[ExI] Science or Scientism?

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sat Nov 3 14:48:14 UTC 2018

On Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 7:30 PM Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:

> *there are many reasons why a hypothesis could be unfalsifiable. For
> example, limited resources. I could hypothesize that crashing red-giant
> stars together would make a blue giant star. Since we cannot yet crash
> stars together on purpose, my hypothesis is unfalsifiable which does not
> necessarily make it true or false.*

It's always nice if a theory is falsifiable but I think philosophers like
Karl Popper emphasised it too much, even if we lack the ability to falsify
a idea it's not necessarily useless. There is actually a hypothesis that
you describe above used to explain the existence of rare Blue Straggler
Stars. Globular Clusters contain some of the oldest stars in the universe
and consist almost entirely of small red stars because the clusters are so
old anything larger should have run out of hydrogen fuel and burned out
long ago, but there are a very few giant main sequence Blue Straggler Stars
mixed in among all those old small red stars. Blue Stragglers seem to be
very young but there is almost no gas or dust in Globular Clusters, so how
did they get made? The hypothesis is that 2 old red stars collided only a
few million years ago and merged forming a giant blue star. The star isn't
really young, the collision just gave it a facelift that makes it look

Another unfalsifiable idea would be the theory of continental drift,
although I suppose both could be said to be unfalsifiable in practice but
not logically unfalsifiable such as the hypothesis an irresistible force
could move a unmovable object, or the theory that the entire universe was
only created 5 minutes ago complete with dinosaur bones in the ground and
memories of me being in the first grade.

> *A third reason a hypothesis could be untestable is that it is logically
> impossible to falsify. For example, solipsism would fall into this category*

I agree.

> > *as would many other religious claims.*

If God existed, that is to say a intelligence who created and operates the
world, then Teleology, the idea everything has a purpose or goal, should be
one of the fundamental aspects of physics; a world with Teleology should
exhibit different phenomenon than a world without it and so should be
accessible to the scientific method.

* > Now I state that it is self-evident that the intersection of the set of
> unfalsifiable hypotheses and the set of unprovable truths is non-empty. *

I agree, and that's why even unfalsifiable hypotheses can be useful. Unlike
pure mathematics science does not demand perfection, it does not insist
that every part of it be proven to be correct, it only wants every part of
it to be shown to be probably approximately correct.

> *I am reminded about an apocryphal story that when Voltaire was on his
> deathbed, a priest urged Voltaire to renounce Satan. To which Votaire
> supposedly replied, "I am sorry, father, but now is not the time to make
> new enemies."*

I hadn't heard that one before, I love it!

John K Clark
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