How We Gain Knowledge: Conjecture and Refutation

By: Bruce
February 3, 2011

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 reason 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.

Refutation is how we manage that built in “conjecture process” to make it productive. Clearly refutation and testability/falsifiability are related concepts. Popper often uses them interchangeably. But there seems to be a subtle different between the two. One does not have to have an observationally testable theory to be able to effectively refute it.

One of the most effective ways to refute a theory is, according to Popper, to “test the theory under discussion by finding out whether its logical consequences are all acceptable, or whether it has, perhaps some undesirable consequences.” (Myth of the Framework, p. 60)

Here we have a way to criticize and even possibly effectively refute a theory without any sort of observational testability.

Popper takes this idea even further. Conjecture and Refutation is not merely how science progresses, it is how all things progress. For example, Popper sees direct ties between evolution through natural selection and the growth of scientific knowledge. In fact, growth of scientific knowledge may be thought of as a special case of biological evolution.

From a biological or evolutionary point of view, science, or progress in science, may be regarded as a means used by the human species to adapt itself to the environment: to invade new environmental niches, and even to invent new environmental niches. (Myth of the Framework, p. 2)

Popper is careful to not take this connection any further than is realistic. The similarities between genetic adaption and scientific discovery are profound, but not complete.

On all three levels – genetic adaption, adaptive behavior, and scientific discovery – the mechanism of adaption is fundamentally the same. (Myth of the Framework, p. 3)

Popper’s argument is that all three of these are based on what he calls “instruction” and “selection.” In the case of biological evolution the “instruction” is genes that attempt to copy themselves. The “selection” is Darwin’s natural selection process. [1] For scientific discoveries the “instruction” is textbooks and course work to transmit scientific knowledge and the “selection” is “revolutionary tentative theories.” (Myth of the Framework, p. 3)

Therefore Popper sees all knowledge – even the “knowledge” contained with DNA – as stemming from the conjecture and refutation process. Even growth of knowledge in the arts follows this process. (Myth of the Framework, p. 9)

Of course we will have to admit that there are difference as well. For one thing, biological evolution is not believed to be goal directed. Whereas scientific knowledge grows through purposeful selection, biological evolution is “blind” in this sense. (Myth of the Framework, p. 5)

All this means Popper claims that refutation and criticism is the basis for all gains in knowledge. [2] According to Popper, we only gain knowledge from our mistakes. [3] More specifically, Popper argues that knowledge is gained through this process of problem solving. We have a problem, we conjecture a solution, we test if it solves the problem. If it does solve the problem, then we now have new problems to deal with. Repeat. In this way, we make growths in knowledge. It is therefore not observation that starts the growth of knowledge, but rather having a problem to be solved. David Deutsch (a Popperite) argues:

Thus contrary to the inductivist scheme… scientific discovery need not begin with observational evidence. But it does always being with a problem. …a set of ideas that seems inadequate and worth trying to improve. (The Fabric of Reality, p. 62)

But Does This Justify Belief in Science?

But does all this justify knowledge? According to Popper and Deutsch, yes, it does. If we have multiple explanations, the “best” explanation is the one that solves the most problems and the deepest problems and we are therefore, on those grounds, justified in accepting it as the most realistic view of reality currently available. Of course things might – actually will – change in the future as we find new problems, better theories, and therefore better explanations. But until that new explanation comes into existence we are justified in believing in the knowledge gained through the conjecture and refutation process. Induction is not needed nor desired in this formula for growth of knowledge.

Notes

[1] Actually, Popper argues that biological evolution probably has other selection processes than merely natural selection. But this is besides my point for the moment.

[2] …refutation and criticism is the basis for all gains in knowledge… As much as I enjoy and agree with Popper, I should note here that I don’t believe conjecture and refutation alone can explain growth of knowledge. But that will be a subject of a future post. 

[3] …we only gain knowledge from our mistakes… “The growth of knowledge, and especially of scientific knowledge, consists in learning from our mistakes.” (Myth of the Framework, p. 93)

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38 Responses to How We Gain Knowledge: Conjecture and Refutation

  1. FireTag on February 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I note a deep connection is possible between evolution and the hard-wiring for induction that may lead to the conjecture refutation cycle of science.

