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Posted by Harvey on April 18, 2001 21:25:24 UTC

Alex,

Truth equated to experiment is related to the ole' positivist school of truth. It fails for a number of reasons, but chiefly you can't do an experiment on every thing that your model considers 'true'. There is always a test 'out there' that could be performed on any theory of science that could disqualify that theory. Just because that experiment is not (or cannot be) performed doesn't make the theory less true. This is the error of vericationism. Another error is Karl Popper's approach called falsificationism that says a theory is suitable until it is falsified. Here, I found an interesting passage from the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Abridged Table of Contents:

"The point here is that the ‘falsification/corroboration’ disjunction offered by Popper is far too logically neat: non-corroboration is not necessarily falsification, and falsification of a high-level scientific theory is never brought about by an isolated observation or set of observations. Such theories are, it is now generally accepted, highly resistant to falsification. They are falsified, if at all, Lakatos argues, not by Popperian critical tests, but rather within the elaborate context of the research programmes associated with them gradually grinding to a halt, with the result that an ever-widening gap opens up between the facts to be explained, and the research programmes themselves. (Lakatos, I. The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, passim). Popper’s distinction between the logic of falsifiability and its applied methodology does not in the end do full justice to the fact that all high-level theories grow and live despite the existence of anomalies (i.e. events/phenomena which are incompatible with the theories). The existence of such anomalies is not usually taken by the working scientist as an indication that the theory in question is false; on the contrary, he will usually, and necessarily, assume that the auxiliary hypotheses which are associated with the theory can be modified to incorporate, and explain, existing anomalies."

So you see Alex, whether you try to apply verificationism or falsificationism you still end up not arriving at truth as it is understood by most of us. Rather, we look for theories that are suitably true based on their verification and their falsification attributes, but other philosophical factors are still heavily weighted in favor of a particular theory (e.g., explanation utility, manipulation utility, parsimony, mathematical simplicity, etc.).

Warm regards, Harv

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