Jul 31, 2017

Core Concept: Falsification

Karl Popper

Some concepts are so basic, they are easy to forget. We know them and have internalized them to the extent we find it hard to consciously recall and articulate them. From time to time, I come across one of these concepts in my reading. I will now make a note of them here.

My first entry is FALSIFICATION. I came across it when reviewing Shane Parrish's "Mental Models." Falsification is categorized as "General Thinking Concept" No. 2.

Parrish writes:

"[P]opularized by the philosopher Karl Popper, the modern scientific enterprise operates under the principle of falsification: A method is termed scientific if it can be stated in such a way that a certain defined result would cause it to be false. Pseudo-knowledge and pseudo-science operate and propagate by being unfalsifiable – as with astrology, we are unable to prove them either correct or incorrect because of the conditions under which they would be shown false are never stated."

Falsification is one reason I feel comfortable criticizing anthropogenic climate change even though I am not a scientist. Although we are often told the matter is "settled science," I have never seen any evidence that its doomsday predictions are scientific in the Popper sense. That is, I have not read about "a certain defined result" that would cause the key claims to be disproved or "the conditions under which they would be shown false."

Now, maybe these conditions exist and just aren't being reported. Or maybe climate science today is closer to pseudo-science than science. As a confessed Denier, I obviously lean toward the latter possibility. Indeed, I have seen it reported that earlier climate models failed to predict current temperatures (i.e. were falsified). Moreover, Al Gore famously predicted we had 10 years until climate catastrophe – more than 11 years ago. Yes, Gore is a politician and not a scientist. But he plays a scientist in his movies.

Whether climate science meets the falsification test or not, this concept should always be kept at the forefront of any scientific discussion, especially ones as politicized as climate change.