Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

What Is "falsifiable"?


  • Please log in to reply
96 replies to this topic

#18 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 10:33 AM

Jim, if I'm reading you correctly, then I disagree with you for the reasons set forth in post #10. I can't follow this logic at all, I'm afraid:

 

 

It seems to me that if I can find even one person living in central america, south america, or anyplace else on the planet, then I have "falsified" the claim being made.

 

What am I missing?  Where has my thinking "gone wrong?"

Allow me?   You are missing the word "no" meaning "none". As soon as you find just one human out there, you have falsified the statement.    And "only".  When you say humans  exist "only" in NA, you then have to search every inch of the planet.  Since that is pretty much impossible to do (to say nothing of it including the whole universe), you cannot falsify the statement.

 

It is confusing, I know.  It stops me every time I read the word "falsifiable" which seems to say just the opposite.  But, as Jim said, in this case, "falsifiable" does not mean true.  It means you can or cannot prove something.  We could wish that whoever came up with that word had found another?  "If wishes were horses."



#19 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 10:57 AM

Well, you didn't answer all of my questions, I don't think, Jim, but I agree with others here who say that "falsifiable," in this context, simply means a proposition can, in theory, be falsified, even if we don't have the time or means to test it immediately.

 

Sometime who cared to take the time to check them all could review "all online communities," even if it would be tedious, inconvenient, and/or not worth the effort.  But that's not even the real issue.  What is theoretically possible is not always practically possible, but the practical problems, standing alone, don't invalidate the theory.

 

 

 

I agree with this. In fact I made the same point in post #10.  Proving something to be false is a much different proposition than proving it to be true.  But I guess I don't agree with the conclusions you are drawing (inferring) from that distinction.

Plus you cannot search the entire internet, given that there are hidden sites on the internet.

 

Moronium, I cannot find your post that my email said was here.  So, I'll put this here.   In order to understand, may I suggest you totally forget the word true ( as well as false) when you read the statement.  Instead, how about using "capable of being shown to be" .....

 

The statement that you made and I cannot find now was that  there  are no humans outside of NA was true until you finally got to that last area.  Here is where you forget the word true.  Whether the statement is true or false is not the issue.  The issue is "are we capable of finding the facts for certain?" 


  • JMJones0424 likes this

#20 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 11:04 AM

Falsifiable means capable in principle of being falsified, if the right type of evidence to falsify it were to be found. Obviously it does not mean that that evidence has already been found, since it that were so the hypothesis would be already discredited.

 

In other words you need to distinguish between falsifiable (in principle, in the future) and falsified.

  

In order to considered scientific, a hypothesis must allow someone to conceive of an experiment or observation of nature that would test the hypothesis, such that if it failed the test it would be falsified. For instance, relativity and quantum theory have been subjected to a series of tests, to see if their counterintuitive predictions are borne out in reality. So far, all of them have been. But these theories are falsifiable because IF these tests had had outcomes in DISagreement with the theory, then they would have been falsified.

 

By contrast, the hypothesis that, say, the universe arose from the collapse of another parallel universe is unfalsifiable, because there is absolutely no way to put it to the test observationally. It is a speculation that cannot be tested. 

 

Generally, a scientific hypothesis or theory is falsifiable because it makes predictions about the outcome of future observations. For instance, the theory of evolution asserts ancestral relationships between living organisms which predict which creatures should have similar DNA and which ones should have dissimilar DNA. It also predicts what "missing links" might be found in the fossil record and the age band of the rocks in which they should be found. These prediction are tested every time DNA comparisons are done and every time a new fossil type is found. If we were to find rabbit bones in Cambrian rocks, or that the DNA of a whale was closely related to that of a fish rather than a hippopotamus, then it would be falsified.         

 

Exchemist,  your first post here must have soaked in well.  You used "capable of" long before I did and I got it.  It must be buried in my subconscious.  Thank you.


  • JMJones0424 likes this

#21 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 11:07 AM

Well, Hazel, I wish I could say that clarified things, but I'm afraid it didn't.

