The Instigator
KuriouserNKuriouser
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points
The Contender
socialpinko
Con (against)
Losing
1 Points

Karl Popper's philosophy of science requires us to be overly critical of scientific theories.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
KuriouserNKuriouser
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,769 times Debate No: 27882
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (3)

 

KuriouserNKuriouser

Pro

David Hume demonstrated the problem of induction (PoI), which cast serious doubt on the field of science itself. Karl Popper accepted the PoI but argued that science was not effected by this as it was based solely on deductive, rather than inductive reasoning. Thus, Popper argued that science was only capable of falsifying theories and hypotheses, and was incapable of confirming or supporting them. I argue that accepting this last falsificationist account of Popper requires us to be overly critical of scientific theories.

R1: Acceptance
R2: Opening arguments/Con may rebut
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Closing statement. No new arguments should be made, especially if the opposition will not have the opportunity to challenge them.

- Pro has the BOP
- No reliance on semantic arguments
- Dropped arguments may be addressed in later rounds.
- No plagiarism. If it's a direct quote, cite it as such.
- Since this is a philosophical debate, points for sources should not be necessary.
- I prefer a serious debate with someone capable of making a strong rebuttal.
socialpinko

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
KuriouserNKuriouser

Pro

I am grateful to my opponent for accepting and look forward to a good-spirited debate. I'll offer a quick summary of Popper's basic theory and then give three examples of how his account of science requires us to be overly critical of scientific theories due to its narrow scope. Since some of the readers may be unfamiliar with philosophy of science I'll do my best to keep everything clear and simple and will adjust according to the nature of the debate.

Popper's deductive, falsificationalist model of science. Popper limited science to a deductive model of reasoning in order to avoid the problem of induction. A scientist begins with a conjecture or hypothesis (H) that makes a falsifiable prediction of what observations (O) will be made as a result (If H then O). If the predicted outcome is not observed (not O) then the hypothesis is considered falsified (not H via modus tollens). Even if the prediction is falsified only one time out of many tests, scientists should discard the hypothesis and come up with another conjecture. If the predicted outcome is observed repeatedly this tells us nothing more than that the theory has not yet been falsified. To do so, according to deductive logic, would be a form of the fallacy called assuming the consequent: i.e. because we observe O we can assume that H is true. Although most philosophers are fallibilists in that they admit the possibility that new evidence may require us to modify or discard current theories that appear highly accurate, most of these also hold the position that we are justified in considering a theory that is reliably accurate throughout many tests to possess more support than one which has not been tested at all. Popper's theory is contrary to these other accounts that claim a theory becomes better supported the more it successfully predicts the given observation without failure. Popper rejects these theories because it is not based on deductive logic. This is why Popper claims that science can only tell us if a theory is false and is unable to provide support to a theory no matter how many times it passes our tests.

The history of science has not followed falsificationalism, and it's a good thing it didn't. As I stated earlier, Popper argued that if a predicted observation fails the theory should be considered falsified and discarded. If science had followed this approach, however, the results would have been tragic. Historically, most theories have been convincingly falsified from the beginning, and do not prove themselves until much later. For example, when Copernicus developed the heliocentric theory that the earth revolved around the sun, there were serious problems that he was unable to account for. Many significant observations that his theory predicted were not observed. It wasn't until Galileo later solved these problems that the heliocentric model was able to make accurate predictions. It was due to the fact that Copernicus and others persisted with the same theory, even if its predicted observations failed, that they continued in what turned out to be the correct understanding. This story is reflected in the developments of many other theories throughout history.

Rejection of probability within science. Popper uses his falsificationalism to differentiate between science and non-science (i.e. pseudo-science). A. How does his philosophy categorize measurements of probability in science? Popper requires that a theory make falsifiable predictions in order to be counted as a science. Much of science, however, deals with probabilities. Instead of making predictions that if O is not observed then H is false, theories that deal with probability state that O is likely to occur, but is possible that it might not. If O isn't observed, then this doesn't necessarily refute the hypothesis. According to Popper's philosophy, theories that deal with probabilities in this way are not logically considered science since it does not call for an absolute prediction. This, again, is an overly critical account of science as probability is an extremely effective tool in science. Popper tries to soften this outcome of his philosophy by allowing probability "in practice," but he does this only by undermining the very core of his philosophy which requires methodology to be based on deductive logic. He can not have both his ideal of what he would make the foundation of science and still account for some of the most effective parts of science. They are incompatible.

