[OPE-L:4168] Re: Who agrees with Popper?

From: Patrick L. Mason (pmason@garnet.acns.fsu.edu)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 16:44:13 EDT

What is the alternative to falsifiability? I don't ask this as a challenge. 
Rather, as a person who does a great deal of empirical work there are times 
when I run a regression and it gives me results different one I expected or 
the results are statistically significant. Then, I proceed to torture the 
data in a number of imaginative ways. Yet, often after the most brutal 
torturing the data will not confess - it stubbornly provides statistically 
insignificant results or results that are counter to what I expected. At 
that point, I typically consider that my a priori expectations were wrong 
or in need of modification. This has happened in every empirical paper that 
I've written. Surely, modern philosophers of science are not saying that I 
should abandon checking my theoretical assumptions against the data? What 
is the appropriate empirical criteria for evaluating a model?

Another practical problem. There have been 1 trillion empirical studies on 
the economics of racial and /or gender inequality. There are 1 million 
theories of racial and gender inequality. The theoretical and empirical 
studies roughly fall into camps: market discrimination is possible v. 
market discrimination is not possible. In the absence of falsification, is 
there an objective way of determining whether the data supports or rejects 

peace, patrick l mason

At 09:11 PM 10/19/00 +0100, you wrote:
>It's annoying to have to put in a good word for this vastly-over-rated (not
>least by himself) thinker -- but falsifiability is *quite* a good idea as a
>test of whether a set of notions is, so to speak, advanced in good faith.
>(And his anecdote against Adler, which he uses to illustrate his
>disillusionment with confirmationism, is certainly both funny and
>It's just a pity that it's logically disabled as a prescription for practice
>(the Duhem-Quine problem); moreover Popper should have known this (since
>Duhem preceded him by two or three decades) and the fact that he doesn't
>deal with this objection is evidence of either ignorance or deception.
>I note that Nicky (hi -- good to hear from you again) asks for justification
>of the claim that falsifiability is the *only* criterion for scientificity;
>this would certainly be a hard claim to justify, and even Popper never
>claimed this about his stock-in-trade.
>In fact, I seem to recall that he went to some lengths to point out the
>curious and unfortunate consequence of the falsifiability criterion that
>preposterous theories (e.g. "the moon is made of green cheese") are -- being
>highly falsifiable -- highly scientific.
>In his #4166 Jerry questions the usefulness of what he describes as "the
>empiricist method" in comprehending capitalism: to try and nip in the bud
>any discussion at cross-purposes, could Jerry clarify whether he means
>"empiricist" or "empirical"?
>Id' certainly agree with him about the former; if the latter, I think I'd
>want to say that empirical investigation helps us to check whether our
>would-be comprehension of capitalism is actually engaging with the reality
>of it.

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