A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF KARL POPPER’S FALSIFICATION PRINCIPLE
1.1 INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Falsification as a principle or theory which holds that for any hypothesis to be cognitively significant, true or scientific it must be inherently disprovable by experience before it can be accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory. This principle is associated with the twentieth century Austrian- British Philosopher of science known as Sir Karl, Raimund Popper. Science is a discipline that is interested in trying to uncover or discover truths about nature; our natural environment and the world at large, this is why Archibong (89) conceives science as the systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the universe by organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories”. These laws and theories are used to give explanations to natural occurrences and make further predictions about the future.
Scientific method is procedural, that is, it adheres strictly to laid down principles through which an objective knowledge is obtained. It is widely accepted that empirical science is that discipline which employs inductive methodology in the formulation of hypotheses or theories by observing a limited number of instances. Induction therefore becomes accepted by some scientists (inductivists) as a valuable method and practice in the scientific enterprise.
It was based on this method of doing science which popper saw as problematic, that is, difficult to accept since it relied on an equally problematic principle of verifiability for the determination of its truth. The verifiability theory states that statements are cognitively significant or empirically tested if they can be conclusively verifiable by experience. Popper rejected this inductivists’ criterion of truth because it does not adequately provide a distinguishing feature between scientific and non-scientific statements and on the reason that “a theory can never be proven to be true by accumulating move and more positive observations (French 53).
Hence, his postulation of the falsification theory as a better alternative for the criterion of science. The falsification theory states that a statement is meaningful or scientific if it is falsifiable by experience or observation.
This work will therefore be concerned with the analysis and a critical examination of Karl Popper’s falsification theory.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Popper summits that the more a theory is falsified, the more it becomes scientific. By this, every scientific theory must be such that it can be refuted. This position is founded upon Popper’s quest to demarcate science from pseudo-science. In as much as the position looks plausible, there are problems that are associated with it. These can be noted thus;
- What happens with theories that are falsified?
- If scientific hypothesis or theories are conjectures, why do they need refutation?
- Should scientists abandon a theory because facts contradict it?
All these are problems that revolves around Popper’s theory of falsification.
1.3 AIM OF THE STUDY
The study aims at re-examining the method of arriving at scientific truth, the problem that are inherent in it and why Popper debunked it and opted for a better method or theory. It further seeks to establish whether or not Popper’s falsification theory is a better alternative or substitute for testing the truth of scientific statements.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study is significant because the notion of truth in science is sometimes arrived at by hasty or faulty generalizations; thus, what is believed to be the truth in science, that is, scientific truth often turn out to be false or probable. Hence, to remove the obstacles that hinder or disrupt scientific truth, we must examine Popper’s falsification principle to see if it can aid scientists to know the truth.
1.5 METHOD OF THE STUDY
This is a philosophical research work; since philosophy is always critical in its outlook, we shall therefore employ the methods of analysis, speculation and criticism to the study at hand in order to have a synoptic understanding.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research work does not incorporate the entire works of Karl Popper, it only deals with a section of his philosophy which is in the area of philosophy of science and it will also be limited to his falsification theory as an alternative theory of testing the truth of scientific statements.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
The Falsification Principle: A theory is falsifiable if it is capable of conflicting with observable phenomena or events. Delanty and Strydom (44), opines that “falsifiability is a principle which states that “it must be possible for an empirical/scientific system to be refuted by experience”. Thus, a good scientific theory or statement must be capable of being falsified or refuted by conceivable events; if there are no means of refuting the theory, it implies that it is not scientific and should be abandoned or rejected.
Induction: Traditionally, induction is viewed as an argument which proceeds from particular instances to a general conclusion. “It is an argument in which a particular conclusion is derived from certain premises from the report of specific observation” Aigbodioh (142). It is further described as that which give the premise(s) give a supportive evidence for the truth of the conclusion to the accepted. Mautners (273) defined induction as “inference from a finite number of particular cases to a further case or to a general conclusion”.
Verisimilitude: This term simply means truth content, approximation to truth or nearer to the truth. It was used by Karl Popper to explain that since cannot know or discover the truth but they can only be closer to the truth.