Continuing the discussion from YEC Predictions on Dino Soft Tissue?:
So this comment is particularly important to unpack. First of all, participants in this thread should read up on Popper’s understanding of falsifiability:
See also the Stanford Encyclopedia’s critique of Falsifiability here, which notes,
Popper’s final position is that he acknowledges that it is impossible to discriminate science from non-science on the basis of the falsifiability of the scientific statements alone ; he recognizes that scientific theories are predictive, and consequently prohibitive, only when taken in conjunction with auxiliary hypotheses, and he also recognizes that readjustment or modification of the latter is an integral part of scientific practice. Hence his final concern is to outline conditions which indicate when such modification is genuinely scientific, and when it is merely ad hoc . This is itself clearly a major alteration in his position, and arguably represents a substantial retraction on his part
From what I understand, it is nearly unanimous among philosophers of science that falsification doesn’t work as advertised. This article by a philosophy PhD student gives a good overview, and it is worth reading closely:
I have often been struck, when talking to scientists, by the influence that Popper seems to have among them. I would go as far as saying that, in many scientific fields, falsificationism has become the official philosophy of science. It’s drummed into the heads of scientists when they’re in graduate school and, with a few exceptions, they never learn anything else about philosophy of science and spend the rest of their career thinking that Popper’s conception of science is still the gold standard. In fact, however, not only is falsificationism not the gold standard, but it never was.
Of course, atheist and secular scientists have this problem of fixating on falsification, but it comes up in conversation with YEC and ID quite a lot. There is a reason why. It came up in court against them in 1981:
Judge William Overton’s ruling handed down on January 5, 1982, concluded that “creation-science” as defined in Arkansas Act 590 “is simply not science”. The judgment defined the essential characteristics of science as being:
- It is guided by natural law;
- It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law;
- It is testable against the empirical world;
- Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and
- It is falsifiable.
Overton found that “creation science” failed to meet these essential characteristics for these reasons:
- Sudden creation “from nothing” is not science because it depends upon a supernatural intervention which is not guided by natural law, is not explanatory by reference to natural law, is not testable and is not falsifiable;
- “insufficiency of mutation and natural selection” is an incomplete negative generalization;
- “changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds” fails as there is no scientific definition of “kinds”, the assertion appears to be an effort to establish outer limits of changes within species but there is no scientific explanation for these limits which is guided by natural law and the limitations, whatever they are, cannot be explained by natural law;
- “separate ancestry of man and apes” is a bald assertion which explains nothing and refers to no scientific fact or theory;
- Catastrophism and any kind of Genesis Flood depend upon supernatural intervention, and cannot be explained by natural law;
- “Relatively recent inception” has no scientific meaning, is not the product of natural law; not explainable by natural law; nor is it tentative;
- No recognized scientific journal has published an article espousing the creation science theory as described in the Act, and though some witnesses suggested that the scientific community was “close-minded” and so had not accepted the arguments, no witness produced a scientific article for which publication has been refused, and suggestions of censorship were not credible;
- A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist, and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory;
- While anybody is free to approach a scientific inquiry in any fashion they choose, they cannot properly describe the methodology as scientific, if they start with the conclusion and refuse to change it regardless of the evidence developed during the course of the investigation.
So here is the thing. I don’t think creationism should be taught in public schools, but unfalsifiability is not the right reason why. Science is not well demarcated by what is falsifiable and what is not falsifiable. There are better rationale for disputing creationism (e.g. Edwards v. Aguillard - Wikipedia ).
This, however, is an important topic to get straight. It is one of those places where scientists would do well to improve our understanding of philosophy of science. It is also a place where we could agree that arguments against YEC and ID have not be consistently applied. It is also a place where we should be aware of how the legal system has interacted with science and philosophy of science.
I am encouraging discussion on this thread, but we expect posts to be substantive and informed. Non-scholars are welcome to contribute, but please educate yourself by reading the links here before making comment.