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Re: Frosted Popper-Tarts (was Re: Underlying basis...)
At 08:18 PM 7/16/99 EDT, Philidor11@aol.com wrote:
>To use some big type from a source:
>PAST EVENTS CANNOT BE TESTED!!
Well, events themselves cannot be tested, but hypotheses about them can.
How about this one:
"The Apollo 11 landing took place after World War II".
Or, to move from an hypothesis of timing to one linking timing to causal
"The Chicxulub impact intiated the Deccan Traps Vulcanism".
Or how about:
"Vertebrates developed paired limbs prior to articulated jaws".
>The proof of a hypothesis is failing to disprove it.
Ah. This is indeed where Popper and his colleagues came in to show that the
traditional view of the Scientific Method is in error. Failure to disprove
something does not equal proof of something. My failure to disprove
tyrannosaurids were hot pink colored is not proof that they were so colored.
Or, to keep it a bit more scientifically interesting, Jane Shmoe's failure
to disprove birds are theropod descendants is not in and of itself proof
that they were.
It is the combination of factors (that other hypotheses fail to provide
significant support, the weight of the support for the theropodan ancestry,
the lack of significant evidence against it, etc.) which has led this
hypothesis to become by far the best supported on current evidence.
>As noted in a prior thread, the historical sciences have a disadvantage in
>not being able to run evolution over and over, to manipulate it.
>So, as you note
><<As such, "proving" a statement where you cannot observe the whole (e.g., all
>individuals of a species at all growth stages from the entirety of the span
>of that species' duration on Earth) is impossible, and as such we are
>operationally prevented from proof. We can, however, disprove a statement.>>
>Wouldn't you want to see full evolutionary progressions, including more than
In the posting in question my statement at this point was with reference to
the "all swans are white" hypothesis. Only total knowledge of all swans at
all stages of life could we proof it by means of observation. However,
observation of a single black swan at any stage of its life is sufficient to
>Combining swans observations, all we can do to test the hypothesis 'all swans
>are white' is wait for the appearance of a black swan because we've already
>looked at those currently available, and they're all white.
>What do you call a hypothesis which cannot be falsified now, but which might
>be falsified in the future?
Well, it is still "falsifiable" or "potentially falsifiable" if the means to
reject it are possible, but not yet done. Or, another approach might be to
call it "accepted", recognizing that acceptance of an hypothesis is
tentative. If we keep on only finding white swans, then that does seem to
be the way to go. Furthermore, the statement "all known swans are white"
would be true, at least for now. (This is in the hypothetical when
non-white swans are not known).
This is why, on those occassions when I reply to young kids who want to know
"what was the biggest dinosaur?" or "what was the biggest meat-eating
dinosaur?" all always emphasize that the questions should instead begin
"what was the biggest *known*...".
(Actually, there's an example of a scientifically not-so-interesting but
mass audience very-interesting falsifiable hypothesis: The biggest meat
eating dinosaur was _Giganotosaurus_.).
>Okay, I am about to become much better acquainted with Karl Popper. Hope
For a philosopher, he's not so bad. :-)
>Carl Sagan I've seen.
>Thanks! (Do you really like pop-tarts??)
I do like them (well, not the cinnamon ones, or the brown sugar ones...). I
also thought a little (very little) levity might be needed for this
otherwise heavy topic.
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Deptartment of Geology Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland College Park Scholars
College Park, MD 20742
Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu Phone:301-405-4084
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 301-314-9661