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Q: Origins of scientific proof ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Origins of scientific proof
Category: Science
Asked by: macaonghus-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 16 Aug 2004 08:04 PDT
Expires: 15 Sep 2004 08:04 PDT
Question ID: 388505
When I were a lad, I was taught that science can never prove anything.
That it can only make statements which have not yet been disproven,
and that every scientific law/maths theorem etc, is only 'true' until
proved wrong, which could happen at any time.

What is this thinking called, and who came up with it?
Subject: Re: Origins of scientific proof
Answered By: mathtalk-ga on 16 Aug 2004 12:45 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, macaonghus-ga:

Viennese philosopher Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994):

[Karl Popper]

is the most familiar proponent of "falsifiability" as a criterion for
scientific theories, although the notion that a general statement
would be disproven by a single discordant observation is an ancient
logical principle.

[Falsifiability - Wikipedia]

Popper developed this concept of falsifiability in the 1930's to
address the question of legitimacy of "induction" from empirical
observation.  Many observers think his early attraction to and
subsequent disappointment with Marxism contributed to sharpening his
philosophical focus on this issue.

[Karl Raimund Popper]

The Logic of Scientific Discovery (    ) is Popper's most extended
defense of this principle.  Writing later, in Of Clocks and Clouds
(1966), Popper says that he wished he had learned earlier of the
writings by American logician Charles Pierce, who proposed a concept
of fallibilism.

[Karl Popper - wordIQ Dictionary]

[Charles Sanders Pierce]

I do not think that axiomatic mathematics is a "scientific theory" in
quite the same sense.  Opinions about the foundations of mathematics
vary, but for formalists that contend all mathematics is deduction
from chosen axioms, a theorem cannot be falsified.  At most it would
be concluded that the original axioms, from which the theorem is
proven, are inconsistent.  Note also that in mathematics the principle
of induction is axiomatic, and hence a part of the deductive method of
reasoning rather than requiring special justification as empirical
induction does.

regards, mathtalk-ga

Clarification of Answer by mathtalk-ga on 16 Aug 2004 12:53 PDT
I inadvertently left out the date of publication for The Logic of
Scientific Discovery (English, 1959; first published as  Logik Der
Forschung in Vienna: Springer, 1934).

[Karl Popper's Main Works in English]

regards, mathtalk-ga
macaonghus-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Origins of scientific proof
From: verochio-ga on 17 Aug 2004 09:02 PDT
The forefront of science regularly sees what you describe. Generally
many different theories are put forward to explain something; based on
current experimental evidence and established theory. Then new
experiments are done in order to test those new theories. Some turn
out to be consistent with experiment others don't, and are hence
      Generally however Science is a discipline of refinement and
expansion of the old rather than simply disproving it. Established
scientific theory is most often proved to be "not completely correct"
or "correct, but only in certain circumstances" or "a very accurate
approximation, but not quite right", and only very rarely completely
Subject: Re: Origins of scientific proof
From: fellowengineer-ga on 17 Sep 2004 11:01 PDT

What an interesting question. Suggest you research John Stuart Mill re
inference and deduction, and the relationship between mill's arguement
and kant

Regards and good research

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