    It’s a survival advantage to infer that three random spots of color among the grasses are a leopard in hiding compared to taking for granted that the leopard hiding in the grass is nothing more than random spots of color.

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  2. Bruce on February 3, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    FireTag,

    I agree. Induction seems to be deeply connected to the conjecture process. Just not the refutation process.

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  3. JP on February 4, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    Great post. I just wanted to comment on Popper’s idea of falsifiability:

    If a claim is impossible to falsify, then it’s also impossible to verify in any meaningful way. Popper would say an unfalsibiable claim cannot be counted as knowledge. Scientists know this, and so their claims are always falsifiable – able to be refuted by further evidence. Ideas come and go as we accumulate better data. Scientists make a living on coming up with better answers than we had before. This is why the scientific method is a pretty humble enterprise – and great for the advancement of knowledge.

    However, the idea of falsifiability also applies to religious claims too. Can you falsify a religious claim? If you cannot, can a religious claim be counted as knowledge?

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  4. » Popper and the Gospel The Millennial Star on February 4, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    [...] 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. [...]

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  5. Bruce on February 4, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    “Can you falsify a religious claim? If you cannot, can a religious claim be counted as knowledge?”

    Yes, you can falsify religious claims.

    It just takes… a while. ;)

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  6. Mark D. on February 4, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    However, the idea of falsifiability also applies to religious claims too. Can you falsify a religious claim? If you cannot, can a religious claim be counted as knowledge?

    Knowledge is often defined as “justified true belief”. Many falsificationists are skeptics in the sense that they don’t really believe than any belief can be justified.

    If you don’t believe that beliefs can be justified, then it is hard to count virtually anything as knowledge. On the other hand, a fallibilist might say that we might not know as a result of this iterative process that our beliefs are justified in full, but that we can have rational confidence that they are substantially justified (i.e. rough approximations of reality) just the same.

    We might also add inspiration to the list of factors that allow us to conclude with much greater certainty that certain beliefs are rationally justified.

    For those reasons, I don’t think it is particularly helpful to classify beliefs in a “fully justified” vs “not justified dichotomy”. That leads to a sterile skepticism. The question in actual practice is more often than not whether something is or isn’t justified but how justified is it. Or, if your life depends on something, which way are you going to bet? Surely the question is not arbitrary, even when the answer is a subjective function of your prior experience in the matter.

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  7. FireTag on February 4, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    Mark D.:

    Faith as a gamble. I like that, even if the theological implications for Mormons would be somewhat ironic. God’s sense of humor again.

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  8. JP on February 5, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    Mark D: I agree that you can’t become too skeptical about the idea of knowledge. Otherwise we would be paralyzed with indecision. I like Plato’s definition of knowledge as a “justified, true, belief.” What is justified? What is true?

    However, this is where I think a lot of LDS (of the TBM type) have issues with their epistemology. When we get up at fast and testimony meeting and say “I know”, “I know”, “I know” – are we really using our words right? I would say these knowledge claims are not justified, except in the mind of the believer. It’s probably more accurate to say “I believe” or “I feel” or “I hope” or “I have faith” that such and such is true. That’s not how most in my family feels though. They say they know, they know, they know . . . . and that can cause problems when someone else doesn’t.

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  9. Bruce on February 5, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    “When we get up at fast and testimony meeting and say “I know”, “I know”, “I know” – are we really using our words right?”

    JP, please give me a precise list of everything you know 100% for certain.

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  10. Mark D. on February 5, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    Firetag, Blaise Pascal certainly deserves credit for the whole idea of faith as a gamble. I think it is mildly subversive myself, because most gambles are risky, where faith is the sort of thing that leads to perceptible rewards in genuine human happiness in amazingly short periods, and generally persists on a life long basis. So even if you were to demote religion to the level of Jamesian pragmatism, it is not much of a gamble at all – it is about the most effective thing you can do with your life, to one degree or another.

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  11. Mark D. on February 5, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    Bruce N, if you want a train wreck, I imagine we could in engage in an argument about all the areas where Popper defended ideas that anyone other than a philosopher would be counted as a crazy man for.

