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What is Falsification? As a scientific method.

November 16, 2010

Mohan, mdashf


Let me start with a very simple example. Mr Despondent and Mr Swizzle have a spirited discussion. Since Mr Despondent is by nature a spiritless dull fella and Mr Swizzle is not dull but a little more spirited despite of the fact that he is not on much spirit when he is in any discussion that merits a good deal of patience, the spirit gets conserved in the process. So Mr Swizzle gets a little dull in the exchange in countering the swift falsifications of Mr Despondent. What is falsification?

Mr Swizzle come up with an observation, the market price of spirit is really unreasonable. Mr Despondent counters, that’s not So, Mr Swizzle. I agree it was so a decade ago and somehow linked to the practice of calling the spade a spade, so the spade were little less spirited, but with liberalization of our shoddy markets for the big names in both the international market and our own we have come forth to a reasonable market price for spirit.

If this is how it were to be discussed then it would open up a good deal of avenue for understanding the practice of falsification in a branch called Socialism and economic science. First of all, the spiritless Mr Despondent would have shown a great deal of reasoning and scholarly culture. His reasons and flow of arguments not withstanding he would appear as a man of suitable demeanor.

If he were to counter with some shoddy remarks himself, like, no its not reasonable at all, look I can gather a good statistics of why the prices are really reasonable, his reasoning would be one of practical falsification. If he were to come up with a remark how utterly uneducated Mr Swizzle is that would be an abrupt end to any falsification known to the logical and rational kind, but it would still be a bar innuendo, well received by  the Mr Swizzle.

There may also be a typical negation in approach, which is to say, negation is childish or humorous. We may disapprove of something or even take home a feeling that we are the winners. Since most of the arguments in the world are in some way or other   about proving another person wrong no matter how learned or fool that person is or about countering and encountering with the last method or may I say trick, that works pretty well.

So many folks may have an impression that, that’s what falsification is all about. Falsification on the other hand in a scientific terminology is an elaborate yet effective and practical method. Actually Falsification is a pretty intuitive scientific method itself. That is to say it’s as important as scientific method itself. What’s scientific method then?

This may be well understood by a small example. How to measure the weight of an object if a spring balance is available. Put the object on the balance and the number will show up. This is so accurate that it will show the same number each time this is measured. In scientific terminology we say the experiments are amenable to laws of science or scientific method and therefore give the same result on repetition.

A little more elaborate example would be the weight of an electron or for that matter any elementary matter particle. There is a principle or scientific method behind each measurement or scientific artifact. How the airplane flies or a camera works, they all have a scientific method behind their understanding and working.

So how is falsification a scientific method? There is no fixed method how to falsify one statement, a proposition or even a scheme of thing. It takes elaborate knowledge of many processes and principles, training and skill set, ingenuity of approach and peer experience and so on. A competent scientist does not proceed on a bona fide, I have to falsify, temperament. Neither is he entirely bereft of such a temperament.

But the idea is in a scientific falsification, that is, one, which is not, a priori, determined, as a falsification of scientific merit, must in itself lend to falsification. If you understand the significance of this simple statement, it’s far reaching. It is to say; a great deal of scientific understanding has come out because there are always competent and ingenuine ways of falsifying the most satisfying claims of another scientific study.

Science is a methodology, no matter how innocent a particular idea may sound from the outset. An idea that submits itself to the tests of falsification comes out to be as robust as the basis of science itself and therefore makes for itself a strong future. Falsification is the last resort of a scientist. Unless you are comfortable with it don’t come across its silly prongs. But falsification is not the only way to prove the falsity of any idea. Sometimes ignorance and silence are better practiced to falsify the infinitude of ideas that may show up the moment you decide to go kind on them. No one wants to get lost in an wonderland of infinity. Its inhuman and therefore no science can come out of it.

6 Comments

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  1. November 27, 2010

    Great information

  2. Brian Champness #
    May 28, 2012

    Good to see falsification in science discussed, but it is hardly new, and hardly the last resort of the scientist. The philosopher of science Karl Popper, (of revered memory), made it the bedrock of the experimental method in his ‘Conjectures and Refutations’ 1963 and ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ 1959. It is much more straightforward to falsify an hypothesis than to ‘prove’ it. (Indeed there are good arguments in support of the idea that ‘proof’ is possible only in mathematics, and perhaps in some areas of physics). Here is his simple illustration. Hypothesis: all swans are white. To ‘prove’ that statement you would have to examine all swans in the world, and all those that have ever existed. Impossible. To refute or disprove the statement you need only a single example of a black swan. So a good theory must a) be testable, and often in practice that means refutable, or falsifiable.

    • Mohan #
      May 28, 2012

      No its not new. last resort of the scientist >> used that in the sense of “made it the bedrock of the experimental method in his ‘Conjectures and Refutations’ 1963 and ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ 1959.” that is FORMIDABLE.

      It is much more straightforward to falsify an hypothesis than to ‘prove’ it >> true only if possible. Not always easy to falsify. Given the example of swan: thats the definition or rather a properties of falsification, agree, and I also cited the same in terms of an example: price of wine.

      In reality and in complex examples and in Physics/Science >> falsification is far more complicated and not atall straightforward but as you said: YES; proofs are for mathematical statements only. [yes Physics too but thats the conceptual and mathematical framework of physics which is why mathematics and logic only where proof is needed/possible]

      Since falsification is far more complicated in real neck-stiffing problems or statements it comes from someone who is vastly knowledgeable yet smart enough to figure out the falsified assumptions. Nothing as such of this is known a-priori, eg only a particular person might be tuned enough to falsify something: eg Bohr falsified many of Einstein’s assumptions, but thats because Bohr was as knowledgeable and intuitive as Einstein was.

      Theory being testable and refutable/falsifiable: there is no a-priori ways to do this, hence proof may be easier on some well defined mathematical problem but falsifiability is as complicated depending on how elaborate or advanced the concept is. eg I say “propertime of photons on a Minkowskian geodesic is zero”. Its hardly possible to falsify this unless someday theory of Relativity itself may turn out to be approximate which we do not know will come by way of thery or experiment. But till then its proof can be shown to be valid in various scenarios [because of as you righty noted: mathematical nature]

      Falsification as you noted in the sense of opposing to proof is easy. You are saying by that anti-proof. or disprove. I am saying falsification as a scientific method is a scientific method itself, hence its as elaborate as the latter. But proof and disproving something are ofcourse mathematical by nature …

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