Falsification

Imagine I ‘hypothesize’ that I will win the lottery. If I buy a ticket and do not win, clearly my ‘hypothesis’ is ‘falsified’. Is it, therefore, scientific? Such silly hypotheses are dime a dozen. Do you think Popper was worried about this?

How to falsify my hypothesis. The answer is very simple: the way scientific theories can be falsified. I spell out some consequences of my hypothesis in Chapter 11. Even though there are more, if these ‘evidences’ as I call them there are untrue, my hypothesis stands refuted in its present form. You can also test the hypothesis by refuting other sub-hypotheses that are partially derived from the main hypothesis: like, the pagan relationship between ‘religio’ and ‘traditio’ that I postulate. If you can show that many, many authors from Antiquity deny my postulation and see ‘religion’ as that which binds all people together into one single community (for instance), my sub-hypothesis is severely damaged. Falsification is about the phenomena that a theory forbids from occurring; it has nothing to do with how to protect a theory from falsification. You cannot take a single conjecture and speak about its falsification: even according to Popper, theories are the basic units of falsification and not individual conjectures. To Lakatos and Laudan, the units are much bigger; to Quine, it is our entire web of beliefs, and so on. That is why I took the example of the Lottery ticket, which is an individual conjecture.

 

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