Today, I’ve gotten into discussions with folks on Twitter about whether Karl Popper’s principle of falsification should be invoked to judge the value/veracity/legitimacy of theological theories. Things got going with my tweet in response to Counter Apologist. (Follow up on Twitter to see our full back-and-forth exchange.)
It's interesting how many atheists assume without question that Karl Popper's controversial philosophy of science provides an unquestionable constraining principle for rational discourse. https://t.co/06AkmHivKM
— Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) April 1, 2020
I then offered up five tweets commenting on falsification which I’ve recounted below:
Let me explain what’s wrong with Popper’s criterion of theory falsification to all the lay folk out there. If you discover that your car needs a new transmission, you make a decision as to whether it is worth the cost. If so, you pay up. If not, you turf it. In principle, you could fix your car and keep it on the road in perpetuity (like Cubans do with their 1950s American cars). But you only do so if it is worth it. When the cost exceeds the value, it’s off to the wrecker.
Theories are like that. You can “fix” them interminably, just so long as the cost is worth it. But at some point, the costs of modifying the theory outweigh the value of the theory. At that point, the theory is abandoned. Not falsified, just abandoned. The Ptolemaic theory is a great example with the famous addition of epicycles.
It is theoretically possible that “epicycles” could’ve been continually added to the Ptolemaic theory to adjust it to our current scientific data. Such a theory would be absurdly bloated, ad hoc, and have little to no explanatory value. But it wouldn’t be “falsified”.
So while specific claims in a theory are regularly falsified. The theory itself can always be adjusted to accommodate the counter-data. Well, at least Popper’s theory lived up to its own standard: it was falsified.
Or was it?;)