Home » News, Philosophy, Science » Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it.

Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it.

At the Edge, Sean Carroll argues that falsifiability should be retired:

My answer was “Falsifiability.” More of a philosophical idea than a scientific one, but an idea that is bandied about by lazy scientists far more than it is invoked by careful philosophers. Thinking sensibly about the demarcation problem between science and non-science, especially these days, requires a bit more nuance than that.

Modern physics stretches into realms far removed from everyday experience, and sometimes the connection to experiment becomes tenuous at best. String theory and other approaches to quantum gravity involve phenomena that are likely to manifest themselves only at energies enormously higher than anything we have access to here on Earth. The cosmological multiverse and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics posit other realms that are impossible for us to access directly. Some scientists, leaning on Popper, have suggested that these theories are non-scientific because they are not falsifiable.

The truth is the opposite. Whether or not we can observe them directly, the entities involved in these theories are either real or they are not. Refusing to contemplate their possible existence on the grounds of some a priori principle, even though they might play a crucial role in how the world works, is as non-scientific as it gets.

Pigliucci replies, noting that Carroll thinks the multiverse eliminates the problem of fine-tuning of our universe, such that it is friendly to life:

More crucially, again as pointed out by Baggott, the reasoning basically boils down to: we have this empirically unsubstantiated but nice theoretical complex (the multiverse) that would very nicely solve this nagging fine tuning problem, so we think the theoretical complex is on the mark. This is dangerously close to being circular reasoning. The fact, if it is a fact, that the idea of a multiverse may help us with cosmological fine tuning is not evidence or reason in favor of the multiverse itself. The latter needs to stand on its own.

And yet Sean comes perilously close to proposing just that: “We can’t (as far as we know) observe other parts of the multiverse directly. But their existence has a dramatic effect on how we account for the data in the part of the multiverse we do observe.” I truly don’t think I’m reading him uncharitably here, and again, I’m not the only one to read some cosmologists’ statements in this fashion.

None of the above should be construed as suggesting that ideas like the multiverse or string theory are somehow pseudoscientific. They are complex, elegant speculations somewhat grounded in well established physics. Nor is anyone suggesting that barriers be put around the work or imagination of cosmologists and string theorists. Go ahead, knock yourselves out and surprise and astonish the rest of us. But at some point the fundamental physics community might want to ask itself whether it has crossed into territory that begins to look a lot more like metaphysics than physics. And this comes from someone who doesn’t think metaphysics is a dirty word…

Some of us think there is no question that the fundamental physics community has crossed over into metaphysics. A while back. Here’s a question: Would it have been possible to develop a cosmology where avoiding the concept of God is a goal (and that is clearly what this whole fine-tuning issue is about) without the cosmology becoming a metaphysic?

See also: Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.

And

The Science Fictions series at your fingertips

Note: Pigliucci crossed our screens before here, in “Pigliucci: nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution — NOT!” and here on the frequent imprecision of the science/pseudo-science divide in medicine (no surprise, given the strength of the placebo effect).

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4 Responses to Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it.

  1. Sean Carroll states

    “Falsifiability.” More of a philosophical idea than a scientific one, but an idea that is bandied about by lazy scientists far more than it is invoked by careful philosophers. Thinking sensibly about the demarcation problem between science and non-science, especially these days, requires a bit more nuance than that.,,,
    Whether or not we can observe them directly (multiverse and string theory), the entities involved in these theories are either real or they are not. Refusing to contemplate their possible existence on the grounds of some a priori principle, even though they might play a crucial role in how the world works, is as non-scientific as it gets.

    Pigliucci, not trying to be to condescending, states:

    None of the above should be construed as suggesting that ideas like the multiverse or string theory are somehow pseudoscientific.

