Is Your View Falsifiable?
by Luke Nix
It is quite common to be in discussions about worldviews and scientific evidence and the issue of falsifiability comes up. Usually one side offers several pieces of evidence that they believe shows the other worldview to be false, but the other person has a logical answer to rebut their claims of incompatibility. The skeptic, in frustration, often claims that the opposing view is therefore “unfalsifiable” on the adherent’s view. The skeptic believes that the other person is somehow cheating and denying the possibility that their worldview could be falsified. For if something is not falsifiable, then it cannot be considered scientific (and is often labeled as “pseudoscience”). The term “unfalsifiable” is tossed around a lot, but it is unclear whether those hurling it at their “opponents” actually know what it means or how to properly apply it to the opposing worldview (or their own). So today I want to take some time to examine falsifiability to clear up some misconceptions.
What Is It?
We have to establish what we mean by “falsifiability,” because it does have two general understandings. The one that I want to examine is falsifiability in theory (the second, falsifiable in reality, will be discussed throughout). This the idea that a view has the logical ability to be demonstrated false if something else is shown to be true or false. There is a necessary logical connection to the evidence, so this allows someone to say something along the lines of, “if we discover such-and-such, then X view is definitely false.” This is also called “predictability.” The more of these type of predictions that a view (or theory, scientifically speaking) makes, the more chances one has to demonstrate a view to be false. If a single one of them is demonstrated, then the view cannot possibly reflect reality and has been effectively falsified- its time to abandon the view and go with something else. Seems simple enough?
Not quite; there are two reasons. First, as I have written before (here), man is not omniscient, so scientific research is constantly taking place and new discoveries are being made. In many cases it will take a long time to make discoveries that will be able to tell us whether a prediction was correct or not. It is often claimed that if a prediction is attempted to be shown false but is not demonstrated to be false, then it is a continued confirmation of the truth of the view. The adherent needs only to appeal to “some future discovery.” Allow me to give two examples of this…
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