Friday, February 19, 2010

Thing You Need to Know.


Karl Popper on falsifiability:

A property of any proposition for which it is possible to specify a set of circumstances the occurrence of which would demonstrate that the proposition is false. Falsifiability is the crucial feature of scientific hypotheses: beliefs that can never be tested against the empirical evidence are dogmatic.

Bertrand Russell’s teapot:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

If there is no way of proving something wrong, it’s not science. And if you can’t prove something wrong, that doesn’t make it right. Can you think of prime fat contemporary examples of both of these? I certainly can.

10 comments:

Graeme said...

Ah the joy. I can think of three (I think) two new to the popular press and one rolling one.

Did you by any chance see the recent Horizon program about infinity, and the biggest number?

Neal Asher said...

Never saw that. The most recent one I've seen is the one about genius, which told me nothing new about the nature/nurture argument.

Mark T Croucher said...

Stop stiring up all the religous zealots that follow your blog mate, you'll have nobody left reading it, haha.

The infinity programme was a head spinner. Some bits I sat there and thought, "yeah i get that" only to be followed with a dull buzzing noise between my ears that I realised was my brain shorting out. The wife was so lost she went to bed.

Graeme said...

It's a bugger isn't it. Underspace must either be infinite, or zero. If it's infinite would that make it a parallel universe of it's own, or is it the potential abode of the of our genial hosts "improbable God"? Best not say impossible, infinity doesn't allow for impossible.

Oh fuck... that buzzing noise is back.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

trust in chris_talon.e. with faith you can move mops.

Paul said...

The infinity program hurt my head.
Much like a theory I heard that before the big bang what existed did not have 'time' as we do. Therefore there is no before or after. God didn't need to create or exists 'before' because there was no 'before'.

It's hard to even conceptualise these things when your brain is hard wires for the existence you experience.

RFYork said...

Just before reading your blogs on UFO's and falsifiablity, I finished reading an article in the New York Times Magazine of 14 February.

The article is "How Christian Were the Founders". It's here: http://nyti.ms/aH6MfO. I strongly recommend that you read it, especially all the non-US readers

The article centers on Texas State Board of Education. This is the body which establishes requirements for all the schoolbooks bought and used in Texas. In it the former chair of the Board, a dentist named McElroy, is initially described: "He also identifies himself as a young-earth creationist who believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago."

Because of the size of Texas, the requirements it specifies have a huge influence on school boards throughout the US.

So, given this kind of nonsense, why bother with UFOs? Falsifiability? Who needs falsifiability when we have the word of God?

It is still the 21st century, isn't it?

Neal Asher said...

Graeme, Mark & Paul, the problem with all that kind of stuff is this: we evolved to think in a linear manner, but the macroscale and nanoscale universe just doesn't behave that way. "Whadda y' mean time passed slower for him because he was moving faster! What, if I travel in a straight line for far enough I'll end up back here!? What's that about the event horizons and eternity?"

RFYork, it saddens me but I just have to hope that the general trend is towards sanity. That McElroy, like all believers, is a product of indoctrination. How do you deal with religious indoctrination, by taking parenting away from the parents and putting it in the hands of the state? You'll just end up with another kind of indoctrination then.

pills4menerves said...

Hi Neal,

Have you seen this from today's Guardian? Quite fun, wondered if any of it chimes true with you?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/10-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-two

Pills

Neal Asher said...

Loads of advice there, but I've probably broken or am in the process of breaking every rule...