Failure to differentiate theories that have reliably passed many tests from un-tested ones. By disallowing the possibility of confirmation and support Popper makes it impossible to place more confidence in a theory that has withstood repeated tests for decades or centuries. Initially, this may sound acceptable since stable theories that have withstood the test of time have later been disproven and replaced by other theories. There are serious problems with this approach, however. By denying that theories gain support and become more credible as they withstand our attempts to disprove them, well-tested theories have no more support or credibility than newly proposed theories that have never been tested.

For example, imagine we are to construct a bridge. In order to go about doing this, we must determine the best design for the bridge. We would need to make use of theories that the various designs are based upon in order to choose the appropriate design. How can we determine which design is most likely best? The most rational thing is to select the design that has been subjected to the most tests and has been successfully used in other projects similar to the bridge we are building. We would choose the design that has so far demonstrated itself to be the most reliable. According to Popper's theory, however, there is no difference between a design based upon theories that have been rigorously tested and an experimental design that has never been tested before. They each have the same amount of support- none. In practical experience we are required to make choices between theories, but Popper's philosophy does not account for these situations. This is a significant problem in his theory.

Conclusion. From just these three criticisms of Popper's falsificationalist account we can see that his philosophy of science is too narrow to account for the methods and processes of science. He attempts to restrict the field of science to that which is founded upon deductive logic, but this would require scientists to throw out 1) theories that may turn out to be accurate accounts of our world, 2) powerful tools used by scientists to examine the world (i.e. probability), and 3) our rational method of selecting one well-tested theory over a newly-proposed theory that has never before been tested. The only way for Popper to avoid this is to retract the very foundation of his entire theory. His theory is largely incompatible with the effective practice of science and the way we apply its discoveries.

I thank the readers for their interest and look forward to my opponents reply.
socialpinko

Con

(A)- History.


Not only has Pro failed to show specifics corroborating his Galileo anecdote (and thus inhibited any chance of me actually responding to/refuting it) but he is attempting to extrapolate philosophical standards from mere historical instances which is untenable in itself. This is because, in making this argument, Pro is presupposing some standard (X) on which to criticize Popper's standard (Y). But Pro has here offered zero support of his critical standard (which I surmise to be simply that which historically supports the best theories?).


In attempting to refute Popper's standard, Pro is presented with two options. He may either attack the reasoning itself upon which Popper builds his model (anti-justificationism, problem of induction, etc.) or he may juxtapose it with a "superior" standard. Pro here has done neither here and has only implicitly supported a rivalrous and ambiguous standard which he has not attempted to justify.


(B)- Probability.


Probabilities need not be ignored under critical rationalism. Pro seems to be ignoring the falsificationist model as applied to multiple theories. For instance, a theory that "O is likely to occur" would be superior to a theory that "O is not likely to occur" if under repeated experiments, "O" occurs more than 50% of the time. Or if we take multiple competing theories, one entailing probabilities and one entailing concrete statements of fact, the former may be more supported if (a) the latter theory is falsified and (b) the reasoning upon which the probabilistic theory is based upon goes unrefuted. Pro is engaging probabilistic theories in a vacuum here while ignoring both theories in conjunction with competing explanations and matter-of-fact evidence (which is vulnerable to falsification) as support of them.


(C)- Confidence.


Pro here has simply misrepresented Popper's falsificationist model. Nowhere did he suggest that a single negative experiment would warrant the complete refutation of a scientific theory. But of course this criticism has to do with means to ends, not standard in themselves. So I could support a falsificationist methodology while simultaneously either supporting an indiscriminatory take on scientific theories (irrespective of repeated positive experiments as Pro describes) or I could take that into account. The falsificationist model seems to be in line with both approaches. However, Popper's own account would appear to side with the latter means[1].


