Jade Hanson- Week 2 Post

September 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

The first article I read was entitled Science and Pseudoscience. This piece questions what the boundary is between what is considered science and what isn’t. Furthermore it discusses a method for confirming theories. Lakatos through out the article describes many different theories/reasonings researchers have used in the past to declare theories or findings scientific. He critiques reasonings that involve popularity/wide spread support, the use of probability, and Popper’s beliefs on falsifying/confirming theories. Lakatos goes on to argue that testing certain hypotheses is not the means to prove something is scientific. Rather he suggests that research programmes should be used and if proven over longer periods of time, they can legitimize a researcher’s claim in science.

The second piece I read, Karl Popper (sections 2-4), also examines the difference between science and non-science. Popper’s beliefs are that two “basic statements” needed to be discovered by researchers to suggest a theory is scientific. The first statement is know as potential falsifiers . If these statements are proven true the the entire theory is falsified. If the second category of statements discussed by Popper are proven true, they help to support the theory. This article however explored the use of theories in a more general sense when the author discusses Popper’s view on how problem solving in everyday life, an attempt at creating theories and proving/disproving them, is the basis of human knowledge. The author then ties this back in with scientific theories claiming they can not be proven, only simply confirmed or denied.

These readings are similar because they both try to explain how we draw the line between what is science and what is not. Both scientists agree that problem solving is a large portion of what allows us to confirm or deny theories. Also, they both stress that without the ability to problem solve, it would be hard to classify something as scientific. However, Lakatos mainly stresses a lengthy process is best when testing hypotheses and claims the real issue comes when distinguishing a progressive programme from a degenerating one. Lakatos argues that because many anomalies exist when testing hypotheses/theories, the real proof exists when an outlandish prediction is proven. Popper on the other hand doesn’t suggest a certain format that can prove a theory is correct/incorrect, claiming that the traditional view that science and non-science can be distinguished is false.

The question I had surrounding these articles pertains to the second piece describing Popper’s beliefs. In section 4, the author states:

  • Popper stresses, simply because there are no ‘pure’ facts available; all observation- statements are theory-laden, and are as much a function of purely subjective factors  (interests, expectations, wishes, etc.) as they are a function of what is objectively real.

Through out the entire article it is explained that Popper doesn’t believe in “proving” theories. However, I am perplexed by this statement above and it makes me question if Popper believes anything is ever confirmed in the scientific realm. From what I am gathering, he believes all knowledge is based upon confirmations or falsification of information. Is this saying that Popper is a disbeliever in science as whole because science tends to experiment with things that are testable allowing us to draw well-supported conclusions? If so, it is very hard for me to see Popper’s perspective because I’ve been a believer in science for so many years. If we could possibly clarify this in class and discuss his reasoning further I believe that would help me understand his views better.

Overall, I believe the point of reading these papers was to learn that even the definition of science is not in fact objective, but subjective. More complicated is the realization that theories about theories exist, which makes me question all the widely-accepted scientific beliefs that I have been taught through out my high school and college career.

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