Sir Karl Popper against Pseudoscience of Marxism

Biplab Pal

Published on November 17, 2005


  We live in a wonderful world of mysterious structures and processes. Throughout the human civilization, we made attempts to understand that every experience around us is behaving in accord with universal laws. Any of such human effort is indeed a scientific approach but what makes for a scientific approach to delving into the mystery that surrounds us, and separates this from practices and theories that are not scientific? What makes Newton's work on planetary motion scientific, but astrological prediction of human future based on planetary motion unscientific?  Is there a criterion, a set of rules, that we can apply to demarcate the scientific method from other approaches to knowledge, and that will help us to adjudicate between competing solutions to these mysteries? The question is not about which practice deserves the noble title "Science", but about the best method for promoting the growth of knowledge and the control of error. There may be a defensible argument that shows that the disciplined study of astrology led to prediction of human future with some supporting evidences but the question is:


·    Are the results repeatable under same conditions?

·        What is error between prediction and the theory?

·        Is there any method that has been followed to control the error? Meaning, how do we know that the experimentalist who was trying to validate the theory didn’t manipulate the experimental data. This has been a classic problem in Marxism. Throughout its development after 1870, Marx, Lenin and Mao, manipulated the historical data severely to fit into their theories, which otherwise would have been rejected based on the data.

·        What happens if the theories are not in agreement with 95% of the experimental data? Do we reject the theories? Or adjust the theories? Marxism suggests adjustment. And Karl Popper shows such adjustment led to dogmatism in Marxism. Adjustment can be done only if a theory is matching with some confidence interval limit, such as 95% or 99%. Else the theory should be dumped and new theory needs to be proposed.


Problem of David Hume’s Inductionism and Scientific Method:


      Let us start with a simple question. What is knowledge?

 Before David Hume Treatise of Human Nature [1739], all approaches to knowledge had assumed that it could be derived by a process of justification. Deductive logic, meaning we know A and B to be true and hence a logical deduction of C based on A and B is the right path to knowledge. The empiricists argued that all knowledge was derived from experience; while others argued that knowledge was derived from reason itself. But they all agreed that knowledge was Justified True Belief.

    If that is true, what is the problem of predicting future based on past observation?

The empiricists thought that our knowledge of the regularities and universal structures of the world were derived logically from experience or observations. But Hume pointed out that our experience is limited and that there is in fact no logical or even probabilistic connection between say, the number of times the sun has risen and whether it will rise tomorrow.


1.    The assumption that there are universal laws and regularities and that we can know these.
2     There can be no valid reasons justifying our belief in a universal law other than those based on experience.
3.    There is no valid inference from observed cases to unobserved cases.

 4.   Yet, universal laws cover an infinite number of possible cases throughout the whole of space and time, and therefore necessarily go beyond all actual and possible experience.

This is the notorious problem of induction. What is it basically?


 Simple. Think about the fact why do you think Sun will rise in the east tomorrow? Or next year same time?

What is the rational behind it? Can there be any direct proof other than inductive one that it is happening for last 500 million years and therefore it will be the same next year? And yet an asteroid can kill the whole planet next year! Hence when we form a scientific law, it indeed goes much beyond our direct and verifiable experience.


Why is it notorious then? Well, problem is, Science had to admit that it does work on the principal of induction. Which is, experimentally verified theories are applicable to the situation in space and time that is not necessarily verifiable!

And why is so much of noise about it? It contradicts the basic definition of science-knowledge is experimentally verifiable truth!

Indeed Hume showed, science is basically inductive truth from experiment!


Popper attempted a solution to this problem.  The basic principal is again admitting experiments as standard and therefore, as adjudicator between competing theories. Only one assumption is retained. The golden assumption.

The world contains universal laws and structures and we can discover what they are.