===Sources===


[1] http://plato.stanford.edu... (Sec. 5)
"For Popper, all scientific criticism must be piecemeal, i.e., he holds that it is not possible to question every aspect of a theory at once."
Debate Round No. 2
KuriouserNKuriouser

Pro

1. History

Direct argument against the content of a theory is not the only way to demonstrate a logical problem with it. For instance, if it is found that the application of an ethical theory may require us to torture and murder innocent people to increase the hedonistic pleasure that might be derived from others in the community, demonstrating such a feature may act as a valid counter-example that shows an inadequacy of the ethical theory since it contradicts our basic intuitions of morality. In the same way, the historical argument against Popper’s falsificationism presents numerous counter-examples that demonstrate significant scientific progress occurring in ways that Popper condemns as unethical and that do not hold to the limitations called for by his philosophy. It is a type of argumentum ad absurdum in that it examines the conclusions that extend from Popper and demonstrates an absurd conclusion: that theories considered as an improvement over previous theories (i.e. heliocentrism vs. geocentrism) should have been considered falsified and abandoned from its inception due to the dictates of an overly critical philosophy of science.


a. Duhem-Quine problem

Many of the problems with Popper’s theory originates in the Duhem-Quine problem, which argues that falsification can only be applied to individual hypothesis statements (H), but that theories are constructed by not only hypothesis statements that make observational predictions (O), but that hypothesis statements are inevitably accompanied by auxiliary assumptions (A). Instead of H -> O, ~O:: ~H the Duhem-Quine problem states that any theory also contains assumptions adjoined with the hypothesis: H^A -> O. ~O:: ~(H^A). Because of this we are unable to logically determine whether it is a failure of the hypothesis we are testing or simply the auxiliary assumptions. Popper accepted this as a problem and attempted to overcome it by stating that scientists must make their own decisions in these cases according to their own interpretations of the data as to whether the failure is due to H or A, further undermining his theory since it makes any theory ultimately unfalsifiable depending on the interpretations of the scientist. In order to contain what is allowed in this case, Popper forbids the practice of ad hoc changes in a theory in order to fit the theory to observations. This criteria is also problematic, however, as it still discounts many instances where utilizing this practice has proven highly effective in scientific practice.



b. Copernican Revolution

The Copernican theory of heliocentrism contained many inconsistencies between what was predicted and what was observed. For instance, the theory stated that Venus should appear six times brighter than at other times, however, this observation failed to present. To the scientists of the day it appeared to be a failure on the part of the theory, yet they continued with it anyway. It was also predicted that if the planet was indeed moving then an object dropped from the top of a tower would not fall directly below the spot from which it was dropped, but would land next to it due to the motion of the earth. It was not until Galileo improved upon the theory that such inconsistencies were solved. Most theories begin in a similar way, where the initial predictions made by it are falsified. It is because scientists do not accept falsification as their conclusion, but continue to pursue it that they often find that after clarifying their assumptions that they find they were progressing after all. Observations such as these throughout the history of science led the philosopher Thomas Kuhn to conclude that successful science does not follow a rational process, but works best by following an irrational process based on the decisions of the scientists themselves.


Popper was forced to accept that his initial theory was overly narrow and the holism proposed by Duhem and Quine. He modified his falsificationism as mentioned above to accommodate for this problem and grant scientists the ability to decide to risk pursuing a falsified theory, further undermining his goal of providing a logical foundation for science. However, he still attempted to limit this practice by 1) requiring a scientist to state under what terms he would consider his theory falsified from the beginning, 2) forbidding the practice of looking back on a theory after observations are made in order to improve the theory, and 3) requiring a scientist to abandon his theory as falsified once the given criteria had been met. Even this, however, is overly constraining, as demonstrated by Imre Lakatos. Lakatos found further examples of processes that went beyond these bounds set up by Popper, yet eventually became highly successful theories.

c. Bohr’s atomic model

The atomic model of Bohr was known to be inconsistent and falsified for decades, but scientists continued to use it as a working model anyway. They also improved the theory by looking backwards after observations. This is the primary example used by Lakatos to criticize Popper’s account of falsificationism and support his own falsificationist account that would allow for backward-looking adjustments to be made, as well as allow for inconsistencies within the realm of science in order not to discount valuable processes that Popper would throw out and so, severely limit the effective practice of scientists.


"'All theories are born refuted,' Lakatos liked to say; they abound in inconsistencies and anomalies-they are always already falsified as it were. In addition, many research programmes-including Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell's electromagnetic theory, or relativity, or evolutionary theory-also could never have identified conditions in advance that, if observed, would justify giving up the entire research programme (http://alturl.com..., 109)."

