it derives from perceptions tested by experience. The so-called "abstract" mathematics which (seemingly) have no application to reality only have not found application. Negative numbers and imaginary numbers are two easy examples. That would then apply to any philosophy, also: its specific claims are real or not. Goedel notwithstanding, internal consistency ("beauty") is another test. Philosophies with many internal problems may be less applicable to reality. I lack an easy inventory to run through, however. I mean, how do you test Logical Positivism or Objectivism as a single hypothesis? What is the hypothesis?

Science without observation is not science. You can't falsify observation as an existent.You either observe or your don't and you can only explain what that is--to others who can observe.... So on that level, according to Popper's falsifiability thing, science itself isn't science. How's them apples? Michael

Cute, but not substantial. "Every girder is placed in answer to a single question: Right or wrong?" Nothing is anything without observation, but falsifiability is a test of truth.

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Cute, but not substantial. "Every girder is placed in answer to a single question: Right or wrong?" Nothing is anything without observation, but falsifiability is a test of truth.

Michael,

Of course it's substantial.

Fundamental axioms in Objectivism are validated as true by the fact that you have to use them in order to negate them. (You have to exist in order to deny existence. You have to be conscious in order to claim consciousness doesn't exist. Etc.)

There is no way to validate the equivalent of fundamental axioms with falsifiability. You can't falsify existence.

You, also, can't falsify observation (i.e., an activity of consciousness, which, once again, you can't falsify),

Popper says something has to be falsifiable in order to be science. If it's not falsifiable, it's something else--anything else, but it ain't science.

OK.

Ergo, according to Popper, if it exists, it isn't science at root. If you can observe it, it isn't science at root.

But notice that Popper uses that "something else--anything else" as an essential component in his science. Without that "something else--anything else," Popper's science could not exist

(Heh. That would not be a real problem for Popper if his field were called anything except science since you can't falsify existence. But it is called science and it is built on a non-falsifiable foundation.)

In other words, WTF?

Popper essentially makes a faith-based science and alleges he has found the One True Science Way.

If that isn't substance, I don't know what is.

(Thank you for the cute, though. I do feel cute at times and it's good to be noticed... :smile: )

Michael

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But notice that Popper uses that "something else--anything else" as an essential component in his science. Without that "something else--anything else," Popper's science could not exist

Nonsense! And some existential assertions can be falsified empirically. For example, caloric and phlogiston. Caloric is the mythical fluid that hot bodies exude into cooler surroundings. Phlogiston is the mythical substance subtracted from bodies when they burn. Phlogiston was falsified by Lavoissier (sometime before his head was cut off). For example, aether, the visco-elastic medium that carries light waves. Falsifed by Michelson and Morely in the 19th century. For example Vital Essence the mythical stuff that living things contain. All living things are made of the same stuff as unliving things -- to which atoms found in the periodic table. Elements 1 (hydrogen) to Element 92 (Uranium).

Things can be falsified mathematically. For example one can prove there do NOT exist integers m and n which are relatively prime such the (m/n)^2 = 2. This was proved in the time of Pythagorus. It give him and his followers indigestion.

A scientific theory makes quantitative predictions that can be tested (and possibly falsified) empirically. Any theory or axiomatic system that does not produce such hypotheses is NOT scientific. It is something else. Possibly theology or even worse, metaphysics. Science produces corroborated hypotheses pertaining to causes and predictions of outcomes of experiments eventually leading to applications and inventions that have given us the technology we use or play with. Philosophy produces hot air.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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John,

You remarked that Rand's axiomatic concepts and her axiomatic statements do not need to be justified or questioned. That they are in some sense self-evident* is part of Rand's view of these, but she held that though their truth does not require justification beyond connection with what is given in perception, their status as axioms does require justification. Part of the process of justifying them as axioms, in her sense of what are philosophical axioms, is to question them, to try to deny them. Rand does some of this in Galt's Speech. I have done more of that here.

I do not recall if it made it into his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, but in one of his lectures in the 70s, Leonard Peikoff remarked that of any philosophy whatever, one who has taken up Rand's axioms, will say: name your starting points. (Logical and epistemological starting points will be distinct but harmonious.) Name your starting points, and justify why those should be the starting points of your philosophy. I think those are good things to look for in every philosophy. So we ask of Descartes or of Locke, what are your starting points, why those, and are they true and appropriate as starting points. Some philosophers do not have starting points, at least not explicitly. An example would be Robert Nozick. Still, if one studies his works taken all together—Philosophical Explanations, The Nature of Rationality, Socratic Puzzles, and Invariances: The Structure of Objective Reality—one might distill some common primitives of method and truth. That such a philosopher did not set out such primitives, that he may have still been wondering at the end of his life which, if any, articulate constants there are, does not mean he had nothing valuable to say in philosophical matters.