 Let’s see this simple, yet the most puzzling statement. Let say a scientist observes that males like to have sex only after dinner. How he will attempt to prove so scientifically? Will he collect all the data of men’s sexual habit (1a)? Or he will collect the data pertaining to what men do after diner (1b)? Or he will collect only evidence of whenever men do sex after diner (1c)? Or he will collect the men’s sexual habit after lunch? (1d) or he will gather data pertaining to when men do not do sex after dinner (1e)---

Look, how difficult it can be to choose the right one. And how will he chose the right one? Right one will be the choice that will control the error most effectively.

Popper found the most elegant and so far most universally accepted solution.

He proposed the complete rejection of the search for justifications and replaced this quest with the search for truth alone by the method of bold conjecture and refutation. Whether intentional or not, his proposal revived a hint in Plato's Meno that the possession of merely true opinion would serve one just as well for the satisfaction of curiosity.

 So let review this in the light of above problem (1). If the scientist collects the data following (1c), he does collect evidence that men do sex after dinner but the observation does not lead to a scientific law.

To elaborate his argument Popper focused on scientific knowledge as the problem could be stated more clearly for this type of knowledge. Popper expressed his wish to characterize a heroic conception of science, a conception that captured the spirit and method of great scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Einstein and Bohr. It must be understood that Popper's main concern in his philosophy of science is to account for and to promote the growth of knowledge. So that we may be able to chart better at least the contours of that vast ocean of truth that Newton spoke of. It is Popper's idea that such men made possible a tremendous growth of knowledge by championing bold ideas and subjecting them to severe attempts at refutation.

A scientist must have the data of (1e) which is attempt at refutation in order to establish his theory as scientific observation. This is the core of Popper’s logic of scientific method.


Sir Karl Popper’s “The logic of Science” (1934):

In 1919 Popper's was provoked to the analysis of this bold risky approach of those scientists who had expanded our knowledge by his first hand experience of approaches and those who did the exact opposite: Marxism, Freudianism and Adlerianism. When they encountered attempted sound criticism, these theories were always able to deflect it. Karl Popper originally used the term "conventionalist stratagem" to describe this type of response to criticism, but then adopted the term "immunizing stratagem" from Hans Albert. Popper argued that Marxism, which originally was an empirically testable theory, had been recast in the form of empirically irrefutable metaphysics. This maneuver, Popper argued, saved Marxism from refutation and immunized it against further attacks. (Popper, [1976], Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography, page 43.) Freudianism and Adlerianism were, Popper says, irrefutable from the beginning. The basic theory of Freudianism or Adlerianism does not need any immunization to make it irrefutable. (Nevertheless, it does incorporate immunizing stratagems.)

Let review this for a brief moment. Example will serve as best training. Setara Hashem posted an article from African Communist Party draft which “attempted to correct socialism”:

Now, they issued a statement towards their goal to make socialism more dynamic and ‘scientific’:

“We believe, however, that the theory of Marxism, in all its essential respects, remains valid and provides an indispensable theoretical guide to achieve a society free of all forms of exploitation of person by person. The major weaknesses which have emerged in the practice of socialism are the results of distortions and misapplications. They do not flow naturally from the basic concepts of Marxism whose core is essentially humane and democratic and which project a social order with an economic potential vastly superior to that of capitalism.”

“In summary, we believe that Marxism is a social science whose fundamental postulates and basic insights into the historical processes remain a powerful (because accurate) theoretical weapon. But this is not to say that every word of Marx, Engels and Lenin must be taken as gospel; they were not infallible and they were not always correct in their projections.”

Here is the example of immunizing stratagem from the above:

, remains valid and provides an indispensable

because accurate

Automatically the whole article shifts to non-scientific paradigm.

Popper contrasted these two theories with the theories of Newton and of Einstein which were full of testable (i.e. falsifiable) content. Thus the term "immunizing stratagem" arose in connection with Popper's attempt to solve the problem of distinguishing scientific from pseudo-scientific theories - the so-called demarcation problem. Popper's solution was the methodological rule to allow into science only empirically falsifiable hypotheses, and subject these to severe criticism. In addition, theory development was to proceed from less to more testable, i.e., more informative theories. If a theory is refuted and an alternative sought, it had to be more testable, not less, and the more testable the better. For to reduce testability is to reduce knowledge, but in science we desire the growth of knowledge. An immunizing stratagem is a development in theory that reduces testability.