 

The statement I originally responded to (and disagreed with) was this:

 

There are no humans outside of North America" is not a falsifiable statement because in order to show it to be false, we must know everything that exists outside of North America does not include humans.

 

 

 

You suggest that I "forget" about "true or false," but that's the topic here.  "Falsify" is just a variant of "false."

 

Let's just take this part first:  "There are no humans outside of North America."

 

I don't know what you or anyone else might read that to mean, but I just read it literally.

 

Now, is it "possible" for this to be false?  Sure.

 

What would falsify it, then?

 

If you found even one person living outside of North America, then you would have demonstrated that the claim "There are no humans outside of North America" cannot be true, because you have shown that there is in existence just the type of person whose existence was denied.  You have "falsified" the claim that there are NO such persons.

 

Do you disagree?

 

Furthermore, I certainly wouldn't have to comb every square inch of the planet to demonstrate this.  A casual stroll into central america from north america would instantly do the trick.


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 12:11 PM.


#22 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 11:44 AM

.  But, as Jim said, in this case, "falsifiable" does not mean true.  It means you can or cannot prove something.  

 

 

I have, at least a couple of times now, acknowledged (and made myself) the important distinction between "disproving" something, and "proving" it.

 

But "falsification" is not concerned with "proving" that anything is true..  The only thing you are "proving" is that something is false, i.e., not true, which can be a radically different thing.

 

One apparent difference that we have appears to be in what we take the word "falsify" to mean, what it's definition is.

 

This is NOT my defintiion:

 

 "falsifiable" does not mean true.  It means you can or cannot prove something.

 

 

 

 

I certainly agree that falsifiable does not mean true.  But I don't agree with the "can or cannot" part in the second sentence there.

 

Suppose one of my homeys claims that "all grass is blue," and I claim that "all grass is green."

 

If I can find a single piece of green grass, then I have disproved (falsified) his claim.

 

But I have by no means proved my claim.


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 12:14 PM.


#23 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 12:38 PM

Pay someone to teach you then.

 

 

E tu, Jim?  It seldom seems to fail that if I disagree with someone on this forum, I am snidely informed that I am in need of an education.  What's up with that?

 

Somebody (I've forgotten who) once said that the primary goal of an education was to teach the student how to think critically, and that, if that could be accomplished, then the education was successful.  But few "teachers" see things that way, I'm afraid

 

"Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding." (Ambrose Bierce)

 

 

 

It's not what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.  (Mark Twain)

 

 

 

Words worth considering from one more wit:

 

 

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”  (Bertrand Russell)

 


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 01:11 PM.


#24 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:17 PM

Well, Hazel, I wish I could say that clarified things, but I'm afraid it didn't.

 

The statement I originally responded to (and disagreed with) was this:

 

 

 

You suggest that I "forget" about "true or false," but that's the topic here.  "Falsify" is just a variant of "false."

 

Let's just take this part first:  "There are no humans outside of North America."

 

I don't know what you or anyone else might read that to mean, but I just read it literally.

 

Now, is it "possible" for this to be false?  Sure.

 

What would falsify it, then?

 

If you found even one person living outside of North America, then you would have demonstrated that the claim "There are no humans outside of North America" cannot be true, because you have shown that there is in existence just the type of person whose existence was denied.  You have "falsified" the claim that there are NO such persons.

 

Do you disagree?

 

Furthermore, I certainly wouldn't have to comb every square inch of the planet to demonstrate this.  A casual stroll into central america from north america would instantly do the trick.

I will grant you that Oxford Dictionary does not apply the word to Science.  It only applies it to Philosophy.    That would make me stop and ask any philosopher how he is using the word.  That is if I want to communicate with him and carry on a conversation.

 

 Oddly, my Chambers Dictionary of Science and Technology does not even have the word.  But I have found that dictionary sadly lacking.  I wish I had a better.

 

That said, if we are going to communicate with scientists who do use the word for both true and false, we are going to have to read it the way they use it.  And this is why I said we could wish a different word had been chosen.  Falsify has too many meanings that have nothing at all to do with science or philosophy.   We could just say "You can't make that statement because ....."   I suspect a science professor or an editor needing to shorten a line might cross out "make that statement" and insert falsify.