I do myself think that trying to discern and probe the fundamentals of one's widest comprehensive framework* is a worthwhile part of philosophy today. Putting it a bit mildly.

. . .

In Rand’s philosophy, all objectively meaningful concepts, whether philosophical or scientific or mathematical or everyday, are required to be testable for possible contradictions.* Existence is identity.

Michael Stuart Kelly is correct.

This summer at Atlas Summit, Glenn Fletcher will be speaking on some of the back and forth between philosophy and science in the thought and influence of Einstein. In his DIM book, Leonard Peikoff will address this sort of commerce with respect to the founders of quantum mechanics. Much has been written about this commerce in both historical episodes in scholarly literature.

In contrast to Bob’s representation of the views among Princeton physicists towards philosophy, I should say I never encountered such an attitude (philosophy is a joke) among any physicists at Chicago. I did encounter a couple who explicitly commended in a general way Popper’s conjectures-and-refutations, or falsificationist view of science. However, they did not get into the more specific characteristics of his views about science that have been commonly controversial among philosophers of science, and for that matter, I don’t know how far they had seen into Kuhn’s critique of Popper’s falsificationist view of empirical science.

Bob’s estimation of the worth of metaphysics is not shared by Popper. The latter regards the proposition “There are true laws of nature” as metaphysical. Popper declares his belief in that proposition’s claim. “I share this belief, and I think it is more reasonable than any alternative of which I know. The best way to understand—and evaluate—this belief is to regard it as a metaphysical conjecture about the structure of the world” (Realism and the Aim of Science, 75).

“I stated in The Logic of Scientific Discovery that I believed in metaphysical realism. (Cf. the second paragraph of section 79 and the end of sections 4 and 28.) And I believe in metaphysical realism still” (80). Popper regards his metaphysical realism as “a kind of background that gives point to our search for truth. Rational discussion, that is, critical argument in the interest of getting nearer the truth, would be pointless without an objective reality, a world which we make it our task to discover . . . . (81; see further the following nine sections!). Popper’s metaphysics is even more sparse than Rand’s, but he acknowledges its permeation of his philosophy of science.

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A research question concerning a particular statement of Rand's -- I figure the question has a good chance of being seen on this thread by someone who knows the answer:

I recall Rand commenting in print to the effect that 20th-century physics is rather like the energy from a dying star (I don't think she used that exact metaphor), still producing technology but fading to worthlessness theoretically because of Kantian corruption.

Can anyone provide the reference?

Ellen

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Stephen quotes Popper:

“I [Popper] stated in The Logic of Scientific Discovery that I believed in metaphysical realism. (Cf. the second paragraph of section 79 and the end of sections 4 and 28.) And I believe in metaphysical realism still” (80). Popper regards his metaphysical realism as “a kind of background that gives point to our search for truth. Rational discussion, that is, critical argument in the interest of getting nearer the truth, would be pointless without an objective reality, a world which we make it our task to discover . . . . (81; see further the following nine sections!). Popper’s metaphysics is even more sparse than Rand’s, but he acknowledges its permeation of his philosophy of science

Yes, but Popper mistakenly allows the idea that falsifiability is applicable to metaphysical realism and that metaphysical realism doesn't meet the requirement of being falsifiable, thus might be wrong -- thus unnecessarily shooting himself in the foot.

This issue came up in an ARCHN thread I posted on for a brief while. At the time I was only in process of reading Objective Knowledge:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2011/06/notes-on-cultism-in-logical-leap-why.html?showComment=1313469714768#c6536975591586868907

I've read through Section 5 of Chapter 2 of Objective

Knowledge , and I want to interject one comment:

Popper has made a mistake which is costly in not seeing that

"falsifiability" *presupposes* a realist metaphysics. If

everything is imaginary, there's nothing to falsify.

Also, he goes to the edge of seeing, but doesn't cross over

and use the argument with its full weight, that non-realist

metaphysics are unintelligible. To the extent such a

metaphysics is intelligible, intelligibility is produced by

importing realist premises. I've decided to call the

previous statement "The Moonshine Principle" -- the moon is

not a source of light; it only "shines" by reflection from

the sun. Similarly...

Daniel, I'm still thinking thus far that you poorly

represent Popper with the tree-frog answer you gave. Though

he doesn't understand that non-realist metaphysics can be

ruled out, he clearly really, really, really believes that

realist metaphysics is right. In a realist metaphysics,

there are lots of tests, including ones similar to that

proposed by Churchill and praised by Popper regarding the

sun, for establishing that you have a human body. (In a

non-realist metaphysics, there aren't grounds for claiming

the existence of bodies, not even of brains, or even of such

an entity as "you.")

