Bigganbad and Falsification: Few comments
I don’t want to take our debate to typical cyber “Bangali Jhogra” that is very much evident in all typical Bengali forums. Normally most of the cases, a thread starts with innocent disagreement but ultimately ends with personal attack. I thought ours will be different. But, unfortunately, after reading your last response I had to think whether it’s really worthy to continue the debate. I seriously do not want to take our discussion in a heated nasty clash as we both know each others’ position pretty well. Your last response shows perhaps you’ve become frustrated dealing with the issue over and over, hence to much irrelevant comment was made. For example:
a) Though you have written a book on science … it is clear, deep down in your mind, you also understand a set of a laws as science! Which is common among students of subcontinents,..
b) I am surprised a logical person like you is bringing this point….
c) Why Muslims hate non-muslims and love their brotherhood? Biologically intrinsic? kidding me! Poor you!
d) Your statement is a proof of your ignorance in statistical method. Etc..
This kind of Ad Hominem attack is a general category of fallacy because irrelevant attack against the character of person making the claim, his/her circumstances, or his/her actions cannot give any lift logically, in any debate. If you think making personal attack will lead you to winning situation, then I have nothing much to say. However, I will try one more time (may be this is the last time) to clarify my position.
I gave enough evidences in my previous write-ups that beauty is a relative thing. My idea of beauty may differ from another person’s concept of beauty. This does not mean that the concept of beauty changes at all, just my perspective of it is different. In a nutshell, relative truths (there is a scientific definition of this term; for ref. see sokal’s book) change with time and perspective. They are useful in experiencing the world around us, but are different for each individual. Some criterion like beauty, poetic artwork, literary values are sometimes impossible to define, and must be understood largely on the basis of personal experience, not by any strict scientific laws. It seems you do not want to agree, even though you are aware of the facts. You used “statistical methods” to calculate majority people’s taste and called the process scientific. I agree that you maintained a scientific process here. However, just following a scientific process in any matter does not necessarily lead to scientific reality. Astrologers also sometimes uses statistics or mathematics to calculate individual’s fate (I have seen some astrologers even uses computer to generate the result), but that undoubtedly does not make astrology scientific. Willium Dembski is also using lot of statistical theory for formulating thesis on ID (he even claims that his mathematics have replaced Darwinism), which also does not make it ‘scientific’ to the scientific community. Just Scientific Language or some statistics does not Make a topic Scientific [For details pls. check : How Thinking Goes Wrong Twenty-five Fallacies that Lead Us to Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer]. This is a danger that Sokal and Bricmont pointed in their “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science” explaining why they feel that each is misusing specific scientific concepts without understanding their scientific meaning. Even if we want to use “statistics” here we should not debate anymore; as all of the members (at least 4 out of 5) responded to the thread disagreed with your view. So will you accept that your theory was wrong based on this statistical result?
You said, “Your statement is a proof of your ignorance in statistical method.” I am afraid it’s you who are not aware how scientific method works. Science is no politics, it’s rarely any matter how much vote one can obtain like a political leader in a competition. Also please think that if Aishwaria did not appear in world beauty contest (he could have made that decision) and did not come to the world of hindi movies, only few people would be aware of her “beauty”. Certainly she would not be in the top list in such popularity vote. However, not attaining a competition does not mean that the beauty of Aishwaria can be changed at all, only truth is people would not be aware of her “beauty”. You so called “scientific” analysis completely missed this point. And you are suggesting me to learn statistics! Same goes to your citation of “Algorithmic evolution of subjective prose” or kind of “poetic software” which cannot produce a Lalon, Tagore or Shakespeare (or Picasso in the world of art). Artistic/poetic genius is more than your stated poor algorithm, and of course still in the area of subjective judgment.
Again, arguing with you it gave me impression that you are also not aware of the logical fallacies like – “Argumentum ad numerum” and “Argumentum ad populum” while you propose majority vote as a criterion in a scientific analysis.
You have some other important flaws in your analogy. Let me remind you from where the main conflict started.
