Popper and the Gospel

In my latest “Reason as a Guide to Reality” post over at Wheat and Tares,  I talked about Popper’s theories of how we gain knowledge based on Conjecture and Refutation.

Here we now have a profound touch point between science and religion. Consider the following scriptures.

D&C 122:7

…all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

D&C 105:6

And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience…

Romans 5:3-5

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

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How We Gain Knowledge: Conjecture and Refutation

As discussed in my last post, if science can’t be justified by inductive reasoning, how do we justify it?

Popper’s own epistemology (i.e. theory of how we gain knowledge) is based around conjecture and refutation.
All knowledge is gained by starting with conjecture. Interestingly, inductive “reasoning” does seem to play a role in this. As documented in the Taleb’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable we humans seem to be wired for inductive “reasoning.” We see non-existent causes and effects everywhere. Taleb gives these questionable cause/effects a name: narrative fallacies. Taleb spends a lot of time discussing the problems with our built in inductive reasoning. But there is an upside. We easily generate conjectures – mostly bad ones. Continue reading

Francis Bacon vs. Karl Popper: The Fallacy of Observationalism

In my last post I argued that, contrary to popular belief, science is not actually about observation.

Here I wish to taken an aside and discuss two of the main competing schools of epistemology (i.e. the theory of how we gain knowledge). The traditional view of science was founded by Francis Bacon. This school of thought is (as Popper describes it anyhow) is as follows:

According to Bacon, the nature or essence of the method of the new science of nature, the method which distinguishes and demarcates it from the old theology and from metaphysical philosophy, can be explained as follows:

Man is impatient. He likes quick results. So he jumps to conclusions. Continue reading

What is Science: Is Science about Observation or Falsification?

In previous posts I responded (or gave other people’s responses anyhow) to the ideas that science is primarily about prediction, Reductionism, or Holism. In those ideas we found some truth, but not the whole truth.

Another common point of view is that science is really about observation. Related to this is the idea that science is primarily about empirical evidence or in other words must be falsifiable. As it turns out, these points of view are somewhat correct, but also misleading.

Science is Not Primarily Observation

I doubt science would have any meaning if we didn’t take the ideas of observation and empirical evidence seriously. Descarte is rumored to have tried to argue in favor of pure reason, but we know that this doesn’t work out in real life. The problem is that our reasoning capacity is too broad. We can think of logical possibilities that just happen to not exist. Continue reading

Algorithmic Reducibility

…the chameleonic nature of numbers [is] so rich and complex that numerical patterns have the flexibility to mirror any other kind of pattern. (Douglas Hoftsadter in I am a Strange Loop, p. 159)

In my last post, I discussed the point of view known as ‘reductionism’ and the problems with that point of view. In summary, reductionism is the false belief that sciences that work with the smallest units of nature – atoms and below – are somehow more fundamental explanations of reality than emergent ones, such as thought or computation.

A few posts ago, I discussed computability and comprehension. My final conclusion was that while algorithms and explanations aren’t the same thing, you can’t have an explanation without having an algorithm. Continue reading