Notion of Popper's Falsification.

  Karl popper denied that science is merely a collection of laws, theories, methods etc. according to him Hypothesis resting is primary function of science. Science is a series of conjectures and refutations. Everything in science is modifiable and nothing is absolute. Truth in science is not fully attainable. He bridged the two extremes of logical positivism and historical realism. According to him induction is not valid scientific methods. He stresses the role of observation and at the same time doesn’t make a sharp distinction between theory and observation. All observations are theory laden.

Popper was of the opinion that the criterion of demarcation between science and non- science is Falsification. Thus a statement is scientific if it can be falsified. Thus the question of God is not a scientific one. If a theory is truly science, it can stand opposition. The more theory resists the attempts of Falsification the more is it strengthened and well established as science.

As Popper notes it, “every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it.” Popper’s falsification clearly denies any induction as part of scientific method. This is not an entirely jointed theory, yet it makes sense. Popper, then, repudiates induction, and rejects the view that it is the characteristic method of scientific investigation and inference and substitutes falsifiability in its place. He believes that theories are always falsified at a later date. Moreover, he argues that “theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred.”Popper thinks that in every step of the way, these theories find verifications and this in fact, is their weakness.

 “A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory but a vice.” Popper calls these theories “non-scientific” because they are not disproved or proven erroneous.On the other hand, scientists might argue that the best scientific theories are the ones that have multifarious verifications and confirmations.

He added that experience can never verify a theory as true, only falsify it. Generalizations are first conjectured, and then held up to the scrutiny of experience for refutation.

"He asserted that if a statement is to be scientific rather than metaphysical it must be falsifiable .... He then based his philosophy of science on the hypothetico-deductive method, claiming that enumerative INDUCTION is invalid, and indeed does not in fact occur, while verification and CONFIRMATION (as opposed to his own ‘corroboration’) are impossible. As his philosophy of science said we should aim to eliminate the false rather than establish the true."

In short whatever is falsified is scientific and whatever is not falsified in unscientific. Science is in nature cannot be absolutely proved but approximately proof. Besides that whatever is not falsified is not necessarily be scientific and whatever is not falsified, is not necessarily be unscientific.

What does he aim to solve with this?
Popper was trying to solve the problems of Logical positivism. The logical positivists claimed that science is a set of laws, concepts, theories, etc. Scientific knowledge is governed by strict rules of rationality. Scientific knowledge is totally objective. None scientific factors like prejudices, upbringing, status of scientist have nothing to do with science. Science is valid for all place and persons and all times.
The logical positivism claims that the verification theory of meaning says that statement is meaningful if only it is empirically verifiable. They make a sharp distinction between observational and theoretical terms. Theoretical terms are messy, vague and controversial whereas observational terms are trouble free. According to them science grows cumulatively. Once a scientific law is establish it doesn’t change.

Each of the above claiming of science is rejected bluntly by Popper. For Popper science primary concern is Hypothesis. Falsification is a belief that for any hypothesis to have credibility. It must be inherently disprovable before.  It can become accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory. Karl Popper notes “science is more concerned with falsification of hypothesis than with the verification.” Falsification is explicitly stated by Sir Karl Popper as a way of distinguishing science from pseudoscience. Popper's argument for a convention as a criterion of demarcation largely stemmed from his rejection of the inductivist thought and the positivist tradition.

Popper himself fell in to the same pit instead of claiming the absolute truth or supremacy of science and neglecting the other disciplines. McHenry notes, “Positivist usage of "meaningful statements" or similar attempts to show that the problem of demarcation or induction were merely pseudo-problems were largely refuted by Popper in his search for a new criterion of demarcation.” Popper had also been made uncomfortable by Marxism and Freudianism. How their advocates always seemed to have an answer for everything, even clear falsifications. Thus, he decided that a proper scientific theory ought to be "falsifiable", meaning that it ought to be possible for some observation to be contrary to it.

Does he succeed? If so how? If not, why not?
No, Popper did not succeed. The failure of the verification principle led to a new challenge. In order for a statement to be meaningful, the Falsification Principle demands that the proposer must account fir what might be the case in its falsification.Karl Popper notes that “science is more concerned with falsification of hypothesis than with the verification.”

Chalmers shows the problems of falsification of science. These problems stem from the logical situation. When observation and experiment provide evidence that conflict with the predictions of some law or theory, it may be the evidence which is at fault rather than the law or theory."Falsification is not itself falsifiable. The notion of degree of falsifiability is problematic. Popper cannot account for our expectations about the future. Scientists sometimes ignore falsification.

Influenced by Karl Popper, Antony Flew applied the Falsification Principle to religious language and concluded that religious statements are nothing more than non-sensical utterances of little significance.Religions has important role to play, even the hypothesis or deduction is very much connected to religion. In short I would say Popper fell into a pit which he himself dug it.

Falsification of Popper, in its basic form, is the belief that for any hypothesis to have credibility. It must be inherently disprovable before it can become accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory. For example, if a scientist asks, “Does God exist?” then this can never be science because it is a theory that cannot be disproved. The idea is that no theory is completely correct, but if not falsified, it can be accepted as truth. For example, Newton’s Theory of Gravity was accepted as truth for centuries, because objects do not randomly float away from the earth. It appeared to fit the figures obtained by experimentation and research, but was always subject to testing.

However, later research showed that, at quantum levels, Newton’s laws break down and so the theory is no longer accepted as truth. This is not to say that his ideas are now useless, as the principles are still used by NASA to plot the courses of satellites and space probes. Popper saw falsifiability as a black and white definition, that if a theory is falsifiable, it is scientific, and if not, then it is unscientific. Whilst most ‘pure’ sciences do adhere to this strict definition, pseudo-sciences may fall somewhere between the two extremes.

One observation does not falsify a theory. The experiment may have been badly designed, data could be incorrect.Quine states “a theory is not a single statement; it is a complex network. You might falsify one statement e.g. all swans are white in the network, but this should not been you should reject the whole complex theory.”


Popper's 'scientific method' requires an infinite number of hypotheses, yet is not robust, fails with existential statements, fails with probabilistic statements and fails in practice anyway due to the necessity of auxiliary assumptions. How has Popper's falsification performed in practice? Newton's gravitational theory, Bohr's theory of the atom, kinetic theory, the Copernican Revolution and the theory of evolution were all falsified, despite being excellent examples of science. Popper's falsification fails in both theory and practice.

1. Curd, Martin and Cover, J. A., 1998,Philosophy of Science- the Central Issues, New York; W.W Norton and Company, p. 2-9.
2. Ladyman, J., 2002, Understanding Philosophy of Science, London: Routledge and KegaPual, p. 59-89
3. McHenry, Leemon. 2009, Popper and Maxwell on Scientific Progress,
4. Popper, Karl, 1959,The Logic of Scientific Discovery, MohrSiebeck Publisher. p. 57-72.
5. Popper, K. 1963, Conjecture and Refutation, Roudege,
6. O’her, Anthony, 1980, Popper Karl, London: Routledge, p.124-131.
7. Class Notes and Collection of Articles- Philosophy of Science.

No comments:

Post a Comment