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Problem With Falsification_creationism and Evolution

Problem With Falsification_creationism and Evolution

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Published by sjschu

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Published by: sjschu on Dec 08, 2009
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07/11/2010

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The Problem with Falsification
In the following pages it is my intention to evaluate one objection that
creationists have to the theory of evolution’s status as legitimate science. The
objection that I have decided to consider is that the theory cannot be falsified.Unfortunately for the creationists, this objection is based on a misunderstandingof the way science works. I will explain why this objection does not strikeevolution down from status as a science. I will also discuss reasons why, in lightof this objection, creationism cannot replace evolution as a scientific theory.By objecting to the scientific status of evolution by saying that the theorycannot be falsified, the Creationist camp reduces itself to the level of naïvefalsification. Philosophers of science discovered long ago that no scientifictheory could be conclusively falsified. The form of logic, Modus Tolens, showsus that it is logically possible to falsify any claim. Unfortunately, when working inthe reality of scientific explanation, we find that though falsification of a claimmight be logically possible, it is factually impossible.This is exemplified with the Edington experiment, a crucial test that was
meant to falsify either Newton’s or Einstein’s theory. In this experiment, a group
of scientist went to Australia to observe the apparent position of a star during a
solar eclipse. Einstein’s theory predicted that the star would appear not to be inits normal position due to the sun’s gravitational field bending the light from the
star. Newton predicted that the star would be where it normally is. The star was
in the position that Einstein predicted so Newton’s theory should have been
falsified. The problem is that in doing this, or any experiment, there are a large
 
number of other hypotheses that are assumed to be true but can also bequestioned. Accuracy of the instrumentation is certainly one hypothetical factorthat would invalidate the results of the experiment, if the instruments were found
to be inaccurate. A second assumption that was made is that the sun’s corona
is not dense enough to bend the star light. No one had yet measured the densityof the corona so the Newtonians were able to say that their theory had not beenfalsified.This example demonstrates the problem with naïve falsification. Whenone attempts to falsify a hypothesis with a crucial test, the hypothesis takesmany other hypotheses, or auxiliary assumptions, with it into the test. As PhilipKitcher would say, hypotheses are tested in bundles. Whenever a crucial test isperformed, supporters of the theory which failed the test can say that one of theother hypotheses in the bundle was falsified instead; just as the Newtonians said
that the hypothesis that the sun’s corona would not refract starlight had been
falsified instead of Newtonian mechanics.Since one of the auxiliary hypotheses in a crucial test can always befalsified in substitution for the main hypothesis, no hypothesis can be fullyfalsified. Further, it is unfortunate for the naïve falsificationists among theCreationists that no crucial test has yet be devised between Creationism andEvolution and it appears that due to the tenants of creationism, no test will everbe devised. Both evolution and creationism were devised more to explain ratherthan predict. Evolution makes few predictions while creationism holds that Godmade things at the beginning as they are today. Upon the discovery of an orchid
 
whose flower cup was so deep that no known (at the time) species of bird had abeak long enough to drink the nectar, evolutionary theory predicted that such anincredible bird does exist. This bird was eventually discovered, demonstratingevidence for the validity of evolution. No crucial test could have be devised fromthis prediction because creationists believe that God made the unusual bird andthe strange flower together because it wanted the orchid and bird to exist. Nocounter predictions could be made in this case using creationism.The statement; due to hypotheses being tested in bundles a hypothesiscannot be factually falsified, leaves scientists in a bind because it now becomesharder to decide when to believe one theory over another. Popperianfalsification says that auxilliary hypotheses should be thrown out if they are
ad hoc 
or too ridiculous to be held accountable for the failure of the test. Theproblem with this account is deciding which auxiliaries are
ad hoc.
Kitcherattempts to solve this problem by demanding that every auxiliary hypothesis be
independently testable. After the Edington experiment the density of the sun’s
corona was measured independently to determine if that was the reason for theresult of the star appearing out of position. If anyone was to ever devise acrucial test between creationism and evolution, this criterion would be used toconfirm one theory over the other but neither theory could be conclusivelyfalsified.The Creationist objection to the scientific status of evolution on thegrounds of not being able to be falsify it, is not valid since no scientific theory canbe falsified conclusively. Further, no crucial test has yet been devised which

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