 You used a term “scientism” in one of your messages (message # 27919) and wrote a Bangla piece on “bigganbad”. However some members showed the definition (dogmatic form) of scientism and you shifted your position saying, you did not mean it rather you meant scientific methodology (which is already an established term, why we need Biggan baad then, is still beyond my understanding!). Scientism is a century old term which has already been rejected by many sociologists, economists and even the scientists again and again for it’s own self-annihilating view. And any ‘ism’, I clarified many times, represents just a specific doctrine, cannot be a representative of complete science. You are somehow overlooking the important aspect, Biplab. Let’s see how you fell in your own loop-hole while preaching ‘scientism’. You criticized Marxism for being dogmatic/unscientific for using it in political aspect (check your Marxism ki biggan?), however it is you who argued that you want to make use of science politically (scientism) to fight against Mullahs. How much different is this approach? Please check :This is what you wrote in “Bigganbad ekti purnango dorshon” :
“.. Birodhider kono rajnoitik Dorshon nei, Nana Munir nana Mot. Nanan Dol. Moulobadider biruddhe ebhabe ki lorai shombhob? …chai shoktishali dorshon. Ekmatro Bigganei pawa shombhob”
This is purely self-contradictory. Again, you accused Marx and Lenin for not to be skeptical about their own theories or conclusions, however, I also find the same attitude in your writing too :)
 Your Bangla article started defining scientism by formulating hypothesis. However conclusions you drawn many times are oversimplified and self contradictory. For example, to formulate the root cause of Islamic terrorism you have pointed two mutually exclusive factors – Islam’s teaching vs US policy; this is a typical example of "black and white" / "false dichotomy" or bifurcation as it presents a situation as having only two alternatives, where in fact other alternatives exist or can exist (For example, socio-political reasons for raising of Islamism basically in ‘80s: example : decolonization such as Ba'athism, Arab Nationalism, vigor in the Iran-Iraq War, conflict against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Zia-ul-Haq’s exploitation Islamist sentiments, Khomeini’s revolution etc. ). Your “Bigganbaadi” conclusion (especially for mukto-mona) came from a wrong hypothesis, which I think, is inevitable if one follows the philosophy of scientism dogmatically. See, this is what you argued :
“Abar Keo Keo bolchen Koran ebong America ubhoyi shoman dayee” [Mukto-Mona]
Mukto-Mona did not preach Koran and/or US – such silly bifurcation, let alone be it “equally” (another intentional mistake of yours) responsible. I wonder what let you take such silly conclusion. Scientism?
 Your “Bigganbaadi” conclusion on divorce is also a classic example how Bigganbad can be promoted as a dogma. This is what you exactly argued :
“Shontan Dharoner por Divorce kono motei kammyo noy. Shontan na thakle oboshho ekta lok kota divorce korche tate kichu jay ashe na”
See how desperate you are in preaching your own biased conclusion in the name of “Bigganbaad”. It can be argued that divorce is very closely associated with women’s liberation and women’s rights issue. All these centuries, religion and society did not let us fight against the oppression on women; they were forced to stay in a marriage because they had no other choice. It is really interesting and entertaining to see that you are also coming to the same conclusion with your ‘bigganbaad’. So, an abused woman has to stay in an abusive marriage only because of bigganbaad; at least your theory suggests so. If it’s not dogmatic, what it is!
In the same respect I wish to remind you how by implementing Darwin's theory of evolution in social context with a hidden agenda, some “scientists” once tried to associate in the public mind with racism, imperialism, eugenics etc. Hope your enthusiasm for scientism would not be of this kind.
 In general I agree the method of falsifiability in the case of strict scientific (experimental) research at least; however we must also know even in those scientific realm many “real” physicists, including Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg (in case of string theory he rejected Popper) and Alan Sokal, have criticized falsifiability on the grounds that it does not accurately describe the way science really works. For e.g, Sokal writes,
"When a theory successfully withstands an attempt at falsification, a scientist will, quite naturally, consider the theory to be partially confirmed and will accord it a greater likelihood or a higher subjective probability. ... But Popper will have none of this: throughout his life he was a stubborn opponent of any idea of 'confirmation' of a theory, or even of its 'probability'. ... [but] the history of science teaches us that scientific theories come to be accepted above all because of their successes." [Ref : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability ]
Let me give some precise examples to show the limitation of falsifiability:
a) Astrology is an example which most rational people would agree is not science. However, if we follow Popper’s theory, it has to be a part of science, cause, astrology constantly makes falsifiable predictions -- a new set is printed every day in the newspapers -- yet only few dogmatics would argue this makes it scientific.
