Thursday 10 June 2010

More on 'testing'scientific theories

"Unfortunately, we have no way to determine whether a theory survives because it is true or because of our own inability to devise the appropriate tests."

From "Pure" by Mark Anderson

...Or because we can't be bothered to test it, or because it is inexpedient to test;

...or because it *has* been tested and the theory failed to pass the test but we ignore the result, or prefer to pick holes in the test's limitations.

No test of a theory is ever perfect, therefore each test of a favoured theory may be methodologically isolated and demolished on grounds of strictest rigour. This process can be continued without limit.

When a theory is favoured it can never be empirically refuted - neither by experience nor by formal testing.

When a theory is favoured for whatever reason (political, financial, moral) it will survive all assaults.

Testability neither demarcates nor defines science. Indeed nothing defines science, there is no specific methodology - it is (merely) a sub-specialty of philosophy, which is love of wisdom (truth seeking, truth speaking) - and philosophy is itself an emphasis on one specific transcendental 'good'. Push too hard and the whole things crumbles in your hands.

If not methodology, what then accounts for the spectacular success of science (up until the past few decades)?

Perhaps two things: the emergence of groups of honest, motivated and competent people working to solve problems, and the development of a multi-generational tradition so that these groups can hand-on their accumulated experience.

i.e. working together across generations rather than working alone during a single lifespan. That's all. 

 In other words, science was a fortuitous and fragile state of affairs; now long past.