I don't mean to imply that the two problems I've mentioned

are the only problems I see in "the story so far," but I

think that those two -- doubly so the first -- are

especially important in working against Popper's achieving

what I gather are his goals.

--

I'll get back to the accumulated posts when I can. Just one

quick comment on looking through them.

You write link:

In Popper's epistemology, it *is* possible, if

exceedingly unlikely, to have the unvarnished truth in our

grasp. But - and here's the catch - even if we did, because

of Hume's problem *we can't finally know that we know it*,

if you see what I mean.

I agree with the statement pertaining to inductive laws.

[correction; see below]

But if Popper is really saying that no knowledge whatsoever

is possible, including of such a physical fact as that you

aren't a tree frog (frankly, I think it's a very good

example for raising issues), then I part company.

On more careful examination, I don't "agree with the statement pertaining to inductive laws" exactly as Daniel wrote it.

Instead: We know that we don't -- that we can't -- finally know if we've gotten unassailable inductive laws.

And I'm not sure (1) if Popper correctly stated "Hume's problem"; or (2) if Hume's statement of said problem is correct -- so I might not agree with the reason Daniel gives, i.e., "because of Hume's problem."

Ellen

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But notice that Popper uses that "something else--anything else" as an essential component in his science. Without that "something else--anything else," Popper's science could not exist

Nonsense! And some existential assertions can be falsified empirically. For example, caloric and phlogiston. Caloric is the mythical fluid that hot bodies exude into cooler surroundings. Phlogiston is the mythical substance subtracted from bodies when they burn.

Bob,

Heh.

How do you know bodies exist?

And is that knowledge falsifiable?

:smile:

Michael

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A research question concerning a particular statement of Rand's -- I figure the question has a good chance of being seen on this thread by someone who knows the answer:

I recall Rand commenting in print to the effect that 20th-century physics is rather like the energy from a dying star (I don't think she used that exact metaphor), still producing technology but fading to worthlessness theoretically because of Kantian corruption.

Can anyone provide the reference?

Ellen,

The first thing that came to my mind was this, from CUI, Chapter 1, "What is Capitalism?":

The disintegration of philosophy in the nineteenth century and its collapse in the twentieth have led to a similar, though much slower and less obvious, process in the course of modern science.

Today's frantic development in the field of technology has a quality reminiscent of the days preceding the economic crash of 1929: riding on the momentum of the past, on the unacknowledged remnants of an Aristotelian epistemology, it is a hectic, feverish expansion, heedless of the fact that its theoretical account is long since overdrawn—that in the field of scientific theory, unable to integrate or interpret their own data, scientists are abetting the resurgence of a primitive mysticism. In the humanities, however, the crash is past, the depression has set in, and the collapse of science is all but complete.

This may not be what you are looking for, though.

Michael

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That's the one I was thinking of, Michael.

Thanks much!!

I thought it was in a fairly important article, but I couldn't even imagine what article trying to do a process of elimination of titles which came to mind.

Ellen

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Michael Stuart Kelly is correct.

Stephen,

I might frame that.

:)

Bob’s estimation of the worth of metaphysics is not shared by Popper.

. . .

Popper’s metaphysics is even more sparse than Rand’s, but he acknowledges its permeation of his philosophy of science.

I am so glad you can document that stuff, but I feel sad I have nowhere near your brains.

Not because of competition (I have little time for that and I'm really glad you have the brains you do). But because I want to know all this stuff like yesterday and, with my head, it's like trying to cram a whole uncut eggplant through a salt-shaker.

:)

Michael

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Yes, but Popper mistakenly allows the idea that falsifiability is applicable to metaphysical realism and that metaphysical realism doesn't meet the requirement of being falsifiable, thus might be wrong -- thus unnecessarily shooting himself in the foot.

It isn't wrong. It is just not science. Take mathematics. It makes no empirical predictions whatsoever. Mathematical theorems are deduced logically from a set of postulates. Math says NOTHING about the physical world. Math isn't wrong. It just is not a science.

Not a single mathematical object exists in the physical world. Not a point, not line, not a circle etc. Math can only be used in physics when the mathematical object is mapped by a man-made rule into a physical operation of measurement.

Falsifiable in this context means refutable by experimental evidence, something measured or observed.

The meta theory of physical theories is NOT a physical theory. It is a deductive discipline. An intellectual artifact.

Metaphysics is a non-empirical discipline. It has close to zero cash values if you value a theory by its practical and physical applications. It is bupkis.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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That's the one I was thinking of, Michael.

Thanks much!!

I thought it was in a fairly important article, but I couldn't even imagine what article trying to do a process of elimination of titles which came to mind.

