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Evolution is not a scientific theory (Read 3417 times)
freediver
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Evolution is not a scientific theory
Jul 27th, 2010 at 8:00pm
 
http://www.ozpolitic.com/evolution/evolution-not-scientific-theory.html

Evolution should not be taught in high school science classes because it is not a scientific theory. It fails the requirement of falsifiability that is the litmus test for judging whether an investigation is scientific.

The modern scientific method is defined in terms of hypotheses, theories and laws. The difference between each is the level of acceptance in the scientific community. What they all have in common is that they must be falsifiable. This means that it must be possible to run an experiment that would prove the theory (or hypothesis or law) wrong, if it were not true.

Empiricism (a basis in experiment) is what gives science it's credibility. It means that a scientist in Poland does not have to take your word for it - they can do their own experiment and attempt to disprove it for themselves. The falsifiability part prevents people from coming up with theories that can only be proved right. Evolution fails both of these tests. There is no experiment that can test the theory. Any new evidence that comes to light cannot disprove the theory - only either back it up or call for a modification of the evolutionary tree or a modification of the theory.

Natural selection is a scientific theory. Evolution differs from natural selection by including the ideas of common ancestry and beneficial mutation. Just because a theory is not scientific does not mean that it has no merit. However, claiming that a theory is scientific lends it undeserved authority and diminishes the authority of science.

The modern scientific method arose during the scientific revolution - after the renaissance. Observation of nature and speculation do form part of the scientific method. That is how new hypotheses are formed. However, they should be immediately checked to see whether they are scientific or not.

Old discussions:

Denialism of science.

http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1271213213/45#45

EVOLUTION VS RELIGION

http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1167973400/405#405
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Ziggy
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #1 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 8:42pm
 
You're flogging a dead horse there, Diver.  You used Wiki in your blog and here's Wiki again. Consider your claim falsified. Wink

However, evolution is considered falsifiable by scientists because it can make predictions that, were they contradicted by the evidence, would falsify evolution. Several kinds of evidence have been proposed that could falsify evolution, such as the fossil record showing no change over time, confirmation that mutations are prevented from accumulating, or observations showing organisms being created supernaturally or spontaneously.[60] Many of Darwin's ideas and assertions of fact have been falsified as evolutionary science has developed and has continued to confirm his central concepts.[62] In contrast, creationism consists largely of unsubstantiated claims that evolution has been falsified.[60] Creationist explanations involving the direct intervention of the supernatural in the physical world are not falsifiable, because any result of an experiment or investigation could be the unpredictable action of an omnipotent deity.[63]

In 1976, philosopher Karl Popper said that "Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory but a metaphysical research programme".[64] However, Popper later recanted and offered a more nuanced view of its status:

However, Darwin's own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test. There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as 'industrial melanism', we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were. Nevertheless, really severe tests of the theory of natural selection are hard to come by, much more so than tests of otherwise comparable theories in physics or chemistry.[65][66]

The most direct evidence that evolutionary theory is falsifiable may be the original words of Charles Darwin who, in chapter 6 of On the Origin of Species wrote: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."[67]

In response to the unfalsifiability criticism of evolutionary theory, numerous examples of potential ways to falsify evolution have been proposed. J.B.S. Haldane, when asked what hypothetical evidence could disprove evolution, replied "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era".[68][69] Numerous other potential ways to falsify evolution have also been proposed.[43] For example, the fact that humans have one fewer pair of chromosomes than the great apes offered a testable hypotheses involving the fusion or splitting of chromosomes from a common ancestor. The fusion hypothesis was confirmed in 2005 by discovery that human chromosome 2 is homologous with a fusion of two chromosomes that remain separate in other primates. Extra, inactive telomeres and centromeres remain on human chromosome 2 as a result of the fusion.[70] The assertion of common descent could also have been disproven with the invention of DNA analysis. If true, human DNA should be far more similar to chimpanzees and other great apes, than to other mammals. If not, then common descent is falsified. DNA analysis has shown that humans and chimpanzees share a large percentage of their DNA (between 95% to 99.4% depending on the measure).[71] Also, the evolution of chimpanzees and humans from a common ancestor predicts a (geologically) recent common ancestor. Numerous transitional fossils have since been found.[72] Hence, human evolution has passed several falsifiable tests.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objections_to_evolution
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muso
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #2 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 8:43pm
 
We're discussing falsifiability and Popperism on the other thread. Perhaps we'll come back here later.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #3 - Jul 28th, 2010 at 9:40pm
 
Quote:
However, evolution is considered falsifiable by scientists because it can make predictions that, were they contradicted by the evidence, would falsify evolution.


