Talk:Falsifiability

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I noticed that you listed the text source as "now defunct skepticwiki.org". That site doesn't appear to be defunct and I'd prefer that we not use large quotes from other sites (defunct or not) without permission and citation. Sans Deity 16:24, 26 April 2007 (CDT)

As to permissions: they use a free license, so that wouldn't be a problem. But, well, since they aren't really defunct (as I was led to think by our U's buggy proxy), and the original text is not to be lost, I'll rewrite it (may happen in a day or two). In the meanwhile, I'll revert it to the previous version and add a Work in progress template. --Zx-man 17:05, 26 April 2007 (CDT)

Falsification of Evolutionary Theory

Irreducible complexity is not a potential means by which one could falsify evolutionary theory. It is an argumentum ad ignorantiam. You cannot even in theory demonstrate that a system is irreducibly complex, you can only demonstrate that is reducible or state that you don't know how to reduce it.

In other words, there is no potential example of an irreducibly complex system which says, "evolution couldn't have caused this"; rather, every possible example would simply say, "we don't know how evolution caused this yet."

The only way I can think of to falsify evolutionary theory as a whole is to demonstrate a mechanism that prevents, and has always prevented, mutations from accumulating. And that would be difficult indeed, since we have already demonstrated that they do accumulate :)

Any other means of falsifying evolution I've seen wouldn't really falsify it. For example, Yahweh showing up and creating a unicorn right in front of me would not be a demonstration that selection does not also happen. Though if it turned out I hadn't gone insane, I might tend to believe him if he told me it didn't.

--Jaban 15:28:44, 1 February 2009 (CST)

Your argument is circular - "we don't know how evolution caused this yet" presumes that evolution caused the change. [Ironically, your argument implies a non-falsifiable theory of evolution :-) ]
Another problem is that it is, itself, an argumentum ad ignorantiam: Ignorance of how an irreducibly complex system could exist is not evidence of the impossibility of such a system.
Moving on... I'm removing this entire statement from the article: It is not a requirement of falsifiability that there be a current means of falsifying the theory. It must simply be logically possible that an observation or experiment could have done so, if it were not true. In cases where the theory is shown to be true, such as the Theory of Evolution, the means of falsification are exhaustively demonstrated to be incorrect.
1. This runs counter to the entire concept of falsifiability, and is directly at odds with the fundamental nature of scientific rigor.
2. Not just "could have" - in order to be considered falsifiable, an experiment conducted yesterday, today, or tomorrow, should be capable of disproving the theory. The issue is the capability for such a test, not whether it has passed all the tests to date. Newtonian physics survived for centuries as the premier theory of how stuff works; now, it's relegated to a very limited role where precision isn't important.
3. "...the means of falsification are exhaustively demonstrated to be incorrect" seems to run counter to the very basis of scientific rigor. Does it work that after passing x number of tests, it's proven, and exempt from further, more accurate testing? Or is it that whenever we discover a better idea, we are permitted to abandon the earlier one? Rival 01:04, 6 February 2009 (CST)


I'll admit I expressed that poorly. I was not arguing for evolution nor against the possibility of a real irreducibly complex system. I was trying to say that "irreducible complexity" is a claim of ignorance, not a claim of more knowledge. At best, one can only say he doesn't know how a system can be reduced further (not that it can't be), and therefore cannot comment on the ability of evolution to produce it.
Your first two comments seem to be based on that. I hope that clarifies it.


I don't object to you removing that paragraph, because it does give the wrong impression. I intended to convey that a theory does not "lose" its status of being falsifiable when you've disconfirmed every known means by which to falsifying it. Disconfirming potential weaknesses strengthens the theory and opens more doors, not the other way around.
--Jaban 10:24, 6 February 2009 (CST)
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