Falsification or comparison, which is more suitable?

Falsification or comparison, which is more suitable?

Karl Popper’s theory of criticism is that a theory can be falsified if it does not conform to the facts. I argue that this mode of criticism is satisfactory for some domains of knowledge but not for others.

Popper’s theory of criticism is adequate in matters of the natural sciences wherein knowledge deals only with monological and not multilogical concerns. Physics is a normal science, as defined by Thomas Kuhn, and a normal science is one in which the paradigm defines the boundaries and logic of the particular domain of knowledge under consideration.

An example might be the development of the atomic bomb. The scientists working on the bomb were confined strictly to the logic of physics; they did not, perhaps could not, accomplish their task if they were to consider matters of morality.

“Since social and political theories are unavoidably selective, partial and culturally conditioned, the only way to improve them is to force them to explain themselves, to articulate and justify their assumptions and choice of concepts, to defend their interpretations of facts and show why other interpretations are mistaken.”

Theories of physics are determined to be true or false by physical measurements: by weighing and/or measuring. Theories in the human sciences must be defended by narrative. The defense of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is such an example.

“Facts destroy a social or political theory not so much by falsifying it as by undermining its integrity and credibility, by making it incoherent…What one needs, therefore is not a boxing match…and the victory goes to the one who deals a knock-out blow…but a sympathetic and imaginative dialogue in which each contestant tries to learn from the rest.”

Social and political knowledge grows as a result of both criticism and sympathetic imagination through dialogical reasoning; thereby incorporating insight from an ever more sophisticated and broadening vision.

Quotes from Knowledge and Belief in Politics edited by Robert Benewick, R.N. Berki, and Bhikhu Parekh

you cannot falsify something without comparing it to something other than itself. nothing is self-falsifying, not when we consider that external facts are that which physical theories are ‘compared’ to… it seems that falsification and comparison is not the dichotomy, but rather falsification and affirmation (of the opposite or other) would be a more accurate dualist picture of theory critique.

the problem of inventing the atom bomb were purely physical and not “moral”-- the USE of the atom bomb, once created, are more social/moral problems.

a “comparison” between the physics and the social morality of the atom bomb by the scientists developing the bomb (as you seem to suggest) would be superfluous and detrimental to their stated goal; their goal was to create a bomb using atomic nuclear power. their goal was never to decide HOW or WHY/WHERE to use the bomb… thats not the job of scientists, but of politicians.

natural selection can be explained by physical fact. science; just because its not always readily available doesnt mean we need a “narrative”, it only means we need to redouble our efforts to scientifically understand the theory in question.

what exactly do you mean by narrative, and why are “human sciences” inherently immune to “physical measurements”?

equally importantly, how does a “sympathetic and imaginative dialogue in which each contestant tries to learn from the rest” favor the conditions necessary for an objective/reality-oriented standard of critique to be applied, by which we can determine a theory’s truthfulness or falsification? if we recognize a perspective or application of theory as wrong, why would we need to try and “learn” from it? what would this gain us, but ambiguity, uncertainty and increasing error?

We live in two very different worlds; a world of technical and technological order and clarity, and a world of personal and social disorder and confusion. We are increasingly able to solve problems in one domain and increasingly endangered by our inability to solve problems in the other.

Normal science, as defined by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is successful primarily because it is a domain of knowledge controlled by paradigms. The paradigm defines the standards, principles and methods of the discipline. It is not apparent to the laity but science moves forward in small incremental steps. Science seldom seeks and almost never produces major novelties.

Science solves puzzles. The logic of the paradigm insulates the professional group from problems that are unsolvable by that paradigm. One reason that science progresses so rapidly and with such assurance is because the logic of that paradigm allows the practitioners to work on problems that only their lack of ingenuity will keep them from solving.

Science uses instrumental rationality to solve puzzles. Instrumental rationality is a systematic process for reflecting upon the best action to take to reach an established end. The obvious question becomes ‘what mode of rationality is available for determining ends?’ Instrumental rationality appears to be of little use in determining such matters as “good” and “right”.

There is a striking difference between the logic of technical problems and that of dialectical problems. The principles, methods and standards for dealing with technical problems and problems of “real life” are as different as night and day. Real life problems cannot be solved only using deductive and inductive reasoning.

Dialectical reasoning methods require the ability to slip quickly between contradictory lines of reasoning. One needs skill to develop a synthesis of one point of view with another. Where technical matters are generally confined to only one well understood frame of reference real life problems become multi-dimensional totalities.

When we think dialectically we are guided by principles not by procedures. Real life problems span multiple categories and academic disciplines. We need point-counter-point argumentation; we need emancipatory reasoning to resolve dialectical problems. We need Critical Thinking skills and attitudes to resolve real life problems.