Science v. Pseudoscience: Religion and Science

September 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 1 Comment

The debate between creationists and evolutionists has been ongoing for decades, but has been highlighted recently through the Dover School Districts policy that stated that, “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design” (Kitzmiller 1).  Several parents and teachers brought a lawsuit against the school district because they felt that this policy was overreaching the constitutional right against the separation of church and state. This is a key issue between strict conservatives and those who believe in the theory of evolution because intelligent design does not have any scientific proof to support the claim that an “intelligent designer” created the human species as it is today.  Contrast this with Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, which has been tested and proved logical in today’s society.  The debate in this instance is caused by the thought that the “gaps” or the parts in Darwin’s theory where there isn’t concrete proof prove that intelligent design does exist.

Another article, Science and Pseudoscience, Karl Popper was a science philosopher whose main work dealt with the difference between pseudoscientific and scientific theories. The article also discusses how religions have persecuted scientific thinkers because of their pseudoscientific thinking. Pseudoscientific theories are theories that, no matter how based they are in science, if they don’t have a “potential falsifier.” Meaning that gravity would be a pseudoscientific idea if there weren’t a theory that could be another reason that things stay on the ground.  The reason behind Popper’s theory is that this mentality helps feed scientific revolutions because these “off-tilt” ideas could spark something that could prove true through further research.

The theory of intelligent design provides a potential falsifier for Darwinism, allowing it to be considered a true scientific theory.  Comparing these two articles, both deal with controversial scientific ideas, one controversial on theory and the other on constitutional principal.  Certain theories are indisputable – like gravity – but what would happen if these theories became scrutinized by different religions and some chose not to believe in proven scientific evidence? This scrutinization could validate Popper’s theory that true scientific ideas have another solution that is a potential falsifier. Most people believe that science and religion are totally separate entities, but throughout history, scientists have been persecuted because their scientific beliefs discredit the religion’s teachings.


My question is: why do religious beliefs play a roll in dictating science and the confirmation or denial of certain theories?


Stef Manisero – Week 2: Thornton and Katzmiller

September 13, 2011 at 3:31 am | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

In Thornton’s article, the life and scientific beliefs of Karl Popper are extensively assessed. Popper believed that there was not one single, unique method that functions as the path to scientific theory but, however, theories can only be reached by intuition. He claimed that science starts with problems that lead to observations, rather than the other way around, for he believed that expansion of human knowledge comes from the attempt to solve problems. Thornton discusses Popper’s assertion that scientific theories are unable to be proven, for they can only be confirmed or refuted through the process of testing and retesting. This relates back to Popper’s opinions on falsifiability, which is where he claims that a theory can be disproved through falsifying, but that it is impractical to falsify a theory.

The Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial dealt with a great range of issues, including, but not limited to, education, ethics, science and religion. The main dispute came down to the question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) was considered a matter of science or religion. It was eventually decided that requiring the teaching of ID with the help of the textbook “Of Pandas and People” was a violation of the Constitution, for ID is a form of creationism, and therefore, a religious matter.

Both articles question the boundaries of science – where they begin and where they end. Because there is no exact definition of science, these boundaries will likely never to be set in stone, yet will, most likely, always remain ambiguous. As Thornton argues, Popper had a different attitude towards the scientific theory than most other scientist, for Popper believed it was the wrong approach to go out and look for things to observe and study, but rather to wait for problems to occur, and then study why such things are happening. In the Kitzmiller trial, the boundaries of science are, again, ambivalent, which is why the case caused so much debate in the Pennsylvania town. Where some people may argue that intelligent design is matter of science worthy of being in a science textbook, others may view it as a subject of religion. I believe these uncertain and imprecise boundaries in science will forever remain up for debate.

Then question then becomes, how do we determine where to draw these imaginary boundaries from case to case when they are so ambiguous and, essentially, imaginary?