Popper begins with a rough characterization of bold ideas: a theory is bold if it is a new, daring, hypothesis. It is daring if it takes a large risk in being false. Popper argues that this risk can be analyzed ultimately in terms of the amount of possibilities that the idea excludes the degree to which it forbids states of affairs. Severe attempts at refutation are severe critical discussions and severe empirical tests.

Popper illustrates these ideas by examining the development of cosmology, from the heliocentric theories of Aristarchus and Copernicus to Einstein's general theory of relativity. Popper argues that this development illustrates not only the growth of knowledge but an improvement in method, in which theories become ever more daring and subject to severer tests.

It becomes apparent that riskiness and testability are linked: the greater the former the greater the latter. Aristarchus and Copernicus conjectured that the sun sat at the centre of the universe, in opposition to the prevalent earth-centred view of their own times. The heliocentric theory was exceptionally bold because it clashed with both common sense and the prima facie evidence of the senses. It went beyond the appearances to posit an unobserved reality; the appearances were explained in terms of this unfamiliar reality. This was bold in itself, for it broke with the Aristotelian idea that to explain something is to reduce it to the familiar.

However, Popper says, neither Aristarchus nor Copernicus were fully scientific because neither of them was bold enough to predict new observable appearances and thereby expose their theories to new empirical tests. They explained the known appearances, but did not explicitly suggest the existence of unknown appearances, appearances that might decide between the heliocentric and earth-centred views. If they had made such predictions their theories would have been much more informative, and therefore have taken a larger risk of being false, but they would also have promoted the growth of knowledge.

Kepler comes closer to Popper's idea of good science. Kepler had a bold theory of the world, but he also made detailed predictions of new appearances. Not only that, he abandoned many of his ideas in the light of the observations furnished him by Tycho Brahe. In accordance with a promise he had made Tycho, Kepler tried to fit Tycho's model of the solar system to these observations. Tycho accepted neither Copernicus's nor Ptolemy's model, but like all other astronomers Tycho took for granted their Aristotelian/Platonic assumption that orbits must be circular. Nevertheless, he subjected this idea to empirical testing. Kepler made seventy different trials to fit the model to the data and failed. He then took the bold step of proposing that the orbits of the planets were elliptical. The data fell snugly into place.

Kepler's three laws, though good approximations to the truth, have been refuted. But, Popper says, though false, Kepler's theory is regarded as scientific. Newton's theory is also regarded as false but scientific. Hence it is not truth which decides whether a theory is scientific. Why should this be? Each theory, though false, represented an attempt to increase knowledge, and did so because even though each was false, it had greater truth content than its predecessor and exposed itself to more tests. Popper's answer, then, is that it is a theory's openness to empirical refutation that makes it scientific. But more generally, it is whether the theory is an attempt to expand our knowledge, whether it represents an increase of information on the theory it replaces.

We may infer from this that Marxism or Freudianism would not be counted as unscientific simply because they have been refuted, but because of the way Marxists and Freudians have dealt with refutations. What is most important for the demarcation criterion is a critical attitude and the proposal of increasingly falsifiable theories in response to refutations. Kepler's elliptical orbit hypothesis represented just this sort of increase of information content in response to empirical refutation.

What impressed Popper most about the theory of relativity were the following characteristics:

(1) Like Kepler's and Newton's theories, Einstein's theory was very bold, differing fundamentally from Newton's outlook.
(2) Einstein derived from the theory three predictions of vastly different observable effects, two of which were radically new, all of which contradicted Newton's theory.1
(3) Einstein explicitly declared in advance of the experimental tests of his theory, that they were crucial: if the results did not precisely match his predictions, he would abandon them as false.
(4) Einstein regarded his theory as simply a better approximation to the truth. For a number of reasons he was convinced that it was false. He specified a number of characteristics that a true theory would have to satisfy. (Popper argued that Einstein's attitude to his theory clearly showed that belief in the truth of a theory was unnecessary to working on it as a promising candidate. It is worth noting, though, that Einstein believed that the theory was closer to the truth than its rivals; so it could not warrant the inference that belief is irrelevant to explaining why Einstein worked on the theory.)