    For example, Popper didn’t believe that is probable that the sun will come up in the morning. In fact he belongs in the skeptic camp in general, along with such luminaries as David Hume. As a diehard falsificationist, he would claim that “scientific knowledge” is an oxymoron, that rather there is only unfalsified conjecture.

    The core idea of falsifiability is so valuable though that everything else of more dubious merit is easy to look past except as part of a more balanced view about scientific knowledge and the problem of induction in general.

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  12. JP on February 6, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Bruce, there very few things I would say that anybody knows for 100% certain. My list would be pretty short. And that’s OK. Some people say the KNOW something with unshakable faith based on personal feelings or an emotive experience. That, in my book, would not be 100% certainty – or anything like it; it’s a personal opinion formed on some pretty shaky epistemological grounds.

    However, I’m also not a postmodernist who thinks that every opinion out there is of equal value or certainty, or that knowledge is impossible. The scientific method deals in probabilities, and some things are more certain (or probable) than others. For example, if something is hypothesized that is then supported by objective data, reproducible evidence, convergent evidence from other areas of scientific exploration, which help us make predictions that we later discover are true, and makes claims that are falsifiable which stand up to critical scrutiny – then that claim is more certain than claims supported by opinion or feeling only.

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  13. JP on February 6, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    Mark D, with regards to Pascal’s Wager; is faith really a risk free gamble as you say?

    What if you devote a lot of time and energy and money into your faith or church or God, just to find out later you put a lot of sunken costs into a faith or church or God that wasn’t the right one? There have been lots of Gods and churches that have come and gone; maybe one of those extinct Gods/churches was the right one? Maybe that God would be mad if we worshiped another God, or belonged to the wrong church? How can we be sure ours is the right one?

    Also, can we really choose to believe something, in the same way that we can choose to take a wager? I can’t make myself believe in the Koran, even if I wanted to hedge my bets that Allah might be the true God and Mohammed was his true prophet and that Islam was his true religion. I can’t take that wager because I can’t make myself believe it.

    Finally, even if I hedged and pretended to believe in every possible God and church and scripture out there, wouldn’t the true God see through my insincere worship, and fail to reward me for my duplicitous wager?

    Just my thoughts on Pascal’s (rather worthless) Wager.

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  14. Mark D. on February 6, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    JP: There have been lots of Gods and churches that have come and gone; maybe one of those extinct Gods/churches was the right one

    That is where I have to disagree with you. “Gods” (with an upper case G) is an oxymoron. Every monotheistic religion believes that there is only one God – a Supreme Being with essentially the same attributes in all of them.

    The God of the Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Zorastrianism, Neoplatonism, Unitarianism, Deism, etc. is the same being. The different sects and religions just have somewhat different beliefs about Him.

    Nobody is going to convert from any one of those religions to another one and think that the new Supreme Being is somehow numerically distinct from the old one. That is ridiculous.

    Some may of course be disillusioned about the merits of this or that religious precept, but that is life. The most basic teachings of all of these religions are similar, in fact many of them stand in good stead among complete atheists. Notable exceptions allowing, I don’t see how many could have a reasonable claim to have wasted his or her life pursuing the teachings or practices of any of them.

    Brain-in-the-vat aside, I imagine most religious adherents have greater confidence in the existence of God than they do with regard to anyone they haven’t met. If someone hasn’t felt God’s love or his influence, his faith is surely an intellectual abstraction. If someone has, all the other precepts are secondary – his faith in God will survive regardless, even if his confidence in this or that set of precepts falls by the wayside.

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  15. Mark D. on February 6, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    I should add of course that Christianity and to a greater degree Mormonism are unique in the sense that they believe that the Godhead is composed of more than one individual, working together in perfect unity.

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  16. JP on February 6, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    (I’m coming at this from a skeptical perspective, of course.) What about all the polytheistic gods of the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks? They are not compatible with the monotheistic God of Abraham that most religionists believe in today.