    News, a bit more bluntly, puts it like this,,

    But Who Needs Reality-Based Thinking Anyway? Not the New Cosmologists – Denyse O’Leary January 2, 2014
    Excerpt: Logic and reason are likewise irrelevant. Consider the multiverse claim that there are “infinite copies of you and your loved ones leading lives, up until this moment, that are absolutely identical to yours.” Mathematician George F. R. Ellis notes that, if so, the deep mysteries of nature are too absurd to be explicable and that the proposed nine types of multiverse in one scheme are “mutually exclusive.” True, but in a multiverse, “inexplicable” is okay. “Absurd” and “mutually exclusive” are meaningless concepts. It is equally meaningless to assert that one event is more probable than another. As David Berlinski puts it, “Why is Newton’s universal law of gravitation true? No need to ask. In another universe, it is not”(Devil’s Delusion, p. 124).,,,
    Science writer John Horgan pointedly asks, “Is theorizing about parallel universes immoral?”
    “These multiverse theories all share the same fundamental defect: They can be neither confirmed nor falsified. Hence, they don’t deserve to be called scientific, according to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper. Some defenders of multiverses and strings mock skeptics who raise the issue of falsification as “Popperazi” — which is cute but not a counterargument. Multiverse theories aren’t theories — they’re science fictions, theologies, works of the imagination unconstrained by evidence.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....80281.html

    Well, contrary to what Carroll thinks, the non-falsifiable multiverse, that he would prefer to believe in, (rather than Carrol entertaining any notion of God, for whatever severely misguided reason), is an epistemologically self-defeating proposition that undermines our ability to practice science in the first place!

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory and The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    Here is the last power-point slide of the preceding video:

    The End Of Materialism?
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemologically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

    God Is the Best Explanation of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMBcc2aTqcE

    Thus, basically Carrol has not only, as he himself admitted, given up falsifiability as a criterion for believing in a multiverse(s), but Carrol has also, apparently unbeknownst to himself, given up rationality altogether!

    Moreover, Alvin Plantinga’s most powerful work against Naturalism/Atheism, showing it to be a self-refuting and incoherent worldview, is where he turns the theory of Evolution itself against metaphysical Naturalism (i.e. Atheism) in what is called the ‘Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism’ (EAAN). Turning Evolution against metaphysical Naturalism/Atheism is simply ‘poetic justice’ in extremely high form, as to showing the inconsistency inherent in the Atheist’s a-priorily preferred naturalistic worldview. Here are two videos and a paper in which Plantinga lays out, and rigorously defends, the logical consistency of his argument:

    Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga – video
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL80CAECC36901BCEE

    “Refuting Naturalism by Citing our own Consciousness” Dr. Alvin Plantinga – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Content and Natural Selection – Alvin Plantinga – 2011
    http://www.andrewmbailey.com/a.....ection.pdf

    I find it to be funny that people who claim they have no mind end up ‘losing their mind’ in the EAAN.

    In fact, Plantinga’s work undermining the epistemological integrity of Naturalism, which had had a stranglehold on higher philosophy in America for many decades prior to Plantinga’s arrival on the scene in the late 1960s, led him to comment in no less than the New York Times that,,,

    Philosopher Sticks Up for God – 2011
    Excerpt: Theism, with its vision of an orderly universe superintended by a God who created rational-minded creatures in his own image, “is vastly more hospitable to science than naturalism,” with its random process of natural selection, he (Plantinga) writes. “Indeed, it is theism, not naturalism, that deserves to be called ‘the scientific worldview.’”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12.....wanted=all

    It is also interesting to note that Darwin himself expressed doubt that reasoning itself could be based in Naturalistic Evolution:

    “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
    – Charles Darwin – Letter To William Graham – July 3, 1881

    As well, Pinker and Dawkins also both agree that Darwinism does not guarantee the soundness of our reasoning.

    Which begs the question, ‘if you can’t trust your own reasoning how do you know anything you say, scientifically or otherwise, is true?’. The basic outline of Plantinga’s EAAN argument was laid out decades earlier by C.S. Lewis in his ‘Argument From Reason’:

    “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
    —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason)

    That a perspective outside the material order, i.e. a mind, is necessary in order to practice science in the first place, is beautifully captured in this following quote:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

  2. And whereas Naturalism sows its own seeds of destruction from within to wind up in a pseudo-scientific pit of endless logical absurdities and contradictions, Theism stands up quite well, logically, to all the main ‘defeaters’ that have been leveled against it by atheists.