 

"When in Rome ..."



#25 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:31 PM

 if we are going to communicate with scientists who do use the word for both true and false, we are going to have to read it the way they use it.

 

 

Karl Popper, a renowned philosopher of science, originally proposed "falsifiability" as a criterion for distinguishing science from pseudo-science, back in the 1930's, or so.  This criterion has seen been subjected to a lot of criticism from many quarters, but it still has some popular currency.

 

Here's the first "dictionary" definition that I came across, courtesy of google.

 

 
fal·si·fy:  prove (a statement or theory) to be false.
"the hypothesis is falsified by the evidence"

 

 

 

 

Notice that the example given is using the word in the context of a (presumably scientific) hypothesis.

 

The word itself has no "special' scientific meaning, as far as I know.


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 01:44 PM.


#26 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:48 PM

Hazel, it wasn't my intention to quibble about formal definitions.  I would rather analyze the concepts involved for their substance.

 

In the post you responded to, I had asked you a  question (to wit: Do you disagree?) which you didn't answer.

 

Do you see some "flaw" in the analysis I presented there?


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 02:00 PM.


#27 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:49 PM

Karl Popper, a philosopher of science, originally proposed "falsifiability" as a criterion for distinguishing science from psuedo-science, back in the 1930's, or so.  This criterion has seen been subjected to a lot of criticism from many quarters, but it still has some popular currency.

 

Here's the first "dictionary" definition that I came across, courtesy of google.

 

 

 

 

Notice that the example given is using the word in the context of a (presumably scientific) hypothesis.

 

The word itself has no "special' scientific meaning, as far as I know.

I have had some strange things happen on this particular thread today and this one is included.  The example that you give does not appear when I click Quote to respond.  Your example was "the hypothesis is falsified by the evidence"  My response is that that example could apply to any number of categories - say a medical diagnosis of what is said to be wrong.  You can not presume it to refer to science."   Or, better, my opinion of what you say you did and what I see done.



#28 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:50 PM

Hazel, it wasn't my intention to quibble about formal definitions.  I would rather analyze the concepts involved for their substance.

 

In the post you responded to, I had asked you a  question (to wit: Do you disagree?) which you didn't answer.

 

Do you see some "flaw" in the analysis I presented there>

Patience.  These are hurried days.  You should see  my desk!



#29 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:55 PM

.  Your example was "the hypothesis is falsified by the evidence"  My response is that that example could apply to any number of categories - say a medical diagnosis of what is said to be wrong.  You can not presume it to refer to science."   

 

 

Well, Hazel, as I said, it has no "special" scientific meaning that I'm aware of.  It's just another word in a common language that is, or can be, used by anyone, scientists included.   Like the word "the," for example.

 

That said, contrary to what you appear to be claiming, competent scientists shy away from the word "true."  They will say that a hypothesis has been "confirmed" (which does not mean "proven" or "true"), for example.  Likewise a careful scientist will never say that any particular theory has been "proven to be true."

 

Some scientists do fall into that way of talking, or thinking, but they are not really talking "as scientists" when they do. They are generally talking as fervent partisan advocates, not dispassionate scientists.

 

Furthermore, as far as I know, few educational institutions require students in their scientific curriculum to take a course in the "philosophy of science" or even the history of science.  As an unfortunate result, many graduates come away with very little understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the subject they major in.  Such graduates are far more likely to suggest that the prevailing theories in their particular discipline are "true."


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 02:36 PM.


#30 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 02:02 PM

The example that you give does not appear when I click Quote to respond. 

 

 

That always happens to me, too.  I suspect there's a way to have quotations (of others) included, but I don't know what it is.



#31 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 03:00 PM

Moronium doesn't have much idea on experimental evidence so he really should be taken with a pinch of salt. He has problems accepting things that have overwhelming experimental backup.

 

 

Heh, just couldn't resist some kind of dig, eh, Six?