2. Probability

There are instances where probability is falsifiable. However, many of the important uses of it in science are ruled out by Popper’s theory because they do not meet his rigorous standards of falsifiability. For instance, science says there are specific half-lives to various types of radiological material. There is a good possibility that we may observe an amount of this material for the duration of its half-life and find that 50% of it has decayed, but this is only a probable prediction that increases with the number of observations we make. Since this theory is based on probability, however, we may also find that the prediction is not observed. This failure would not falsify the theory because it is based on probability. If we accept Popper’ philosophy we would be forced to discount such theories as unscientific, yet this is generally considered an unacceptable conclusion that implies instead that such a theory consists of overly narrow criteria


3. Support

There was no misrepresentation in my description from R2. From Con’s source in R2: “For Popper, a theory is scientific only if it is refutable by a conceivable event. Every genuine test of a scientific theory, then, is logically an attempt to refute or to falsify it, and one genuine counter-instance falsifies the whole theory (Sec. 4).”


Regarding the bridge scenario we are again talking about the outcome of applying Popper’s philosophy to the field of science and finding that we meet with absurd results. Con states that we can take the fact that a theory has repeatedly passed attempts at falsification into account in making our decision. We can do this because it is the intuitively rational thing to do. Popper’s theory takes away this intuition by discarding the notion of support and leaves us with no basis to make the decision to choose the tested (A)or untested theory (B). Any attempt to allow us to take the history of A into account is to try to “have your cake and eat it too.” One can allow for this decision only by disregarding the implications of Popper’s theory in the practical situations that the bridge scenario points out.
socialpinko

Con

socialpinko forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
KuriouserNKuriouser

Pro

The source I listed in R3 is not working so I reposted it earlier in the comments section and it can also be found here on page 190: http://www.strongwindpress.com...

It’s unfortunate that my opponent did not post his arguments for R3, since I’m confident that I thoroughly refuted those he presented in R2 and he will not have the opportunity to respond to my refutations in this round since there can be no new arguments. I will,therefore, simply conclude.

I have shown that the foundation of Popper’s theory meets with absurd conclusions that were unacceptable even to him. Popper himself attempted to mediate these problems, however, he was only able to appear to do so to the extent to which he was willing to retract his own theory and the foundation that he attempted to provide for science. Although he makes a limited attempt, as Lakatos demonstrated, it remained insufficient. If we analyze the content of Popper’s theory closely we can see that he is contradicting himself.

I thank my opponent for his participation and the readers for their interest. Cheers.
socialpinko

Con

I apologize for my forfeit. As this is the final round and presenting new arguments would constitute abuse against my opponent, I will only summarize my base argument which I presented in R2 and which Con did not offer a meaningful counter to.

Refuting a standard such as Popper's philosophy of science may be done in two ways. Either one can refute the theory's foundational premises (Popper mostly drew on the need for an answer to the induction problem a la Hume) or counter with a more founded or superior theory of one's own. Pro did neither. The entire function of his argument was to argue that Popper's philosophy of science didn't fit into what ever conceptual framework he happened to follow without theoretical justification of that framework or substantial criticism of Popper's.

Con didn't argue on the right scale, instead arguing on a first-order, practical basis (Popper's theory doesn't allow for X presuppsed scientific theories) as opposed to a second-order, philosophical one (the standard by which one actually jusges what makes a scientific theory) which is what would have been warranted given the subject matter of the resolution. Con has therefore failed to meet his BoP.


Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
RDF-from top to bottom. Please signify if there are any significant errors in my verdict--errors of thought and logical progression, I should note.
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
Much of Pro's case revolved around this issue of Popper's identification of science as a deductive model that relied on a falsificationist approach eliminating the capability to justify the observational aspect of a theory (with examples to supply both the discrepancy between Popper's criterion and the natural/observed progression of scientific revolution (what is presumed to be essentially illogical). I am somewhat unsure if Con demolished such a case; Con is correct, in a sense, that Pro retained only a general, "rivalrous" criteria but apparently uses it"as he details later"to juxtapose both with the currency of scientific philosophy as well as examples of the gestation of scientific theories and models"as Pro demonstrates in the final round.