Now lets focus on the opposite scenario. Most most rational people would agree that psychology is a branch of science whereas parapsychology is pseudoscience. However, Popper's theory cannot distinguish between these two. Popper in fact denounced psychoanalytic theory as nonscientific (and useless), as its difficult to falsify. It was indeed a shock to the psychoanalytic community. Karl Svozil's paper "The dangerous misconceptions of Karl Popper" addressed the issue in detail.
b) The proposition that the patient is homosexual is not falsifiable as according to Popper’s theory, there is no way the patient could convincingly demonstrate his heterosexuality to the analyst ( check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_circle for details). This eventfully can lead to another dangerous proposition; some may argue supporting homosexuality right is not scientific (your “scientism” would surely lead to this conclusion). Now check your very simplified conclusion on divorce etc, you will get your answer where you were wrong. I do not consider that your wrong conclusion is just a lack of hypothesis, rather inevitable loop of holes for following “scientism” dogmatically.
c) Another good example can be cited from laws of physics: remember - Isaac Newton's laws of motion in their original form were falsified by experiments in the twentieth century (eg, the anomaly of the motion of Mercury, the behavior of light passing sufficiently close to a star, the behavior of particle being accelerated in a cyclotron, etc), and replaced by a theory which predicted those phenomena, General Relativity, though Newton's account of motion is still a good enough approximation for most human needs. It’s not still “entirely” rejected. Now I give exactly opposite examples in the following passages:
Consider “Super String” theory where string is considered as one dimensional object which is yet to be verified experimentally. Many scientists think it’s really impossible to experimentally verify this theory, even though they accept the theory as scientific. But, it is not a falsifiable theory in the sense of Popper. Now please let me know your opinion - whether it’s really a scientific theory (Please do not argue that String models have mathematical formulations etc. Astrology or Ptolemy’s geocentric models also had mathematical formulations).
Another good example in physics is Higgs field, which has not experimentally verified (Check the book The Fabric of Cosmos by Brian Green, pp 269) in a sense that observations do not prove that Higgs field exist. It’s kind a like (but not exactly) a concept of Eather. Obviously, these concepts are not falsifiable in the strict sense of Popper, but still considered as scientific to almost all physicists.
d) Thomas Kuhn’s influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argued that scientists work in a series of paradigms, and found little evidence of scientists actually following a falsificationist methodology. His argument was totally opposite of what popper’s theory. Personally I think scientific research proceeds accepting delicate balance of both Khun and Popper.
Perhaps you know that Popper's student Imre Lakatos (later an influential philosopher) attempted to reconcile Kuhn’s work with falsificationism by arguing that science progresses by the falsification of research programs rather than the more specific universal statements of naïve falsificationism (this is where I argue). Stefania Jha, in his paper, “Popper transcended – the Lakatos – Polanyi connection” commented :
Popper opposed Lakatos’s several attempts to improve his doctrines instead of promoting Popperism. Lakatos saw that Popper’s formulation of the logic of scientific discovery and the logic of research, although had the merit of simplicity, was not based on fact. No significant scientific discovery in history was made by Popper’s method.
Another of Popper’s students Paul Feyerabend (another influential philosopher) ultimately rejected any prescriptive methodology, and argued that the only universal method characterizing scientific progress was anything goes.
Another good argument was put forward by Martin Gardner (A Skeptical Look at Karl Popper ) where he pointed out that Falsifications can be as fuzzy and elusive as confirmations. He provided a very good example. "Einstein's first cosmological model was a universe as static and unchanging as Aristotle's. Unfortunately, the gravity of suns would make such a universe unstable. It would collapse. To prevent this, Einstein, out of thin air, proposed the bold conjecture that the universe, on its pre-atomic level, harbored a mysterious, undetected repulsive force he called the "cosmological constant." When it was discovered that the universe is expanding, Einstein considered his conjecture falsified. Indeed, he called it "the greatest blunder of my life." Today, his conjecture is back in favor as a way of explaining why the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should. Astronomers are not trying to falsify it; they are looking for confirmations".
e) Popper himself argued that Marxism was not science. Again, this does not mean, that any of these types of theories are necessarily invalid or unacceptable (just as gay rights/divorce rights etc.) in the society. Popper considered falsifiability a test of whether theories are scientific, not of whether theories are valid. Many sociologist today argue that social theory does not needed to be falsifiable always (I am not arguing for Marxism here, just giving a thought whether falsifiability can be taken seriously as a sole criterion for social/political/cultural acceptance).
f) Many argues that falsificationism in its various forms is an interesting idea but insufficient either to characterize science or solve the demarcation problem. It suffers from a series of logical and philosophical difficulties that should perhaps give us pause if hoping to find a single answer to what makes good science and what does not. Please check : http://www.galilean-library.org/falsificationism.html
Again Biplab, my intention is not to make you frustrated and put you in an attacking or defensive mode. I thought we can both learn and grow from our friendly interchange. If you keep on attacking me on silly issue without understanding my points, then please consider this as my last response in this thread.
Avijit Roy writes from Singapore. e-mail: email@example.com