    What are some Defeaters for Theism, Alvin Plantinga – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAxe5f2TO98

    A bit more on ‘falsifiability’, which Carrol seems to consider so much primitive thinking, it turns out that nobody can seem to find the exact mathematical demarcation criteria of neo-Darwinism so that we may finally learn how to properly designate real Darwinian science from the pseudo-science of Intelligent Design?

    “nobody to date has yet found a demarcation criterion according to which Darwin can be described as scientific”
    – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, quote as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    Oxford University Seeks Mathemagician — May 5th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Grand theories in physics are usually expressed in mathematics. Newton’s mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity are essentially equations. Words are needed only to interpret the terms. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has obstinately remained in words since 1859. …
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....emagician/

    “However, mathematical population geneticists mainly deny that natural selection leads to optimization of any useful kind. This fifty-year old schism is intellectually damaging in itself, and has prevented improvements in our concept of what fitness is.” –
    On a 2011 Job Description for a Mathematician, at Oxford, to ‘fix’ the persistent mathematical problems with neo-Darwinism within two years.

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

    Active Information in Metabiology – Winston Ewert, William A. Dembski, Robert J. Marks II – 2013
    Except page 9: (Gregory) Chaitin states [3], “For many years I have thought that it is a mathematical scandal that we do not have proof that Darwinian evolution works.” In fact, mathematics has consistently demonstrated that undirected Darwinian evolution does not work.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.4

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details – Dr. V. J. Torley – February 27, 2013
    Excerpt: After all, mathematics, scientific laws and observed processes are supposed to form the basis of all scientific explanation. If none of these provides support for Darwinian macroevolution, then why on earth should we accept it? Indeed, why does macroevolution belong in the province of science at all, if its scientific basis cannot be demonstrated?
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-details/

    Or if mathematics is not a useful tool for ascertaining the falsifiability of a theory in science, perhaps empirical evidence can demonstrate for us the truthfulness of Darwinism? Demonstrate for all to see that Random Mutation/Variation and Natural Selection are the way in which species have originated?

    Fully Random Mutations – Kevin Kelly – Jan. 2014
    Excerpt: What is commonly called “random mutation” does not in fact occur in a mathematically random pattern. The process of genetic mutation is extremely complex, with multiple pathways, involving more than one system. Current research suggests most spontaneous mutations occur as errors in the repair process for damaged DNA. Neither the damage nor the errors in repair have been shown to be random in where they occur, how they occur, or when they occur. Rather, the idea that mutations are random is simply a widely held assumption by non-specialists and even many teachers of biology. There is no direct evidence for it.,,,
    Mutations have also been shown to have a higher chance of occurring near a place in DNA where mutations have already occurred, creating mutation hotspot clusters—a non-random pattern.,,,
    ,,,the lack of direct evidence for actual random mutations has now reached a stage where the idea needs to be retired.
    There are several related reasons why this unsubstantiated idea continues to be repeated without evidence. The first is fear that non-random mutations would be misunderstood and twisted by creationists,,,
    http://www.edge.org/responses/.....retirement

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt (Page 12): Underlying the central dogma and conventional views of genome evolution was the idea that the genome is a stable structure that changes rarely and accidentally by chemical fluctuations (106) or replication errors. This view has had to change with the realization that maintenance of genome stability is an active cellular function and the discovery of numerous dedicated biochemical systems for restructuring DNA molecules.(107–110) Genetic change is almost always the result of cellular action on the genome. These natural processes are analogous to human genetic engineering,,, (Page 14) Genome change arises as a consequence of natural genetic engineering, not from accidents. Replication errors and DNA damage are subject to cell surveillance and correction. When DNA damage correction does produce novel genetic structures, natural genetic engineering functions, such as mutator polymerases and nonhomologous end-joining complexes, are involved. Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....0Dogma.pdf

    Well so much for Random mutations/variations providing proof for Darwinism! How about Natural Selection? Can Darwinists/Atheists demonstrated that the second pillar of Darwinism is true?