Popper's proposal was that science was distinguished from pseudo-science by two things:

1) The boldness of predicting as yet unobserved phenomena; especially phenomena which will pit the theory against its competitors and allow us to decide between them. Einstein was acutely aware of the need to compare his theory with its competitors.
(2) The boldness of looking for tests and refuting instances. (I would also add: the boldness of accepting refuting instances, which is not implied by the boldness of looking for them.)

We may generalize the methodological conclusions of Popper's investigation as follows:

1. Propound empirically testable theories;
2. Aim to refute them;
3.Given any theory T, aim to replace it by another theory T' which is more general and precise (i.e, has higher information content.), one that explains the success of T, explains the refuting evidence of T and is moreover independently testable.

Popper later placed much more emphasis on the importance of non-empirical theories, while retaining empirical content as the ultimate goal of theory development. These are purely methodological rules. But there is also an historical thesis connected with it. It is Popper's conjecture that these ideals are responsible for some of the greatest leaps of man's scientific knowledge. Many commentators have confused Popper's methodological/normative analysis with his historical hypothesis. Kuhn is perhaps mostly responsible for this confusion, and others (for example, Boudon) have been lead astray by relying on secondary sources. Chalmers also makes this mistake.

It is worth emphasizing that there are two aspects to the demarcation criterion: one of attitude and one of pure logic. Firstly, the scientist must try to find falsifying instances to his theories. This is a matter of the correct attitude; the critical attitude. Secondly, the scientist must have at his disposal refutable theories. The possibility then arises of a scientist earnestly following the first injunction without realizing that the theory he is dealing with is empirically irrefutable. Equally, a body of theory may be logically capable of refutation, though its adherents have refused or neglected to look for refuting instances. Since Popper is interested in the growth of knowledge he is most concerned to discourage the use of immunizing stratagems that flout the demarcation criterion, effectively reducing the information content of our theories. (The term "information content" will be defined later.) Kepler, for instance, could have described the planets that did not fit his master's model as not really planets. After all, he might have said, planets do not behave like that: a planet is essentially an object with a circular orbit. This would have been an example of what Popper calls an immunizing stratagem. Such a maneuver, Popper would say, saves the theory but at the price of a reduction in information content. As we have seen Kepler's actual response greatly increased the informative content of astronomy, and is rightly admired for that.


Why Marxism is not a science:

To clarify the logic of the sorts of systems we are talking about and the possible empirical criticism to which they could be put, let us take an example from chemistry. A classic metaphysical sentence is: gold has an acidic solvent. This is an irrefutable statement, for however far and wide one looks for such an acid without finding it, it is always possible to say that it exists at some other time or place. So is experience, our strongest critic, irrelevant to this type of statement? Professor John Watkins has pointed out that experience can be brought in as a critic here indirectly via a well tested scientific theory which is directly testable. (Watkins, [1958].) The metaphysical sentence in question is in fact incompatible with the well tested theory that gold has no acidic solvent.

But is such an analysis relevant to the Marxist's attempt to evade criticism? Yes, for like the spatio-temporally unrestricted singular statement about gold, the Marxist's apology is also a spatio-temporally unrestricted singular statement. Both would require a systematic search of the whole of space and time for a direct empirical refutation (or alleged "confirmation"), which is obviously impossible. (Of course, the Marxist's assertion covers only future time, though it might be made to cover the past if he were desperate enough.)