For it to be scientific you have to be able to design a repeatable experiment. Otherwise you allow all sorts of theories to be considered scientific that are clearly not. Your examples demonstrate this....

Quote:
such as the fossil record showing no change over time


There are plenty of examples of very long periods where the fossil record remained the same. The theory merely adapted to this - hence the term punctuated equilibria.

Quote:
confirmation that mutations are prevented from accumulating


Not true. Harmful mutations are prevented from accumulating. This supports the theory, rather than falsifying it.

Quote:
or observations showing organisms being created supernaturally or spontaneously


So you think evolution is scientific because we don't observe supernatural events that contradict it? The absence of magic makes it science? That is a pretty low bar to set. Is any old theory at all that is not disproven by magic now to be considered scientific?

Quote:
In contrast, creationism consists largely of unsubstantiated claims that evolution has been falsified.


So evolution is scientific becase creationism is unsubstantiated? All you need to make a theory scientific is a competing theory that isn't scientific?

Quote:
However, Darwin's own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test. There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as 'industrial melanism', we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were. Nevertheless, really severe tests of the theory of natural selection are hard to come by, much more so than tests of otherwise comparable theories in physics or chemistry.


I make the same distinction. I clearly separate the scientific theory of natural selection from the non-scientific 'extrapolations' that give you the theory of evolution. That is why practitioners in the field so clearly delineate natural 'history' from 'science'.

Quote:
In response to the unfalsifiability criticism of evolutionary theory, numerous examples of potential ways to falsify evolution have been proposed. J.B.S. Haldane, when asked what hypothetical evidence could disprove evolution, replied "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era".


That would not disprove evolution. It would merely show that rabbit like creatures evolved in the past, died out, then evolved again. Either that or it would prove that it was not in fact the precambrian era. Or maybe someone buried the rabbit in that particular layer. Or it must be a hoax. Maybe a giant flood mixed everything up....
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #4 - Jul 28th, 2010 at 9:53pm
 
Quote:
For it to be scientific you have to be able to design a repeatable experiment.


Well you are in luck, a little planet just a few million light years from here is seeing some strange reactions in their primordial soup as we speak.
If you can just wait another 268 million years we will be able to compare answers.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #5 - Jul 28th, 2010 at 10:18pm
 
freediver wrote on Jul 28th, 2010 at 9:40pm:
Quote:
However, evolution is considered falsifiable by scientists because it can make predictions that, were they contradicted by the evidence, would falsify evolution.


For it to be scientific you have to be able to design a repeatable experiment. Otherwise you allow all sorts of theories to be considered scientific that are clearly not. Your examples demonstrate this....

Quote:
such as the fossil record showing no change over time


There are plenty of examples of very long periods where the fossil record remained the same. The theory merely adapted to this - hence the term punctuated equilibria.

Quote:
confirmation that mutations are prevented from accumulating


Not true. Harmful mutations are prevented from accumulating. This supports the theory, rather than falsifying it.

Quote:
or observations showing organisms being created supernaturally or spontaneously


So you think evolution is scientific because we don't observe supernatural events that contradict it? The absence of magic makes it science? That is a pretty low bar to set. Is any old theory at all that is not disproven by magic now to be considered scientific?

Quote:
In contrast, creationism consists largely of unsubstantiated claims that evolution has been falsified.


So evolution is scientific becase creationism is unsubstantiated? All you need to make a theory scientific is a competing theory that isn't scientific?

Quote:
However, Darwin's own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test. There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as 'industrial melanism', we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were. Nevertheless, really severe tests of the theory of natural selection are hard to come by, much more so than tests of otherwise comparable theories in physics or chemistry.


I make the same distinction. I clearly separate the scientific theory of natural selection from the non-scientific 'extrapolations' that give you the theory of evolution. That is why practitioners in the field so clearly delineate natural 'history' from 'science'.

Quote:
In response to the unfalsifiability criticism of evolutionary theory, numerous examples of potential ways to falsify evolution have been proposed. J.B.S. Haldane, when asked what hypothetical evidence could disprove evolution, replied "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era".


That would not disprove evolution. It would merely show that rabbit like creatures evolved in the past, died out, then evolved again. Either that or it would prove that it was not in fact the precambrian era. Or maybe someone buried the rabbit in that particular layer. Or it must be a hoax. Maybe a giant flood mixed everything up....



Are you being genuine FD or is there some disconnect going on?


Do you know what you're talking about ? Natural selection is part and parcel of the theory of evolution. It's acknowledged as a major driver. You'd have to be the only person I know that thinks they're separate. You seem to be arguing a straw man. What do you understand by the theory of evolution?