Con's objection regarding Popper's stance was apparently overridden by what appeared to be an unequivocal assertion that "one genuine counter-instance falsifies the whole theory," and his previous point--that Pro engages probability only as a vacuum that ignores comparative understandings (in regards to "competing explanations and matter-of-fact evidence")--does not however counter Pro's original point, that a theory which operates in probability does not adhere to Popper's own criteria"that a theory must generally assert categorically, and not in gradations (note that said exceptions do not discount the fact that theories centering on probability are unfalsifiable, since the very outcomes of trial and error, by nature of the overarching deductive model, despite being condition, either betray an absolute falsification or not and rely not on said gradations.)*

Perhaps what is most interesting is the issue of a criteria; Con identifies"correctly, as I am told, the need to identify a substitute for a methodology or model exposed or demonstrated to be flawed, and uses said objection to include his criticism of Pro's original example: the Scientific Revolution. I have
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
reserved some time attempting to resolve this issue, and have come up with this final verdict-- (As a side note, Con offers an interesting objection: Pro appears to abstract and extrapolate a theme from historical observations as a criteria, though it is possible to note that such is a rationalization of Pro's case that conforms to the requisites Con offers. Such is a valid objection, but whether the substantiation of a "criteria" is necessary as part of an alignment to the resolution is a question I.)

Pro identifies his arguments as essentially an argument ad absurdum, whose essence indeed, and indirectly, seeks to expose the essential flaws through a comparative or relational understanding is reliant on conclusions and repercussions (the issue of metering "measurements of probability," differentiating between well-set theories from premature ones, etc).] The aforementioned standard, however, is a function of the major thesis-to render un-distilled Popper's criterion"s narrow scope that leads to an overcritical perspective of the generic scientific theory that can be witnessed in the exposure of the absurdity of its conclusions. The second scale approach is thus more related to the thesis or resolution in question, with the first perhaps targeted to only a general critique of a methodology that would require the outlining of a framework, and perhaps more appropriate (and, on such an account, is validated).

My ultimate assessment is that Con's case, which was admittedly short and relatively fragmented, was not sufficient in overturning Pro's case, no matter how credible or how unclear the latter was in proffering the reader a criteria for basis or understanding as a foundation or wellspring; Con's forfeit, and subsequent decision to only revive what he viewed to be his most important"and powerful point left his remaining arguments without much offensive power as all he retains is but a critique and characterization of his opponent's underlying methodology base
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
a few requisites that he argued unequivocally, without refuting Pro's rebuttal that there was other, alternative ways to rebut and repudiate said methodology, to have shaped the general burden of proof.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Because you only had one round to argue. You basically stated your case, had your opponent refute it, and then made a closing statement. Not very convincing, at least in my mind, especially in these kind of debates (purely based on logic as opposed to evidence). Your one argument was quite short as well. Your opponent brought a lot to the table, and you were unable to adequately address his arguments, and they were almost all credible.

This should be obvious just by looking at the debate. I'm not convinced that KK is correct, but you simply did not refute half of what he brought forth.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
Why am I automatically losing arguments for a single forfeit?
Posted by KuriouserNKuriouser 4 years ago
KuriouserNKuriouser
Just 2 hours left. Are ya gonna make it?
Posted by KuriouserNKuriouser 4 years ago
KuriouserNKuriouser
It can be found on page 190.
Posted by KuriouserNKuriouser 4 years ago
KuriouserNKuriouser
It appears my source link in R3 isn't working so I'll repost it here:
http://www.strongwindpress.com...
Posted by KuriouserNKuriouser 4 years ago
KuriouserNKuriouser
I'm having some serious problems with my word processor freezing/crashing right now. I'm hoping to be able to post R2 soon. Hang tight.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
KuriouserNKuriousersocialpinkoTied
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: I'll allot one point of conduct for Social responding back after his forfeit--and attempting to engage in the debate with but a foundational premise or point, although I admit that much of the power that could have been assigned to Con's case were destroyed with Con's short first round of arguments that were not sufficiently developed with his forfeit. Many of Con's points, including the absence of a criteria on which Pro apparently equivocates and fails to substantiate while disproving the bedrocks of Popper's philosophy, were formidable but when left in such a premature state--became dispensable; the structure of the debate permitted social only to reiterate said point, whose power was negated by Pro's nomination of an alternate style of refutation that Con did not necessarily address--unless if he wished to assert that the requisites he presented were the only credible approaches one could have undertaken to critique such a philosophy of science...See RFD in the comments. :)
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
KuriouserNKuriousersocialpinkoTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Showed promise, but the FF doomed the debate. Pity.
Vote Placed by drafterman 4 years ago
drafterman
KuriouserNKuriousersocialpinkoTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: FF