Saturday, April 22, 2017

Karl Popper and the scientific method

Karl Popper (1902-1994) is an influential philosopher best known for his philosophy of science and support for falsification. Neurophysiologist John Eccles says,
I learned from Popper what for me is the essence of scientific investigation - how to be speculative and imaginative in the creation of hypotheses, and then to challenge them with the utmost rigor, both by utilizing all existing knowledge and by mounting the most searching experimental attacks. In fact, I learned from him even to rejoice in the refutation of a cherished hypothesis, because that, too, is a scientific achievement and because much has been learned by the refutation. (Under the spell of the synapse, 1976)
Eccles goes on to say:
Through my association with Popper I experienced a great liberation in escaping from the rigid conventions that are generally held with respect to scientific research... When one is liberated from these restrictive dogmas, scientific investigation becomes an exciting adventure opening up new visions; and this attitude has, I think, been reflected in my own scientific life since that time. (Under the spell of the synapse, 1976)
This post is a collection of quotes from Popper about the philosophy of science.

Popper's scientific method

"Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

"Science is one of the very few human activities - perhaps the only one - in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

"Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her. And we must hazard them to win our prize. Those among us who are unwilling to expose their ideas to the hazard of refutation do not take part in the scientific game." (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934)

"He is well aware that acceptance or rejection of an idea is never a purely rational matter; but he thinks that only critical discussion can give us the maturity to see an idea from more and more sides and to make a correct judgement of it." (All Life is Problem Solving, 1997)

You cannot prove theories

" matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white." (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934)

"Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification..." (The Open Universe : An Argument for Indeterminism, 1992)

"What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

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