An Example Check-Plus Post

September 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

Popper and Lakatos each provide defensible proposals for how we should understand the nature and process of scientific inquiry; their endeavor, however, ultimately proves insufficient for demarcating what is and isn’t a scientific theory.  Popper, perhaps, comes the closest to a consistent definition of science with his notion that theories should be “falsifiable.”  Popper regards a theory as falsifiable when it makes a substantive prediction about what will happen in some critical test and where the failure to observe the predicted outcome would provide sufficient evidence to abandon the overall theory.  Although he views such a test as negating the scientific status of so-called pseudo-sciences, such as astrology and psychoanalysis, he in fact does no such thing.  An astrologer could conceivably evaluate whether birth under a particular stellar alignment led to a predicted outcome.  Because Popper does not constrain his definition of science to active subjects of research, we cannot conclude that the absence of evidence from such a critical test invalidates the theoretical basis for astrology.  Hence, his demarcation fails for the very purpose of its intent.

Lakatos, in attempting to limit the notion of scientific inquiry to “progressive” research programs opens perhaps a bigger hole in the demarcation criterion than he had attempted to fill.  Although his notion of temporally bounded science potentially redeems Popper’s argument where it might otherwise open the door to pseudo-science, his definition suffers from a similarly devastating fault.  Because Lakatos allows research programs to alternate between progressive and regressive stages, he inadvertently undermines our ability to assess which is which.  Presumably, a research program under Lakatos’ definition could be both progressive and regressive at the same time (under different testing circumstances).  Should this happen, we would only be able to determine the status of a research program retrospectively.  This represents a serious problem in that we might only be able to use such a demarcation criterion to assess historical research programs.  As soon as we take a look at the present day, we bias our assessments on the history of a program rather than its true scientific status.  Given this bias and gap in Popper’s reasoning, it becomes unclear whether demarcation is ever a useful scientific endeavor.  Indeed, if we can only ever evaluate the past, what difference does defining science actually make?

Mo’s Response for week2

September 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 3 Comments

Lakatos discusses what constitutes science.  In his transcript, he overviewed two core thinkers, Kuhn and Popper, both of whom published influential arguments about the concept of science.  Then, Lakatos advances his own idea by identifying problems of these two thinkers’ arguments.  First, Lakatos does not agree with Kuhn’s idea that scientific development rests on revolutions that involve sudden, irrational changes in vision.  Rather, Lakatos explains scientific progress as gradual changes.  He says, when there are multiple conflicting research programs and one particular program progresses, scientists tend to join the progressive program.  According to Lakatos, this process results in scientific revolution.  Second, Lakatos also do not contend that Popper’s concept of falsifiability is the core element that distinguishes science from pseudo-science.  In the actual practice, research programs are much more generous to ‘falsifying evidence’, and usually regard it as outlier or totally ignores it.  What is more important characteristic of science is, as Lakatos argues, the ability of theory that predicts certain dramatic, unexpected phenomena, not that provides ad-hoc explanations.

While reading articles, a question struck me was that science may not be the only way of being closer to truth.  For instance, regarding the controversy between Intellectual Design and Evolutionism, nobody provides the truth so far.  I suppose, evolutionism might be closer to science just because it has provided tangible evidence while ID hasn’t, but it is hardly the case that the evidence for evolutionism is persuasive enough to prove the theory is a true story.  I claim that science is a certain way of knowing, though it has been known to be the most effective way that human beings can employ, but not the only way of knowing the truth.


Megan Geske Week2: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Lakatos

September 11, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 6 Comments

The Dover Area School District attempted to force teachers to read a disclaimer that evolution was “just a theory” and directed students to look into Intelligent Design for an alternative explanation. In 2005, a federal court decided via Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that Intelligent Design (ID) was not science, and thus the Dover School Board could not require teachers to mention ID. Judge Jones noted that ID “violates centuries old ground rules of science” by relying on a supernatural cause. A supernatural force cannot be tested, and thus is not able to be disproven, going against basic scientific principles. Furthermore, there have been no peer-reviewed publications of ID, nor have there been tests and research about it. In fact, the scientific community has refuted ID.