A Marxist is unlikely to adopt such an unrestricted prediction, at least not at the time of writing  (The article forwarded by Setara Hashem was a perfect example). Such a position might emerge after innumerable attempts to evade criticism, perhaps taking 50 to 100 years to evolve. By that stage the moral of the apologist may well have sunk to an unrecoverable low. But even if a Marxist did resort to this desperate maneuver, he would still be open to an indirect empirical refutation. Ludwig Von Mises argued that without a price system, which communism would eliminate, there is no even equally adequate way to allocate resources. (Mises, [1935], "The Impossibility of Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealthquot; , Reprinted in F. A. Hayek, ed. Collective Economic Planning.) Against the desperate hope in the possibility of communism Mises pitted economic theory, a theory which makes many detailed empirical predictions.


One might argue that economics does not make predictions of the same empirical precision as does chemistry. One might even argue that economics is not empirical at all, but a very suggestive and true metaphysical theory.

The analogy with chemistry would then be weakened. But we can certainly say that economics has greater informative content than the Marxist's unrestricted singular prediction, and may still undermine the Marxist's case.


It is easy to assume that empirical observation is the strongest critic. The implication would be that if a network of ideas succeeds in shielding itself from empirical counter-evidence, it will have evaded, if not all sorts of criticism, at least the most damaging both psychologically and logically. This may not be true. An interesting possibility is that perhaps opposing metaphysical theories are sometimes of greater weight than empirical observations. Watkins has shown how metaphysical theories serve to filter out some possible theories before they even enter the body of science; these theories do not even get discussed because they conflict with the prevalent metaphysical background assumptions.


Watkins' discussion of the influential role of metaphysical doctrines ('haunted universe doctrines) is highly suggestive in this context:


...what informs and integrates the heterogeneous ideas of Augustine, or Bossuet, or Condorcet, or Burke, or Comte, or Marx is in each case a distinctive view of history which both shapes each of their interpretations of historical facts and suggests a certain kind of moral and political outlook....the moral-political suggestiveness of haunted universe doctrines indicates that large clashes of belief in the moral-political sphere need not have their origin in disagreement over moral principles or over observable facts. They may be generated, partly or wholly, by conflicting metaphysical interpretations of the world. (Watkins J. W. N. [1958], "Confirmable and Influential Metaphysics." Mind 68.)


The Marxist account of history too, Popper held, is not scientific, although it differs in certain crucial respects from psychoanalysis. For Marxism, Popper believed, had been initially scientific, in that Marx had postulated a theory which was genuinely predictive. However, when these predictions were not in fact borne out, the theory was saved from falsification by the addition of ad hoc hypotheses which made it compatible with the facts. By this means, Popper asserted, a theory which was initially genuinely scientific degenerated into pseudo-scientific dogma.


These factors combined to make Popper take falsifiability as his criterion for demarcating science from non-science: if a theory is incompatible with possible empirical observations it is scientific; conversely, a theory which is compatible with all such observations, either because, as in the case of Marxism, it has been modified solely to accommodate such observations, or because, as in the case of psychoanalytic theories, it is consistent with all possible observations, is unscientific. For Popper, however, to assert that a theory is unscientific, is not necessarily to hold that it is unenlightening, still less that it is meaningless, for it sometimes happens that a theory which is unscientific (because it is unfalsifiable) at a given time may become falsifiable, and thus scientific, with the development of technology, or with the further articulation and refinement of the theory. Further, even purely mythogenic explanations have performed a valuable function in the past in expediting our understanding of the nature of reality.


We may conclude that even if an ideology assumes the form of a metaphysical doctrine it may yet be criticized, not only by unproblematically empirical theories, but also by scientifically acceptable metaphysical assumptions. The Marxist's retreat to unrestricted prediction, does not save his position from criticism, but only creates other grounds for criticism.


History of Transformation of Marxism into a dogma:

(From Wikipedia)


Nevertheless, at least from the 1870s the pressure towards the doctrinalisation of Marx's interpretation of history became increasingly strong, for several reasons.

