Karl Popper: how science grows
Most influential philosopher of science of the 20th century
Ideas about science have important implications for sociology
Notes that many systems of thought claim to have true knowledge about the world, such as religions, political ideologies, tradition, intuition and common sense, as well as science.
Popper sets out to answer two related questions about science.
1. What is it that distinguishes scientific knowledge from other forms of knowledge- what makes scientific knowledge unique?
2. Why has scientific knowledge been able to grow so spectacularly in just a few centuries?
The fallacy of induction
Popper differs from the positivists in that he rejects their view that the distinctive feature of science lies in inductive reasoning and verificationism.
Poppers view, the main reason why we should reject verificationism is what he calls ‘the fallacy [error] of induction’.
Induction is the process of moving from the observation of particular instances of something to arrive at a general statement or law.
Fallacy of Induction
Positivists uses inductive reasoning and verifications, both of which Popper reject.
Inductive reasoning is...
The process of moving from the observation of particular instance of something to arrive at a general statement or law.
Popper example of swans:
Observe large number of white swans
Generalise 'all swans are white
One black swan would ruin the generalisation Falsificationism
A scientific statement is one which Popper says is capable of being falsified, or proven wrong by evidence.
A test would disprove gravity if we let go of an object and it did not fall.
Popper: What does he consider a 'Good' Theory?
A GOOD theory would have 2 features:
But is, when tested, is good.
Stands up to any attempts to disprove it.
Tries to explain a lot, making big generalisations that exactly predict a large number of events.
Being bold would also make it more prone to falsification than a more timid theory that only explains small scale events.
Popper & 'Truth'
There can never be any proof that knowledge is true.
A good theory isn’t always a true theory, and so it is simply one that has withstood attempts to falsify it so far.
Criticism & Open Society
For any theory to be falsifiable, it must be open to criticism from scientists.
According to Popper, science is a public activity.
Popper sees science as open to criticism so that flaws can be spotted straight away and newer, better theories can take its place.
Popper says this is why scientific knowledge grows so rapidly.
Thomas Kuhn & Scientific Paradigms
Thomas Kuhn 1922-1996
Wrote extensively on history of science
Radically different view of what makes science unique.
Major Contribution: concept of 'Paradigm Shifts'
Heavily influenced Sociology
Overview of Kuhn's Major Contributions
Science undergoes periodic “PARADIGM SHIFTS”; instead of progressing in a linear and continuous way.
These paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding that scientists would never have considered valid before.
Scientists can never divorce their subjective perspective from their work; so our understanding of science can never rely on full “OBJECTIVITY” - we must account for subjective perspectives as well.
What is a Paradigm?
It is a basic framework of assumptions, principles, methods and techniques governing a scientific community and their science.
What is a Paradigm Shift?
Kuhn argued that science does not progress by a linear method of gathering of new knowledge, but undergoes periodic revolutions, also called paradigm shifts in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is suddenly transformed.
Kuhn's View of Paradigm Shifts & Science
Science cannot exist without a shared paradigm and until there is a shared consensus on a single paradigm there will only ever be rival schools of