You say there are several  examples where the fossil record remained unchanged - punctuated equilibria. So you're looking at part of the fossil record and not the overall fossil record which shows change. That's a bit precious, isn't it?

With respect to confimations being prevented from accumulating I think what is meant there is the reference to small mutations accumulating over time. If this could not be found then evolution would be falsified.

Creationism is a competing hypothesis, it offers the idea that life was as it is today from it's beginning. That would be a refutation if they or anyone could show it. You're characterisation of it is a straw man.

Come on, FD, that rebuttal of Haldane's rabbits is off the wall. You're grasping at straws and you're indicating either that you don't really understand what it is that you're addressing or are just doing anything to win an argument.

That rabbits evolved in pre-cambrian times , died out and evolved again? Excuse me, if rabbits existed in Pre-cambrian times it would disprove evolution which holds that life at that time was less complex than a mammalian lifeforms which EVOLVED over time and are found in higher rock stratas.

Hoax? Well, by definition that would not be falsification. Only a genuine fossil from that time would be accepted.

You have not addressed the examples from human evolution.

So , while we're here, how do you think life that we see around us today got here if not by evolution?  Huh

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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #6 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 3:52am
 
Quote:
Come on, FD, that rebuttal of Haldane's rabbits is off the wall. You're grasping at straws and you're indicating either that you don't really understand what it is that you're addressing or are just doing anything to win an argument.
-Ziggy

lol, those of us who have been arguing with FD for years, all face the same question Ziggy, and I found this cartoon which I felt illustrated very well what it is like arguing with FD, see what you think.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #7 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 8:11am
 
Ziggy wrote on Jul 28th, 2010 at 10:18pm:
So , while we're here, how do you think life that we see around us today got here if not by evolution?  Huh



By abiogenesis then by evolutionary processes, including what approximates to standard evolutionary theory and some other minor influences such as Lamarckian inheritance.

I'm interested in FD's take on that question too. It's about time you put your cards on the table FD, because the only other people to be nit-picking over the philosophy of science are those who believe in 'magic'.

Popper's sophisticated falsification 'theory' of philosophy has largely been replaced by writers such as Thomas Kuhn, whose praises you have sung frequently, and who advocates a more balanced approach. Probabilistic Induction is one new paradigm that severely upsets the sacred cow of falsifiability.

The limitation of Popper's theory is that you need to be able to establish criteria for falsification. All data is subject to natural variation. If you had one or two points that didn't fall on the line, would that be regarded as falsification? How about 3 points?


Your argument that Evolution should not be taught because it doesn't fit certain definitions of Scientific would imply that we should stop teaching a wide range of other things, particularly aspects of cosmology such as string theory.

If you took that attitude practically no science would be taught.  

Which barrow are you pushing exactly? Are you a Creationist? I somehow don't think so, but why single out Evolution?
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #8 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 4:22pm
 
1978: POPPER ‘RECANTS’ AND ADMITS THAT THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION CAN BE SCIENTIFIC
Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind, Dialectica 32:339-355, 1978. See pp. 344-346.

    “I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. … The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological.”
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #9 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 6:44pm
 
Evolution is considered falsifiable by scientists because it can make predictions that, were they contradicted by the evidence, would falsify evolution. Several kinds of evidence have been proposed that could falsify evolution, such as the fossil record showing no change over time, confirmation that mutations are prevented from accumulating, or observations showing organisms being created supernaturally or spontaneously. Many of Darwin's ideas and assertions of fact have been falsified as evolutionary science has developed and has continued to confirm his central concepts.



The statement "evolution is both a theory and a fact" is often seen in biological literature. Evolution is a "theory" in the scientific  sense of the term "theory"; it is an established scientific model that explains observations and makes predictions through mechanisms such as natural selection.

When scientists say "evolution is a fact" they are using one of two meanings of the word "fact". One meaning is empirical, and when this is what scientists mean, then "evolution" is used to mean observed changes in allele frequencies or traits of a population over successive generations.

Another way "fact" is used is to refer to a certain kind of theory, one that has been so powerful and productive for such a long time that it is universally accepted by scientists. When scientists say evolution is a fact in this sense, they mean it is a fact that all living organisms have descended from a common ancestor (or ancestral gene pool) even though this cannot be directly observed. This implies more tangibly that it is a fact that humans share a common ancestor with other primates.



(I wasn't allowed to post the Wikipedia links but they are under "evolution as theory and fact" and Objections to evolution")
There may be some people who reject Wikipedia but I think the above quotes sum it up.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #10 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 9:20pm
 
freediver wrote on Jul 28th, 2010 at 9:40pm:
Quote:
However, evolution is considered falsifiable by scientists because it can make predictions that, were they contradicted by the evidence, would falsify evolution.


For it to be scientific you have to be able to design a repeatable experiment. Otherwise you allow all sorts of theories to be considered scientific that are clearly not. Your examples demonstrate this....

Quote:
such as the fossil record showing no change over time


There are plenty of examples of very long periods where the fossil record remained the same. The theory merely adapted to this - hence the term punctuated equilibria.

Quote:
confirmation that mutations are prevented from accumulating


Not true. Harmful mutations are prevented from accumulating. This supports the theory, rather than falsifying it.

Quote:
or observations showing organisms being created supernaturally or spontaneously


So you think evolution is scientific because we don't observe supernatural events that contradict it? The absence of magic makes it science? That is a pretty low bar to set. Is any old theory at all that is not disproven by magic now to be considered scientific?

Quote:
In contrast, creationism consists largely of unsubstantiated claims that evolution has been falsified.


So evolution is scientific becase creationism is unsubstantiated? All you need to make a theory scientific is a competing theory that isn't scientific?

Quote:
However, Darwin's own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test. There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as 'industrial melanism', we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were. Nevertheless, really severe tests of the theory of natural selection are hard to come by, much more so than tests of otherwise comparable theories in physics or chemistry.


I make the same distinction. I clearly separate the scientific theory of natural selection from the non-scientific 'extrapolations' that give you the theory of evolution. That is why practitioners in the field so clearly delineate natural 'history' from 'science'.

Quote:
In response to the unfalsifiability criticism of evolutionary theory, numerous examples of potential ways to falsify evolution have been proposed. J.B.S. Haldane, when asked what hypothetical evidence could disprove evolution, replied "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era".


That would not disprove evolution. It would merely show that rabbit like creatures evolved in the past, died out, then evolved again. Either that or it would prove that it was not in fact the precambrian era. Or maybe someone buried the rabbit in that particular layer. Or it must be a hoax. Maybe a giant flood mixed everything up....


FD,
I see you are into more -
Credible
Reliable
Abundant
Paradoxes

I think, I will take "Darwin's theories", in preference to "your scientific evidence", whether it be falsifiable, repeatable, adaptable, punctuatable, unsubstantiable, extrapolatable or even fricasseeable!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact  
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #11 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 9:38pm
 
Quote:
Do you know what you're talking about ? Natural selection is part and parcel of the theory of evolution.


So now all a theory needs in order to be considered scientific is some part of it that is scientific?

Quote:
You say there are several  examples where the fossil record remained unchanged - punctuated equilibria. So you're looking at part of the fossil record and not the overall fossil record which shows change. That's a bit precious, isn't it?


No. Just proving a point.

Quote:
With respect to confimations being prevented from accumulating I think what is meant there is the reference to small mutations accumulating over time. If this could not be found then evolution would be falsified.


No it wouldn't. The evolutionists would just say you need to wait a bit longer. Most confirmation don't happen till puberty. It would never actually be disproved.

Quote:
Creationism is a competing hypothesis, it offers the idea that life was as it is today from it's beginning. That would be a refutation if they or anyone could show it. You're characterisation of it is a straw man.


I just don't see how the theory of creationism somehow makes evolution scientific. Can you explain it so it makes sense?

Quote:
That rabbits evolved in pre-cambrian times , died out and evolved again? Excuse me, if rabbits existed in Pre-cambrian times it would disprove evolution which holds that life at that time was less complex than a mammalian lifeforms which EVOLVED over time and are found in higher rock stratas.


I don't think the theory of evolution actually states that. The historical record can and will be simply chopped and changed as the evidence comes in. This has never disproved the theory of evolution, so I don;t see why it would in the future.

Quote:
Popper's sophisticated falsification 'theory' of philosophy has largely been replaced by writers such as Thomas Kuhn, whose praises you have sung frequently, and who advocates a more balanced approach. Probabilistic Induction is one new paradigm that severely upsets the sacred cow of falsifiability.


I don't really see a contradiction between the two. They merely addressed the same question from different scales - like micro and macro economics. Not that I have read a lot of Popper's work, but people seem to insist my views are close to his.

Quote:
The limitation of Popper's theory is that you need to be able to establish criteria for falsification. All data is subject to natural variation. If you had one or two points that didn't fall on the line, would that be regarded as falsification? How about 3 points?


That sounds like a poorly designed experiment to me. No philosophy of science will get around statistical problems. I am not saying a single experiment or a single point disproves a theory. It has to be repeatable. The disproof itself is not the undoing of the theory, but rather what follows - the loss of confidence in the scientific community. This is getting into Kuhn's territory, but again I don't see any contradiction with my views.

Quote:
Your argument that Evolution should not be taught because it doesn't fit certain definitions of Scientific would imply that we should stop teaching a wide range of other things, particularly aspects of cosmology such as string theory.


Which particular aspects? I have seen a lot of theories that are indistuinguishable from science fiction and cannot be tested in any way. I have seen many that are scientific. I think this is a great way to reinforce the value of understanding science.

Quote:
If you took that attitude practically no science would be taught.


All of it would be taught. Note that I am not saying it should not be taught, just as I am not saying that history, maths, English etc should not be taught.

Quote:
Which barrow are you pushing exactly? Are you a Creationist? I somehow don't think so, but why single out Evolution?


This is where the issue first arose for me, and the only one that people take an interest in. If I argued that certain aspects of cosmology should not be taught in high school science classes, I would get blank stares. Also, many people's interest in the evolution vs creationsim argument leads them to loose sight of what science is. It's like they will sacrifice science for evolution.

Quote:
“I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. … The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that it is far from tautological.”


I have never argued that natural selection is not scientific. I suspect you lead yourselves astray a bit in comparing me with Popper.

Quote:
Another way "fact" is used is to refer to a certain kind of theory, one that has been so powerful and productive for such a long time that it is universally accepted by scientists. When scientists say evolution is a fact in this sense, they mean it is a fact that all living organisms have descended from a common ancestor (or ancestral gene pool) even though this cannot be directly observed. This implies more tangibly that it is a fact that humans share a common ancestor with other primates.


I suspect you will find the explanation of the use of the term fact far less tortuous if you call them natural historians and use examples from the study of history.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #12 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 9:50pm
 
mozzaok wrote on Jul 29th, 2010 at 3:52am:
Quote:
Come on, FD, that rebuttal of Haldane's rabbits is off the wall. You're grasping at straws and you're indicating either that you don't really understand what it is that you're addressing or are just doing anything to win an argument.
-Ziggy

lol, those of us who have been arguing with FD for years, all face the same question Ziggy, and I found this cartoon which I felt illustrated very well what it is like arguing with FD, see what you think.


That seems like a reasonable depiction!
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #13 - Jul 30th, 2010 at 6:55am
 
FD, you ignored this on the other thread, but once more, this is what Thomas Kuhn wrote (emphasis mine):

Quote:
The role thus attributed to falsification is much like the one this essay assigns to anomalous experiences, i.e. to experiences that, by evoking crisis, prepare the way for a new theory. Nevertheless, anomalous experiences may not be identified with falsifying ones. Indeed, I doubt that the latter exist. As has repeatedly been emphasized before, no theory ever solves all the puzzles with which it is confronted at an given time; nor are the solutions already achieved often perfect. On the contrary, it is just the incompleteness and imperfection of the existing data-theory fit that, at any time, define many of the puzzles that characterize normal science. If any and every failure to fit were ground for theory rejection, all theories ought to be rejected at all times. On the other hand, if only severe failure to fit justifies theory rejection, then the Popperians will require some criterion of "improbability" or of "degree of falsification." In developing one they will almost certainly encounter the same network of difficulties that has haunted the advocates of the various probabilistic verification theories.
From the "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (pp.146-47)

That's as clear as I can make it.

There is no absolute truth in the philosophy of science and just like everything else, we base it on our perception of reality. These philosophies change, just like scientific theories. We can't see everything, so we may find later that our falsified theory actually holds out under different conditions.

There is a disconnect. As Kuhn rightly pointed out, many scientists continue to present their work according to their falsification model. On the other hand, the research is carried out on a much more intuitive basis. Research science is more like a prolonged game of chess between different workers in the field. There is inevitably a degree of advocacy involved. It provides the social drive for the research in the first place. However if a researcher continues to cling to his theory long after the work has been invalidated, that's where pseudoscience creeps in.  

The falsification model of Popper has its place, but you treat it as a rigid principle of demarcation, and it certainly is not that. The newer paradigm of Thomas Kuhn is a more flexible approach.
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Re: Evolution is not a scientific theory
Reply #14 - Jul 30th, 2010 at 11:22am
 
Quote:
muso
There is no absolute truth in the philosophy of science and just like everything else, we base it on our perception of reality. These philosophies change, just like scientific theories. We can't see everything


That pretty much says it!

And, with just a little re-arranging, we are nearly there -

There is no absolute truth, we base all on our perception of reality. These philosophies change, just like scientific theories, we can't see everything.
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