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More falsificationism strawmen going up in flames

A second familiar approach from the same period is Karl Popper’s ‘falsificationist’ criterion, which fares no better. Apart from the fact that it leaves ambiguous the scientific status of virtually every singular existential statement, however well supported (e.g., the claim that there are atoms, that there is a planet closer to the sun than the Earth, that there is a missing link), it has the untoward consequence of countenancing as ‘scientific’ every crank claim which makes ascertainably false assertions. Thus flat Earthers, biblical creationists, proponents of laetrile or orgone boxes, Uri Geller devotees, Bermuda Triangulators, circle squarers, Lysenkoists, charioteers of the gods, perpetuum mobile builders, Big Foot searchers, Loch Nessians, faith healers, polywater dabblers, Rosicrucians, the-world-is-about-to-enders, primal screamers, water diviners, magicians, and astrologers all turn out to be scientific on Popper’s criterion – just so long as they are prepared to indicate some observation, however improbable, which (if it came to pass) would cause them to change their minds. [121]

1 comment

  1. PeterM says:

    What tries to pass itself off as critical philosophy can be painfully embarrassing. Of course, Popper said that a theory’s logical form alone can’t determine its scientific status. And also of course it is the scientific status of a theory that the falsifiability criterion applies to, not statements of fact. And since the critical method is essential, one should maybe realise that part of that method is a) admitting only new theories that would “constitute a scientific advance” and b) the actual testing of those theories. In short, it is hard to believe how ridiculously wrong even professional philosophers get Popper’s ideas—and how breathtakingly uncritical they are towards their own interpretations of his work.

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