Irme Lakatos is a philosopher of science. In his talk Science and Pseudoscience, he attempts to reconcile Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper’s differing theories of science. Lakatos claims that science is not simply “trial and error”, but rather the best way to look at science is through the concept of “research programmes”. A research programme involves a set of “hard-core” concepts, which are vigorously protected by scientists and auxiliary hypotheses. A progressive research program involves the “discovery of hitherto unknown novel facts”. In Lakatos theory, the most important things are “dramatic, unexpected, stunning predictions”.

The two articles provided two different looks into the philosophy of science. Lakatos provided a wide-reaching theory that science should yield dramatic predictions. In the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover area school District, Judge Jones more clearly defined the parameters of what is science and what is not. He makes claims that a scientific theory must be testable, falsifiable, based on facts, and accepted by the scientific community.

Question: How would Lakatos view the Kitzmiller v. Dover case? How would his ruling differ from that of Judge Jones?

Kuhn and Popper’s Philosophy of Science

September 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolution revolves around several main concepts including the development of science, the paradigm concept, a thesis on different forms of incommensurability, world-change, and perception. He argues that scientific theories evolve as a result of changing circumstances throughout different time periods, not necessarily as a result of the addition of new truths to old truths. He considers normal science to be like puzzle-solving in that there is a reasonable chance to solve the puzzle through one’s ability. Revolutionary science, on the other hand, is not cumulative and not all achievements of past normal science are preserved in a revolution. This is referred to as Kuhn-loss. Troublesome anomalies may undermine normal science and scientists ought to test anomalies that undermine the disciplinary matrix in order to solve what he calls a “crisis”. Therefore, a revised disciplinary matrix comes about in response to “unsolved puzzles”, and such revisions are considered scientific revolutions. He uses the examples of Aristotle’s analysis of motion, Ptolemy’s computations of planetary positions, Lavoisier’s application of the balance, and Maxwell’s electromagnetic field as examples of paradigms. In short, his process for the structure of scientific revolutions goes more or less as follows – Puzzle-solving begins, then crisis arises, then revolution comes about, which is a renewal of normal science, which leaves us with mature science. Immature science can be categorized as the pre-paradigm period lacking consensus. Consensus is then formed around new puzzle-solving solutions, and this usually brings about more puzzles and paradigms. He then addresses the concept of incommensurability and illustrates that when comparing theories, if they share no common measure, they are “incommensurable”. An example is comparing the side and diagonal of a square and how they can be compared, but since there is no unit to measure both exactly, they are incommensurable. He then goes on to evaluate the different types of incommensurability. There is methological incommensurability, where there is no common measure because the methods of comparison and evaluation change. There is perceptual/observational incommensurability, where observational science cannot provide a common basis for theory comparison. Finally, there is semantic incommensurability, where the languages of theories of different periods of natural science may not be intertranslatable.

Karl Popper’s philosophy of science centers around the problem of demarcation and the growth of human knowledge. For Popper, the criterion for demarcating science from non-science is falsifiability. However, sometimes it happens that something unscientific may become scientific if the theory becomes falsifiable through its refinement. The central problem in the philosophy of science is then the problem of demarcation, or distinguishing between science and non-science. Things such as logic, metaphysics, psychoanalysis, Alder’s individual psychology are considered by him non-science, although he accepts the validity of the Humean critique of induction. A theory is only scientific if it is refutable by a conceivable event. An “exception” to a rule conclusively refutes the rule. A genuine scientific theory is then “prohibitive” in that it prohibits particular events. Popper then goes on to distinguish between the logic of falsifiability and its applied methodology. Science starts with problems rather than observations. Basic statements can be in the class of potential falsifiers or the class of basic statements with which there is consistency. In the Growth of Human knowledge section, he declares that all knowledge is “provisional, conjectural, hypothetical,” – we can never finally prove our scientific theories. We can only refute or confirm them. Only by critical thought can we eliminate false theories and determine which theory is the best of them.

