Monday, August 17, 2015

Evidence Vs. Proof in Science

Karl Popper seems to make a distinction between evidence and proof in science. I am also reminded of one professor I had in undergrad studies, who said that no hypothesis can be proved in science: it can only be supported or refuted by evidence.


"Popper's main point is the extremely elementary logical point that if one takes the business of science as deducing observational consequences from statements of laws and theories and initial conditions, no amount of particular positive observational outcomes will ever prove (or verify) the truth of universal hypotheses or laws, for all such attempted inferences commit the well-known fallacy of affirming the consequent. However, even a single negative observational consequence allows us to validly infer that the conjunction of laws and initial conditions from which it is deduced cannot all be true."


Duncan said...

Reasonable testaments.

Meta analysis is usually or best tool. Multiple approaches to a common problem & the points at which they converge.

This I would call "Proof" (in the legalistic terms of "beyond reasonable doubt").

Evidence is always evidence of something but the evidence and our applied interpretation or more importantly the reasoning behind our path of interpretation can get in the way of what it is actually telling us.

"affirming the consequent" - With a universe so immeasurably vast in complexity (I will not say size as we have no data too work with that can reasonably be trusted) to claim expansion from a single point is still a precarious position. Especially if the size of the single point was infinite (it would make the initial claim redundant).

Edgar Foster said...


I don't want to be an apologist for modern science, but aren't multiple approaches now used in science, as long as they (somewhat) adhere to the scientific method?

Scientific evidence might support or falsify certain hypotheses, but rarely does it attain "beyond reasonable doubt" status, regardless of which approach is used. I've found this to be the case with studies on time and string theory analyses. But I agree that human reasoning may cloud one's assessment of scientfic evidence.

Granted, there's probably lots of speculation that goes into cosmogonic proposals about the cosmic singularity, but regardless of how the expansion might have occurred, there is good reason to believe that the universe is expanding and that it began to exist. I don't believe that the best scientific theories uphold eternal universe schemata; furthermore, an eternal universe appears to make nonsense of the "creation" language from scripture (i.e., God created "all things, etc").

Duncan said...

"an eternal universe appears to make nonsense of the "creation" language from scripture (i.e., God created "all things, etc"). " - that's a given, but what is the scriptural bolster to the idea of a single point of origin?

Edgar Foster said...

Scripture doesn't touch on such questions, but it just refers to God as creator of all things. Bible writers don't speculate on how the cosmos began to exist: they aren't concerned with mechanics.