(1) Marx & Engels did aim to increase their own political influence in the labor movement and socialist movement, and for this they needed a popular ideology or doctrine which people could easily understand and act upon. Both men were quite capable of splendid political rhetoric and, occasionally, of making sweeping generalizations

(2) Attacks by critics, academics and competitors in the socialist movement also forced them to systematize their ideas; generalizations from experience and research demanded a more explicit coherent theoretical framework.

(3) Christian religious and moral doctrine was still very influential among the working classes, who mostly lacked access to a scientific education, and this created the political need or pressure to articulate a complete alternative belief system or scientific world outlook. Thus, Engels sought to distinguish between religious-utopian and practical-scientific socialism.

These three factors are the original sources of the tension between science and ideology in Marxism. Engels, who was the first great "Marxist systematiser", tried to take a nuanced approach in his writings and popularize the materialist approach without vulgarization.

In a Preface to the English edition of his pamphlet Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (completed in 1880), Frederick Engels indicated that he accepted the usage of the term "historical materialism". Recalling the early days of the new interpretation of history, he stated:

"We, at that time, were all materialists, or, at least, very advanced free-thinkers, and to us it appeared inconceivable that almost all educated people in England should believe in all sorts of impossible miracles, and that even geologists like Buckland and Mantell should contort the facts of their science so as not to clash too much with the myths of the book of Genesis; while, in order to find people who dared to use their own intellectual faculties with regard to religious matters, you had to go amongst the uneducated, the "great unwashed", as they were then called, the working people, especially the Owenite Socialists".

In a foreword to his essay Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886), three years after Marx's death, Engels claimed confidently that "In the meantime, the Marxist world outlook has found representatives far beyond the boundaries of Germany and Europe and in all the literary languages of the world."

In his old age, Engels speculated about a new cosmology or ontology which would show the principles of dialectics to be universal features of reality. He also drafted an article on The part played by labor in the transition from Ape to Man, apparently a theory of anthropogenesis which would integrate the insights of Marx and Charles Darwin

 (This is discussed by Charles Woolfson in The Labor Theory of Culture: a Re-examination of Engels Theory of Human Origins).

At the very least, Marxism had now been born, and "historical materialism" had become a distinct philosophical doctrine, subsequently elaborated and systematized by intellectuals like Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Georgi Plekhanov and Nikolai Bukharin. Even so, up to the 1930s many of Marx's earlier works were still unknown, and in reality most self-styled Marxists had not read beyond Capital Vol. 1. Isaac Deutscher provides an anecdote about the knowledge of Marx in that era:

"Capital is a tough nut to crack, opined Ignacy Daszynski, one of the wellknown socialist "people's tribunes" around the turn of the 20th century, but anyhow he had not read it. But, he said, Karl Kautsky had read it, and written a popular summary of the first volume. He hadn't read this either, but Kelles-Krausz, the party theoretician, had read Kautsky's pamphlet and summarized it. He also had not read Kelles-Krausz's text, but the financial expert of the party, Hermann Diamand, had read it and had told him, i.e. Daszynski, everything about it".

After Lenin's death in 1924, Marxism was transformed into Marxism-Leninism and from there to Maoism or Marxism-Leninism-Mao Ze Dong Thought in China which some regard as the "true doctrine" and others as a "state religion".

In the early years of the 20th century, historical materialism was often treated by socialist writers as interchangeable with dialectical materialism, a formulation never used by Friedrich Engels however. According to many Marxists influenced by Soviet Marxism, historical materialism is a specifically sociological method, while dialectical materialism refers to a more general, abstract, philosophy. The Soviet orthodox Marxist tradition, influential for half a century, based itself on Joseph Stalin's pamphlet Dialectical and Historical materialism and on textbooks issued by the "Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union".


Criticism against Popperians:

Before all said and done against Karl Popper, one must not forget, his “of immunizing stratagem” is the supreme guidance in the research of experimental science. Null hypothesis is just one of criteria that prevents immunizing stratagem but because of some practical difficulties with null hypothesis, improvements have been made with the method. However that does not mean, by furthest imagination, as the rejection of his philosophy. There are approximately 400 Journals on social science and everyone accepts statistical hypothesis testing without any exception. This is the supreme victory for Popperians.