Popper is similar to Kuhn in that both believe science has to do with critically thinking about problems. For Kuhn, scientists are “puzzle-solvers” and for Popper they are problem solvers. Likewise, they both believe science ought to be able to test inconsistencies. Kuhn points out the need to revise the disciplinary matrix to solve the puzzle of anamolies, whereas Popper believes that exceptions to scientific rules refute the rules and must be addresses critically. Popper, however, is not nearly as in-depth in his analysis of revolutionary science. Also, Kuhn touches on a number of subjects that Popper leaves alone such as incommensurability, paradigms, crisis, and world-change. While Popper brings up the issue of troublesome inconsistencies, Kuhn goes deeper and calls these crisis’s, which, through problem solving, result in revolutions, a renewal of normal science, and mature science.

Some questions to ponder on these readings are:

Is it plausible that Kuhn and Popper have instances where they are saying the same things, but with different words? If so, which parts could these be?

What constitutes a “scientific” theory for both Kuhn and Popper? What are the differences?

Did Popper lack an evaluation on the aspects of paradigms, anamolies, and incommensurability? If so, did this failure hurt the convincingness of his argument of what distinguishes science from non-science?


-Luke Yiannatji

Phillip Morris Week 2: Popper/Lakatos

September 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 1 Comment

Karl Popper single-handedly changed the nature of scientific inquiry with the postulation of his theory commonly known as falsifiability. This theory held that any scientific law that is to be considered “true” science as opposed to a trend, theory, dogma or pseudo-science must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny to determine its falsifiability. Furthermore, to be considered science it must contain the capacity (and indeed invite the challenge) of being proven false, which at the end of the day is the primary predicate for what constitutes science and scientific advancement. For Popper, falsifiability was the demarcation between science and pseudo-science. His theory also went to great lengths to refute holism and historicism. As a result,  it has proved to be equally applicable to the natural and the social sciences in that it posits that growth occurs by the continuous challenge of the status quo (falsifiability) rather than the acceptance of the status quo (verification).

Popper, however, eventual hoisted himself upon his own petards according to the estimates of some prominent critics like Imre Lakatos. At great pains, Lakatos paints Popper’s theory of “falsifiability” as an unavoidable pseudoscientific construct that in essence calls for the casual abandonment of established science whenever an anomaly is discovered within a law that heretofore had been accepted. Lakatos likened Popper’s approach to science as that of an instant “rationalist,” as someone who operated in regressive or “degenerating” fashion rather than someone who operated from a “progressive” program seeking to build upon existing laws which could be strengthened despite apparent inconsistencies.

Rather than Popper’s theory of falsifiability, Lakatos advocated the adoption of a scientific paradigm that continued to look for emerging or “novel” scientific knowledge in existing law. Given that Lakatos was a “glass is half full” kind of thinker, he posited that a progressive research program would always supercede a degenerating one in the inexorable advance of science.


Popper made a reputation early in his career by challenging giants on the order of Sigmund Freud, declaring the psychoanalysis’s work pseudoscience that couldn’t withstand the rigor of scientific challenge. He said Freud invented theories to explain any conceivable anomaly or inherent contradiction in his work. Yet later, when Popper’s preeminent intellectual triumph, the theory of falsifiability was challenged and proved inconsistent, if not false, he himself resorted to clever homiletics and double talk. He parsed a difference between theory modifications based on genuine science versus ad hoc convenience. Does this belated reversal in thought expose him as a fraud or rather as a matured scientist who came to a fuller understanding of what actually constitutes science?

Emily Thibodeau Week 2: Kitzmiller/Thornton

September 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Posted in Week 2, Weekly Responses | 4 Comments

The Kitzmiller Court Case Decision summarizes the reasons why the court ruled that Intelligent Design (ID) did not deserve to be mentioned in Dover School District science classes. Main points included whether mention of ID served as a religious endorsement to an objective observer, student, or citizen and whether ID was science. Religious endorsement was found, particularly because the main textbook suggested, “Of Pandas and People” merely edited ‘creation’ out of later additions and replaced it with ‘ID’, giving ID the same meaning as creationism. ID was deemed not a science because only supernatural causation, without viable testing suggestions for such causation, was one of the main tenants of ID. ID supporters, such as Philip Johnson, suggest that ID is a science if the rules of science are broadened.