    Also incompatible are the various monotheistic religions themselves. All have mutually exclusive beliefs about how to get back to God. Muslims usually don’t believe Christians are going to heaven, Christians usually don’t think Muslims will make it. Even within the various faith traditions, it breaks down on sectarian lines: Catholics vs Protestant, Protestants vs Protestants, Mormons vs JW’s, Shia vs Sunni, etc, etc, etc. Everybody seems to think they have the right way to get back to God.

    My point is that Pascal’s Wager does make a lot of sense. There doesn’t appear to be any way to play it safe.

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  17. Bruce on February 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    JP,

    You arguments against Pascal’s Wager are ‘standard arguments.’ I think they are correct, but only for the weakest form of the wager.

    Mark isn’t arguing the weakest form.

    For example, you keep refering to whether or not God will curse someone for ‘getting it wrong.’ Indeed, this is your core argument.

    But look carefully at what Mark D actually said and don’t make any assumptions. He is talking about someone that chooses to believe in God because they want to. Under this scenario, the standard counter arguments fall apart.

    Yes, it’s true that someone going through the motions will not benefit here and now. So they are incapable of taking pascal’s wager in it’s stronger form. So in this sense, you are right. But you are also, in my opinion, misunderstanding the point.

    I’d also argue that in a very literal sense, we can’t help but take Pascal’s wager. I have yet to meet an atheist that didn’t have ‘faith’ in something that they found meaning in their life from, but couldn’t back up rationally. Therefore, I’d argue, that atheist does, in a limited sense, believe in God and therefore is entering into Pascal’s wager in some form.

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  18. Bruce on February 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    “Bruce, there very few things I would say that anybody knows for 100% certain. My list would be pretty short”

    I’m shocked you have anything on your list at all, actually. Mine is empty.

    But then that’s the point. For you to assume that Mormons saying “know” means 100% certain is, to me, to merely misunderstand the meaning of the word “know.”

    If ‘know’ really meant 100% certain, then we would not have the word in our language, or at least we would have no rational (non-fantasy) uses for it.

    Do you know the world is round? People say all the time they know the world is round. I do not assume this means they have 100% certainty. I assume it means that have sufficient knowledge to feel justified in their belief.

    I trust you see the connection.

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  19. Bruce on February 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    “For example, Popper didn’t believe that is probable that the sun will come up in the morning”

    Mark D,

    I haven’t read enough Popper (yet) to verify if he really did or did not say this in the way you just said it. Popper is not God, so he can certainly be wrong. On the other hand, Popper gets misquoted all the time. (Such as on something not being science if it can’t be falsified. What he actually said was far more nuanced. Or claims that he was a Positivist.)

    I do know that as a Popperian, I also do not believe that we are justified in believing that the sun will come up tomorrow based on probability. Just what exactly are the probabilities that the sun will or won’t come up tomorrow? Would you even know where to start calculating them? How could you?

    Indeed, nothing within the realms of epistemology can be justified on probability, for probability is actually a statement of our lack of knowledge.

    Instead, we are justified in our belief that the sun will come up tomorrow based on the explanation (theory) we have for why it is that the sun comes up (i.e. the earth turning) and that we have no counter theory to suggest it will not.

    Given that we have no counter theory, we are justified. We might still be wrong of course, but we are justified epistemologically.

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  20. Bruce on February 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Missed this.

    “he would claim that “scientific knowledge” is an oxymoron, that rather there is only unfalsified conjecture.”

    In what way is this wild and crazy? It’s right, isn’t it? Please give me an exception.

    Of course it all depends on what you mean by ‘knowledge’ right? See discussion with JP above

    If by ‘knowledge’ we mean 100% certainty, then there is no such thing as knowledge, just like Popper says. But if by ‘knowledge’ we mean we are justified in our explanation based on the fact that there is no better explanation yet, then in fact there is such a thing as scientific knowledge.

    I doubt Popper would argue with this point at all. I’d venture a guess he’d say that he never argues over definitions of words and that as I am defining ‘knowledge’ there is therefore something called ‘scientific knowledge.’ Popper seems to have been as sensitive to word policing as I am.

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  21. Mark D. on February 6, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Bruce, the debate often comes up in the context of the philosophy of probability. Popper was a frequentist, in the the sense of measuring frequency looking backward, and also a “propensitarian” in terms of allowing for real objects to have a “propensity” to behave in a certain way (Orthodox QM wave collapse is an excellent example).