 

As I've pointed out to you, you seem to have no clue about WHAT is "backed-up" by certain experiments, and I don't suppose that you ever will.

 

Keep on truckin, though.



#32 Moronium

Moronium

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2894 posts

Posted 27 April 2018 - 05:24 PM

On this occasion, no. I couldn't resist, because of the hypocricy I encountered when seeing you reply to a subject you so carelessly handled the other day with me.

 

 

Heh, was that the one where you claimed that the (now mainstream) view that the CMB serves as a valid preferred frame (in violation of SR) was embraced by NOBODY, Six?

 

I was just looking at a scholarly paper suggesting yet another way to fix our view of relativity by incorporating a preferred frame, eh? It's entitled "Special relativity with a preferred frame and the relativity principle: cosmological implications" and the abstract starts out like this:

 

The modern view, that there exists a preferred frame of reference related to the cosmic microwave background (CMB), is in apparent contradiction with the principles of special relativity.

 

 

https://pdfs.semanti...0b2e7187d91.pdf

 

Go figure, eh?

 

The title is a little misleading actually, since if you are using a preferred frame it cannot be "special relativity."  As this scientist acknowledges in his introduction:

 

The view that there exists a preferred frame of reference seems to unambiguously lead to the abolishment of the basic principles of the special relativity theory.

 


Edited by Moronium, 27 April 2018 - 05:57 PM.


#33 JMJones0424

JMJones0424

    412.63 ppm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1241 posts

Posted 29 April 2018 - 06:00 AM

Yes, me too, even though my name isn't Jim.  This proposition is quite simple.  I don't know what you are misunderstanding, as we are both speaking English and we are failing to communicate.

 

A statement is falsifiable if it is conceivably possible to show it to be false.  If a statement would require exact and total knowledge to show it to be false, then it is not falsifiable.  The claim, "Your name is not Moronium" is falsifiable, as is the claim, "your name is Moronium", because, in order to show it to be false, I need to examine your name and determine if it is Moronium.  The claim, "There is no one named Moronium" is not falsifiable, because in order to show it is false, I must know the name of every entity in the universe is not Moronium.

 

Again, I think the problem is that you are conflating falsifiability with veracity.  As I showed above, I can make an unfalsifiable statement that can be shown to be false.  The thing that makes it unfalsifiable isn't our current knowledge, but rather the requirement of future knowledge.  If I make a claim that is limited to a particular set of data, such as the set of your names, then this claim is falsifiable.  If I make a claim that is unlimited in the required knowledge to refute it, such as the set of all names, then it is unfalsifiable.


Edited by JMJones0424, 29 April 2018 - 06:02 AM.

  • hazelm likes this

#34 hazelm

hazelm

    Creating

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1062 posts

Posted 29 April 2018 - 07:10 AM

Yes, me too, even though my name isn't Jim.  This proposition is quite simple.  I don't know what you are misunderstanding, as we are both speaking English and we are failing to communicate.

 

A statement is falsifiable if it is conceivably possible to show it to be false.  If a statement would require exact and total knowledge to show it to be false, then it is not falsifiable.  The claim, "Your name is not Moronium" is falsifiable, as is the claim, "your name is Moronium", because, in order to show it to be false, I need to examine your name and determine if it is Moronium.  The claim, "There is no one named Moronium" is not falsifiable, because in order to show it is false, I must know the name of every entity in the universe is not Moronium.

 

Again, I think the problem is that you are conflating falsifiability with veracity.  As I showed above, I can make an unfalsifiable statement that can be shown to be false.  The thing that makes it unfalsifiable isn't our current knowledge, but rather the requirement of future knowledge.  If I make a claim that is limited to a particular set of data, such as the set of your names, then this claim is falsifiable.  If I make a claim that is unlimited in the required knowledge to refute it, such as the set of all names, then it is unfalsifiable.

That is saying it the best way it can be said.   Some slow and careful reading makes the point.  And what Hannah Arendt called "active thinking".   I confess that it took me a long while to get it.