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Re: Disparaging Popper
<Accuracy is not the issue. Indeed, I would submit that
Copernicus' heliocentrism -- which is not correct pace Einstein -- is more
accurate than Ptolemy's Geocentrism. But it is just not ABSOLUTELY true.
We may someday stumble onto absolute truth, but the methodologies available
to science do not allow us to declare such a thing with ABSOLUTE certainty.
All scientific conclusions are tentative, but we can still determine a
of probability among competing theories.>
I think you're conflating two different ways in which one hypothesis may
In the first case, Ptolemy had the sun rotating around the Earth and
Copernicus had the Earth rotating around the sun. Eventually data was found
which proved Copernicus right and Ptolemy wrong.
In the second case, Newton was correct in his context. As I've read,
calculating with Einstein's approach will come out to
the same result as Newton. Thus, Newton's work was incorporated and
enlarged by Einstein, not refuted.
If you lived at a time before Einstein and Copernicus, would you be able to
distinguish between the two hypotheses, believing that one could be proven
outright false and the other could not?
I would argue that you could.
Newton's ideas could be applied immediately, their implications tested
successfully by practical application in a variety of situations without
regard to the set of observations he used to formulate his hypothesis.
Ptolemy can predict observations, which means only that his logic was
self-consistent, and did successfully identify a pattern. However, the
conclusions he reached about the cause of this pattern are obviously not
necessarily the only possible assumptions.
Newton was right in so many different applications that the principles he
used must have some general validity. Ptolemy was right in such a small
number of cases that the general validity of his conclusions remained
I think this concept is implicit in descriptions of the scientific method
which specify that tests are done on the implications of a hypothesis,
rather than on the same class of data which led to the original hypothesis.
So, in that sense, and leaving aside your concerns about absolute truth, I
do think that science is able to provide reliable conclusions for future