    What he was opposed to was the whole Bayesian conception of probability, which intrinsically includes subjective factors (assumptions) to account for places where knowledge is limited. In Bayesian analysis (as I imagine you know very well) you have to assign prior probabilities in desperation and then the subsequent probabilities become more accurate as you apply experimental evidence.

    But here, the baseline assumption required for most applications of Bayesian probability and for belief that any scientific theory is actually law-like is the uniformity of the rules of nature. If you don’t believe that the laws of physics are likely to remain substantially the same from one moment to the next, then the success of any scientific theory in terms of predictive power is going to look like mere coincidence.

    Given the overwhelming level of evidence for baseline physical theories, however, I find Humean level skepticism about the existence of causation or the existence of any natural laws at all to be about as reasonable as solipsism. A respectable intellectual aberration at best.

    No occasionalist could ever be an effective scientist, architect, or engineer. Someone who doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as laws of physics is going to put his life, livelihood, and professional reputation on the line based on nothing other than faith in the existence and future continuance of those laws? I don’t think so.

    The entire scope of natural science and philosophy for two and a half millennia now is that there is such a thing as nature. The weakness of Hume and Popper is that neither actually believed it. That sort of skepticism is good in small doses, as the sole basis for a philosophy of science, however, it is fatal.

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  22. Mark D. on February 6, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    If you want to read about the weaknesses in contemporary philosophy of science, by the way, you could do worse than read the writings of David Stove on the subject. See here for example.

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  23. JP on February 7, 2011 at 6:09 AM

    Bruce: I was responding to Mark D’s following comment regarding Pascal’s Wager

    “. . . most gambles are risky, where faith is the sort of thing that leads to perceptible rewards in genuine human happiness in amazingly short periods, and generally persists on a life long basis. So even if you were to demote religion to the level of Jamesian pragmatism, it is not much of a gamble at all – it is about the most effective thing you can do with your life. . . ”

    I think the “standard” arguments against Pascal’s Wager apply here, and are valid.

    With regards to your comment about how atheists have faith in God: seriously? Because atheists (like everyone else) hold beliefs that are not fully justified, and can find meaning for their lives in some of them, this somehow means atheists have faith in God?

    If we are getting loose about our definitions, I could see how an atheist has “faith” that his wife loves him, that his life has meaning, or that the sun will rise tommorrow. However, how does it follow that this means he has a belief in God?

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  24. Bruce on February 7, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    “Because atheists (like everyone else) hold beliefs that are not fully justified, and can find meaning for their lives in some of them, this somehow means atheists have faith in God?”

    Yes, absolutely without a doubt.

    However, “God” in this sense is a very loose concept. I am not claiming atheists secretly worship God or anything like that.

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  25. Bruce on February 7, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Mark D,

    The parts of Popper I am using will certainly not result in any sort of denial of nature, I promise. I’m an advocate for Scientific Realism, personally.

    And to be honest, I doubt this is a correct reading of Popper. But I’ll keep reading and see what I think.

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  26. JP on February 8, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    Bruce: What is your definition of “God” then? How does an atheist “believe in God?” If you get too loose with definitions, they lose all meaning.

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  27. Mark D. on February 8, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Bruce N, I think I exaggerate Popper’s level of skepticism a little. He doesn’t seem to be quite the skeptic that Hume is, but disbelief in induction makes it paradoxical to claim that there ever is such a thing as scientific progress, as on occasion Popper apparently did.

    More accurately speaking, Popper doesn’t deny that causation might exist, or that there might be such a thing as natural laws, but that we won’t ever know, or even have a reasonable basis for believing.

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  28. Mark D. on February 8, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    The following link it a little bit technical, but it is an excellent summary of the issue with regard to Popper compared to Immanuel Kant’s view of the same issue:

    http://www.friesian.com/samra.htm

    The author quotes Kant as follows:

    Reason presupposes those cognitions of the understanding which are first applied to experience, and seeks the unity of these cognitions in accordance with ideas that go much further than experience can reach.