Thornton’s “Karl Popper” focuses on the life of Karl Popper and his definition of science versus pseudoscience. The main tenant of Popper’s definition of scientific theories is falsifiability; he believes that nothing can falsify theories and that theories are prohibitive. It is possible to conclusively refute a theory via falsifying, but theories can only be provisionally confirmed. Popper did not adhere to a specific religious or political belief system. He did, however, believe that totalitarian governments, such as that of the USSR, were based on the false premises of historicism. He also believed that human history evolved from human knowledge’s influence.

There are aspects of both articles that call for a change in the definition of scientific theory. In the Kitzmiller court case, proponents of ID support widening the definition of science in order to include theories that are not formerly testable but rely on belief in supernatural powers. Popper also helps to redefine the definition of scientific theory, based on true theories being impossible to falsify. In contrast, however, the leaders of the ID movement supported specific fundamental Christian beliefs and indeed changed the name of their belief in creationism in order to make a scientific hypothesis and viable for presentation to the general public.  Popper did not present religious beliefs in his suggestion of the definition of scientific theory.

The main question of I have as a result of these readings is: to what extent does the presentation of religious beliefs effect the seriousness with which scientific theories or suggestions are debated?

Abby Lieberman Week2: Kitzmiller v. Diver Area School District & “Science and Pseudoscience”

September 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 2 Comments

In the fall of 2004, the Dover Area School District of Pennsylvania altered its 9th grade biology curriculum.  The new system required that students be made aware of potential gaps in Darwin’s Theory of natural selection and presented intelligent design as an alternative to studying evolution.  In reading Judge Jones’ case file, Tammy Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, an important concept to understand in terms of how this “battle” emerged is that it’s entire foundation is based on history: the history of Darwin’s theory, the history of the intelligent design movement, and, beyond those, the history of American law and the US constitution.  History played an active role in the inauguration of this debate, the consideration of prior court cases similar to it,  and in its conclusion that the ‘Board’s ID policy violates the Establishment cause” (Kitzmiller v. Dover School District 136).

Imre Lakatos, in Science and Pseudoscience, also proposes that history plays an enormous role in scientific establishments.  His theory seeks to combine the rival work of Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn on the very basis of history and on the concept of “research programmes” (Lakatos 2). That is, he looks at theories as a group of ideas that all relate to a common ‘hard core’, ones that have changed and developed throughout history.  A scientific revolution, he explains, is when a progressive research programme meets a degenerating one in order to cultivate new and varying ideas (Lakatos 3).

While the Kitzmiller v. Dover case and Imre Lakatos’ theory each base conclusions on the concepts of history and the ways in which science has been shaped and accepted in the past, the Dover case seems to pose a challenge to Lakatos’ beliefs.  While Lakatos proposes a comparing of research programmes, it is difficult to determine an accepted interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution versus the theory of intelligent design.  These two rival theories center on the ‘hard core’ of how man came about, but do not fall easily into Lakatos’ categories of a progressive research programme and a degenerating one.

The question then becomes, what is science when it cannot be categorized the way Lakatos proposes or even the way Popper and Kuhn propose for that matter? History may shape belief systems and interpretations of science, but what happens when people’s perceptions and understandings of history differ? How can the public consume and comprehend science with so many histories to choose from and is there a right one?

Casey Krutz- Week 2 Reading Response: Can intelligent design and evolution coexist?

September 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 2 Comments

Throughout time there has been debate about what should be considered science and what does not fall into the realm of this consideration. A major issue in the science world, has been whether humankind was part of an evolution process, or if humans were created through some other means, such as Intelligent Design (ID). In the article Kitzmiller v. Dover Area High School District, this debate is brought to attention. This article determines that ID should not be considered science. It claims that it fails on the three criterion of science, which is that it permits supernatural causation, includes irreducible complexity, which is the same idea used in creation science, and that the science community has rejected the idea. The reading discusses that science should be testable, empirical, and observable from the natural world. ID, which is promoted by the Discovery Institute, is seemingly bringing too much theistic thinking into science.