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.”
    Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79

    WOW, Natural Selection is not even in the right dimension to do any ‘undirected selecting’! Moreover, even if Natural Selection were on the right playing dimensional field to be a viable explanation, Natural Selection would still be hopelessly blind to the subtle changes it is required to select at the molecular level,,

    The GS Principle (The Genetic Selection Principle) – Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: The GS Principle, sometimes called “The 2nd Law of Biology,” states that selection must occur at the molecular/genetic level, not just at the fittest phenotypic/organismic level, to produce and explain life.,,, Natural selection cannot operate at the genetic level.
    http://www.bioscience.org/2009.....lltext.htm

    This devastating ‘princess and the pea’ problem for natural selection is pointed out by Dr. John Sanford at the 8:14 minute mark of this following video,,,

    Genetic Entropy – Dr. John Sanford – Evolution vs. Reality – video
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

  3. All of which begs the question, if showing Darwinisn to have no rigid mathematical basis, and showing that both of the two primary pillars of Darwinian thought are false cannot falsify Darwinism, exactly what scientific finding could possibly falsify Darwinism? Without any solid foundation in science, and still their dogmatic insistence that Darwinism is true, then as far as I can tell, the actual demarcation threshold for believing neo-Darwinism is true is this:

    Darwinism Not Proved Impossible Therefore Its True – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/10285716/

    Dumb and Dumber – How Darwinists React to Improbability Arguments – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9IgLueodZA

    ,, I hope neo-Darwinists/Atheists can help us to designate a more rigid threshold for neo-Darwinism, since, as far as I can tell, without such a rigid demarcation criteria, neo-Darwinism is in actuality the pseudo-science that they constantly accuse Intelligent Design of being!

    Of note: Intelligent Design does not suffer from such a lack of mathematical rigor:

    Evolutionary Informatics Lab – Main Publications
    http://evoinfo.org/publications/

    Moreover, Intelligent Design can easily be falsified by empirical evidence:

    “Orr maintains that the theory of intelligent design is not falsifiable. He’s wrong. To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.”
    - Dr Behe in 1997

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Moreover, ID has positive evidence for its claim that Intelligence, and only Intelligence, can generate functional information/complexity, whereas Darwinism has no evidence that it can produce non-tivial functional information/complexity:

    Creating Life in the Lab: How New Discoveries in Synthetic Biology Make a Case for the Creator – Fazale Rana
    Excerpt of Review: ‘Another interesting section of Creating Life in the Lab is one on artificial enzymes. Biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions, often increasing the spontaneous reaction rate by a billion times or more. Scientists have set out to produce artificial enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions not used in biological organisms. Comparing the structure of biological enzymes, scientists used super-computers to calculate the sequences of amino acids in their enzymes that might catalyze the reaction they were interested in. After testing dozens of candidates,, the best ones were chosen and subjected to “in vitro evolution,” which increased the reaction rate up to 200-fold. Despite all this “intelligent design,” the artificial enzymes were 10,000 to 1,000,000,000 times less efficient than their biological counterparts. Dr. Rana asks the question, “is it reasonable to think that undirected evolutionary processes routinely accomplished this task?”
    per Amazon Description

    Dr. Fuz Rana, at the 41:30 minute mark of the following video, speaks on the tremendous effort that went into building the preceding protein:

    Science – Fuz Rana – Unbelievable? Conference 2013 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....38;index=8

    In fact there is a null hypothesis in place stating that purely material processes will NEVER be observed generating non-trivial levels of functional information:

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    Excerpt of conclusion pg. 42: “To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2662469/
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation) – D. Abel
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind

    Verse and Music;

    John 1:1-3
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

    Creed – My Own Prison
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBBqjGd3fHQ

    Supplemental note:

    The ‘Top Down’ Theistic Structure Of The Universe and Of The Human Body
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NhA4hiQnYiyCTiqG5GelcSJjy69e1DT3OHpqlx6rACs/edit

    Psalm 115:2-3
    Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
    Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

  4. Wasn’t ‘it’s not falsifiable!’ one of the principle supposed arguments about how ID wasn’t science?

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