Saturday, July 04, 2009
Scientists and Philosophy
Francisco Ayala is an unrepentant Popperian.
From Ayala's recent contribution to the Sackler Colloquium: In the light of evolution III: Two centuries of Darwin, entitled "Darwin and the scientific method":
The requirement that a scientific hypothesis be falsifiable has been appropriately called the criterion of demarcation of the empirical sciences because it sets apart the empirical sciences from other forms of knowledge (13, 14). A hypothesis that is not subject to the possibility of empirical falsification does not
belong in the realm of science.
The requirement that scientific hypotheses be falsifiable rather than simply verifiable seems surprising at first. It might seem that the goal of science is to establish the ''truth'' of hypotheses rather than attempt to falsify them, but it is not so. There is an asymmetry between the falsifiability and the verifiability of universal statements that derives from the logical nature of such statements. A universal statement can be shown to be false if it is found to be inconsistent with even 1 singular statement, i.e., a statement about a particular event. But, a universal statement can never be proven true by virtue of the truth of particular statements, no matter how numerous these may be.