Ellen

Rand:

Today's frantic development in the field of technology has a quality reminiscent of the days preceding the economic crash of 1929: riding on the momentum of the past, on the unacknowledged remnants of an Aristotelian epistemology, it is a hectic, feverish expansion, heedless of the fact that its theoretical account is long since overdrawn—that in the field of scientific theory, unable to integrate or interpret their own data, scientists are abetting the resurgence of a primitive mysticism. In the humanities, however, the crash is past, the depression has set in, and the collapse of science is all but complete.

Where is there any evidence of sciene 'collapsing'?

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Where is there any evidence of sciene 'collapsing'?

None. It is doing rather well in its applied aspects. There is much work to do on the theoretical end.

Ba'a;Chatzaf

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Carol,

Chalk it up to a bout of rhetorical excess.

In the continuation of that quote, Rand harangued a bit about the woeful state of the "young science" of psychology, which was practically stillborn in her view due to the collapse of Aristotelian epistemology and the resurgence of mysticism. (She also mentioned political economy, which is what she really wanted to talk about in that article--and, in fact, did. :) )

Guess who was interested in psychology as a profession when she wrote that article? One who she knew would be more than glad to step in and save the "young science" of psychology from the ravages of bad philosophy? And guess where he would get his philosophy from?

:)

I love Rand and her work, but sometimes i can't help but think, "Come on... Really?..." And then I look around her when she wrote what I am thinking about. And often I find that's a great premise to check.

:)

Michael

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Take mathematics. It makes no empirical predictions whatsoever. Mathematical theorems are deduced logically from a set of postulates. Math says NOTHING about the physical world. Math isn't wrong. It just is not a science.

Not a single mathematical object exists in the physical world. Not a point, not line, not a circle etc. Math can only be used in physics when the mathematical object is mapped by a man-made rule into a physical operation of measurement.

What's the evidence for this, a floating abstractionist's say-so? According to you, 2+2=4 says absolutely nothing about 2 coins + 2 coins = 4 coins, there is no line where a floor meets a wall, etc.

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Take mathematics. It makes no empirical predictions whatsoever. Mathematical theorems are deduced logically from a set of postulates. Math says NOTHING about the physical world. Math isn't wrong. It just is not a science.

Not a single mathematical object exists in the physical world. Not a point, not line, not a circle etc. Math can only be used in physics when the mathematical object is mapped by a man-made rule into a physical operation of measurement.

What's the evidence for this, a floating abstractionist's say-so? According to you, 2+2=4 says absolutely nothing about 2 coins + 2 coins = 4 coins, there is no line where a floor meets a wall, etc.

Only if you map the object 2-coins into a concrete set {coin1, coin2}

And the intersection of a floor and a wall is not a line since it has thickness. It resembles the idea or abstraction of line. In fact the intersection of the floor and the wall is not even straight.

There are no mathematical objects in the real physical world. They exist only in thought or imagination.

That is why Plato likes mathematics (i.e. geometry) so much.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Real science (the physical sciences) make definite predictions which could turn out to be false. What kind of predictions does philosophy make. A theory which makes no testable and possibly false predictions , or allows any outcome is not a scientific theory. Ba'al Chatzaf

It depends on what is presented as 'truth' by a philosophy. If the assertions can be subjected to scientific testing, they are falsifiable.

I just finished The Same and not the Same by Roald Hoffmann. It is romance or apology about chemistry. Hoffmann is a Nobel laureate. I found exposition there more helpful than examples from physics with regard to the role of falsifiability. I am sorry that I returned the book to the library because now I cannot be precise here, but bear with me on this.

Chemists use the concoctions of other chemists as intermediary agents or reagents to do other things in their own analysis or synthesis. (More on analysis and synthesis and the absence of a dichotomy in chemistry later.)

At any rate, Hoffmann reported that tallying some journal article papers on new chemicals, only a large percentage proved replicable. For whatever reasons - and he mentions such problems a couple of times in the book - the compound could not be made again by the next person who tried. So, while something like 70% or 80% of new claims stand, the others must be discarded. (Sometimes the original researchers reply - angrily on occasion - but most other times, they do not.) Also, only one journal actual taps practicing synthesists to test the formulations in each paper. Most journals look at the theory, not the practice, Though there is some empirical replication in the peer review process - far more than in physics where mathematics alone can carry the day, apparently - it is rigorous only in one venue.

I am now preparing to deliver a set of high school science class lectures on forensic psychology. I have been reviewing background on crime scene investigation. Fingerprints have never been falsified because they have never been subjected to falsification. Although no one has produced two identical sets of prints, experts have disagreed. For their disagreement, they were decertified. Fingerprints are either positive or inconclusive. "False" is not allowed. No one has rigorously tested the entire law enforcement database specifically seeking duplicates. On the contrary, all efforts are to maintain ever more validation and explanation. That is not the same as DNA with DNA statistical statements are made about the likelihood of a possible match. DNA has been subjected to falsification and its limits are stated.

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