    That is the crux of the matter. Basically Kant is claiming that reason is meaningless except to the degree that it allows us to represent the world of the not yet experienced. Or in modern terms, reason is meaningless except to the degree it has predictive power with regard to events not yet experienced. If induction is irrational there is no reason to think at all.

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  29. Bruce on February 8, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    JP says, “Bruce: What is your definition of “God” then? How does an atheist “believe in God?” If you get too loose with definitions, they lose all meaning.”

    This could be a series of post all of it’s own. So there is no realistic way for me to give you a really good answer in a short space.

    But if I had to put it into a (perhaps misleading) sound bite I would probably define “belief in God” like this:

    Any moral beliefs that can’t be justified by rationality, reason, or science yet is whole heartedly embraced on the basis of faith anyhow and provides meaning, often deep meaning, to that person’s life.

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  30. Bruce on February 8, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    “but disbelief in induction makes it paradoxical to claim that there ever is such a thing as scientific progress, as on occasion Popper apparently did”

    Okay, I confess, my introduction to Popper was through Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality.” So I have Deutsch colored glasses when it comes to Popper.

    Now having stated my prejudice here, I’d have to say that your statement is incorrect. (At least for the Deustch flavored version of Popper.) We do not need induction at all to justify scientific progress. In fact, it’s a hinderance to our goal.

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  31. Bruce on February 8, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    “If induction is irrational there is no reason to think at all.”

    Totally disagree.

    I briefly explained the problems with that line of thought in my previous post.

    Granted, it was probably too brief to really banish that false notion that we somehow need induction. If you are interested, I’ll try to elaborate.

    Or you could go read The Fabric of Reality and it does a better job than I can.

    I do not believe induction is in any way necessary to “think.” In fact, we think better the moment we abandon it.

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  32. Mark D. on February 9, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Bruce, Popper has a concept called “verisimilitude”, a property of scientific theories which is necessary for the idea of scientific progress to make any sense.

    I claim, however, that a belief in verisimilitude is belief in some forms of induction by another name. If you believe that any scientific theory has any predictive power under any circumstances whatsoever, you believe in some form of induction. “Verisimilitude” is the same idea.

    No one believes that induction is infallible of course, that is silly. No one believes that induction can be conducted willy nilly from any arbitrary set of data either. Intelligence is required. That is what abduction is all about. Scientists don’t really do induction anyway – they do abduction.

    It is worth mentioning by the way that Kant described falsification in his writings a couple of centuries before Popper. Take a look at the link I posted above. The graph on “verisimilitude” is also relevant.

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  33. Mark D. on February 9, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Of course strictly speaking abduction is a specialized form of induction..

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  34. Bruce on February 9, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    “I claim, however, that a belief in verisimilitude is belief in some forms of induction by another name”

    I claim otherwise. I believe induction has no place at all in explanations and that explanations are the basis for scientific progress.

    I will read your link and see what they have to say, however. It’s hard to assess an argument from a couple of lines.

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  35. [...] In my last post on Wheat and Tares, I wrote somewhat glowingly of Popper’s epistemology based on Conjecture and Refutation. In a post on Millennial Star I even went so far as to explain why I felt there were some touch points between conjecture and refutation and the Gospel. To summarize, Popper believes all knowledge of all types growths through a process of having problems, conjecturing solutions to those problems, then refuting those conjectures based on the discovery of new problems. Through this process we ‘evolve’ our explanations and they improve over time. The end result is increasing verisimilitude – i.e. closeness to reality – of our knowledge. (I note here that this produces increasing verisimilitude without use of induction.) [...]

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  36. [...] in two regards — so far. The first, and most important of which, is Popper’s theory of Conjecture and Refutation as the basis for how we gain knowledge. I am doing a series of posts over at Wheat and Tares where [...]

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  37. [...] why, we have to realize that this is actually a natural extension of Karl Popper’s views on Conjecture and Refutation. To summarize (poorly) knowledge is only gained through conjecture and refutation. Or in other [...]

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  38. » Our Epistemology So Far The Millennial Star on October 2, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    [...] science (and all knowledge actually) is justified based on being our best explanations so far. No other justification is necessary and no other justification is [...]

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