The second piece I read, Science and Pseudoscience, takes more of a neutral stance on what is science and what isn’t. It mentions that pseudoscientific thoughts are not valid, and that central scientific theories must be supported by facts. Interestingly enough, teachings of Heaven, Hell, God and the Devil were part of original scientific teachings. Scientific theology is no longer considered knowledgeable, for it contains doubt. Scientific knowledge needs to come from nature and contain a degree of certainty.

Both readings present the debate between what can be considered science and what cannot. However, the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area High School District is more specific and takes a much more positioned approach against ideas, such as Intelligent Design, which contains seemingly creationist ideas. Science and Pseudoscience introduces the idea of science more generally. While deeming pseudoscience as false knowledge, the reading is not as strict as Kitzmiller’s when determining what is considered scientific knowledge and what is not.

Based on the comparison of the two articles I raise the question: can teachings such as intelligent design and evolution coexist? Though it does not anymore, theological knowledge used to be relevant scientific knowledge in the 19th century according to the Science and Pseudoscience article. Though not used for direct support of intelligent design, the idea of irreducible complexity, mentioned in the Kitzmiller reading, claims that for natural selection to have anything to act on, that a biological system, would need to come about as an integrated unit, accrediting the creation of humankind to an outside force. If both teachings of intelligent design and evolution are contained in science curriculums, what benefits and threats does it present to society?

Week 2 Post – Bird_ThomasKuhn and Thornton_KarlPopper

September 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Posted in Week 2 | Leave a comment

The first article I read was “Thomas Kuhn” The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In this article, it talks about Thomas Kuhn’s theory on the development of science. No one thought of the development of science the way that Kuhn did. “According to Kuhn the development of science is not uniform but has alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases” (Bird 4). Normal science he explains as “puzzle-solving” for scientists, the puzzle (or existing scientific belief) is already there, they just have to put the pieces together to hopefully solve it in the end. Revolutionary science does not have the familiarity that normal science has. It is when a scientist may take a leap of faith out of their comfort zone to try to revise a long-held scientific assumption. Kuhn’s Paradigm Concept Theory are “texts that contain not on the key theories and laws, but the applications of those theories in the solution of important problems, along with the new experimental or mathematical techniques” (Bird 7). The article also talks about the difficult in the theory comparison, which is called ‘incommensurability’ – when they share no measures and the theory-dependence of observation which states “that incommensurability will still arise because there is still the possibility for scientists to disagree on observational data” (Bird 11). Kuhn had a early and a late semantic incommensurability thesis as well.

The second article I read was “Karl Popper” The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Popper believes that all observation is selective and science resides mainly of problem-solving. Popper exchanges the idea of induction with falsifiability – a theory “can be tested and falsified, but never logically verified” (Thonrton 6). This article talks of Popper’s Theory of Demarcation as well, which talks of two statements. One contains potential falsifiers and if it is proven true then the whole theory is then falsified. The other statement if proven true, it can strengthen one’s theory. Popper believes that “all knowledge is provisional, conjectural, and hypothetical” (Thornton 9). He believes that no genuine facts are available, but background knowledge can help you when questioning a theory (but not at the same time).

Popper has a lot of similar and conflicting ideas with Kuhn and that’s what made reading these two articles very interesting. Both Kuhn and Popper believe scientists to be problem solvers. Also both seem to believe in revolutions, but for different reasons. Kuhn believes they are “to add positive knowledge of the truth of theories, but Popper believes they are to add the negative  knowledge that the relevant theories are false” (Bird 5).

Question : based on my readings of Kuhn and Popper, I question how these theories that are proposed by them can be so different. Kuhn comes off as a optimist and Popper as a pessimist. Kuhn makes strong arguments with his theories and beliefs, where I felt Popper didn’t convince me. I would like to know if someone in a way, could better Popper’s argument to do so?

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.

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.