Here are the famous objections raised against Popperians:

(1)               In Physical Science laws are very precise. For example, no experimental evidence has been found to negate Special Theory of Relativity. Does that mean we will reject STR? This was the objection from Stephen Weinberg and indeed found to have same problem in some social theories. However, solution to this problem was made via the fact :


A theory can be tested via alternative hypothesis and does not need null hypothesis if statistical data shows the theories have been proved right in 100% cases (like STR or GTR). This will reduce research time, which is always the problem, if the problem is sought to solve through null hypothesis. However this does not mean deviation from immunizing stratagem, but to establish immunizing stratagem through 100% supportive evidence.

Since a lot of exceptions to historical materialism can be found, this Marxist theory is not eligible for “Immunizing Stratagem’ and indeed should go through null hypothesis for testing.

(2)               The Quine-Duhem thesis argues that it is impossible to test a single hypothesis on its own, since each one comes as part of an environment of theories. Thus we can only say that the whole package of relevant theories has been collectively falsified, but cannot conclusively say which element of the package must be replaced. An example of this is given by the discovery of the planet Neptune: when the motion of Uranus was found not to match the predictions of Newton's laws, the theory "There are seven planets in the solar system" was rejected, and not Newton's laws themselves. Popper discussed this critique of naďve falsifications in Chapters 3 & 4 of The Logic of Scientific Discovery. For Popper, theories are accepted or rejected via a sort of 'natural selection'. Theories that say more about the way things appear are to be preferred over those that do not; the more generally applicable a theory is, the greater its value. Thus Newton’s laws, with their wide general application, are to be preferred over the much more specific “the solar system has seven planets”.

While underdetermination does not invalidate the principle of falsifiability , Popper himself acknowledged that continual ad hoc modification of a theory provides a means for a theory to avoid being falsified. In this respect, the principle of parsimony, or Occam's Razor, plays a role. This principle presupposes that between multiple theories explaining the same phenomenon, the simplest theory--in this case, the one that is least susceptible to continual ad hoc modification--is to be preferred.


(3)               Other practical difficulties:

A: Astrology will have enough falsification: Does not matter, it will be a rejected scientific theory because it will not meet stringent 95% confidence level criteria

B: In medical testing, one needs to wait till a patient will die (null hypothesis)! Typically null hypothesis is tested on animals, alternative hypothesis on human. Human are special enough to make exception.

(4)               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 falsifications methodology. Popper's student Imre Lakatos 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 naďve falsificationism. Another of Popper’s students Paul Feyerabend ultimately rejected any prescriptive methodology, and argued that the only universal method characterizing scientific progress was anything goes.

On the one hand, logical positivists and many scientists criticize Kuhn's "humanizing" of the scientific process going too far, while the postmodernists in line with Feyerabend have criticized Kuhn for not going far enough. SSR was also embraced by those wishing to discredit or attack the authority of science, such as creationists and radical environmentalists, and the changing national attitudes about science which occurred at the same time of the book's publication (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was released in the same year), and modern scholars have wondered whether Kuhn himself would have made more explicit that he meant not to create a tool with which to undermine science had he seen what was coming down the pipe.





 I have learned two most important lessons of my life from Karl Popper:


(1)            Immunizing Stratagem’ or assuming that my thoughts are right and infallible are root cause of ego and dogma that lead to wrongful analysis because we tend to fool ourselves by manipulating  evidences. Hence to analyze a thought, first thing we need to do, is to find a counter evidence first to make our ‘self’ free from dogma. This is the supreme spiritual guidance to remain truthful and to see the truthful.

(2)            Free thinking does not lead to non-dogmatic or rational thinking. Only way to think rational, is to follow the framework of scientific method of falsification which is the basic guide against dogmatism. Opposing the falsification method in our thinking can lead to dogma and irrationalism.



 Rewritten with from:

(I have mostly edited and added some examples for understanding)



Biplab Pal  writes from USA. He can be communicated thru: