Popper prevails

Popper’s epistemology has, in every pragmatic sense, become the prevailing theory of the nature and growth of scien­tific knowledge. When it comes to the rules for experiments in any field to be accepted as ‘scientific evidence’ by theo­reticians in that field, or by respectable journals for publication, or by physicians for choosing between rival medical treatments, the modern watchwords are just as Popper would have them: experimental testing, exposure to criticism, theoretical explanation and the acknowledgement of fallibility in experimental procedures. In popular accounts of science, scientific theories tend to be presented more as bold conjectures than as inferences drawn from accumulated data, and the difference between science and (say) astrology is correctly explained in terms of testability rather than degree of confirmation. In school laboratories, ‘hypothesis formation and testing’ are the order of the day. No longer are pupils expected to ‘learn by experiment’, in the sense that I and my contemporaries were – that is, we were given some equipment and told what to do with it, but we were not told the theory that the results were supposed to conform to. It was hoped that we would induce it. [331-2]

1 comment

  1. On the first couple of points, I tend to agree. But the one about schools? If only… That’s how universities are still operating, for crying out loud… 🙁

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