Also found in: Dictionary.


the methodological position (particularly associated with Karl Popper, 1934) based on the notion that while an inductive universal generalization can never be finally verified, given the ever-present possibility of new and potentially refuting evidence, a single nonsupporting occurrence can refute a hypothesis (e.g. a single black swan refutes the general hypothesis that ‘all swans are white’). According to this view (and in contrast with LOGICAL POSITIVISM, see also EMPIRICISM), science can be defined in terms of the ‘falsifiability’ rather than the ‘verifiability’ of its theories and hypotheses, and the essential provisionality of scientific knowledge acknowledged. For Popper, the ‘falsifiability’ of a discipline's propositions is the decisive criterion ofdemarcation between science and non-science.

A virtue of this ‘realist’, rather than empiricist, position, is that it recognizes the importance of hypotheses and theories within science, and of changes in scientific knowledge, thus also captures something of the ‘critical spirit’ of science. Hence, this position is sometimes also referred to as critical rationalism.

Although it has attracted some support among social scientists, critics of falsificationism challenge its cogency on a number of counts:

  1. that ‘the facts’ which are put forward as the basis of the ‘independent’ test of theories and hypotheses are themselves ‘theory-laden’ – experiments, for example, are both constituted by and interpreted using theories;
  2. in practice, in science, and contrary to the position that can be termed naive falsificationism, it turns out that a single refutation is rarely decisive, the rejection and replacement of theories being a matter of a more overall judgement of the cogency and effectiveness of theories;
  3. the attempt (see Lakatos and Musgrave, 1970) to replace naive falsificationism with a sophisticated falsificationism, in which an overall judgement is made between progressive and degenerating scientific research programmes, fails to overcome the problems of falsificationism, for if no single observation is decisive, falsification loses its distinctive position; it no longer provides a clear cut rule of thumb in the day-to day procedures of science, or any clear overall demarcation between science and non-science.

For many commentators (e.g. see FEYERABEND, 1975), the procedures suggested for science by falsificationists simply fail to fit the past and present activities of science, and if used strictly would be likely to cripple it. See also COVERING-LAW MODEL AND DEDUCTIVE NOMOLOGICAL EXPLANATION, HYPOTHETICO-DEDUCTIVE EXPLANATION AND METHOD, SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENCE, SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM.

References in periodicals archive ?
His denial of absolute knowledge and belief in falsificationism lead him to conclude that man is antecedent individual.
Also I think it is my duty to remind you of a fact that Popper does not base his falsificationism upon an uncriticizable adoption of basic statements in his Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery).
Falsificationism in technology (Popper, 1934, 1972): Knowledge and theories evolve and the measure of their evolutionary fitness is the number of attempted falsification tests they have successfully passed.
These epistemological aspects, reclaimed and defended strenuously by Popper, are present in the Marxian thought and they were claimed much before the Popperian hypotheticism; so it's very weird that Popper used to consider Marxism as a metaphysic and non-scientific theory just because not subjected to falsificationism (64)
contemporary philosophers view falsificationism as inadequate to account
In the view of some, these developments in philosophy led naturally not so much to Popper's (1959, 1962, 1972) falsificationism, his "conjectures and refutations" emphasizing only selection against, but rather to "conjectures" and changes in relative frequencies by means of any, or all of, competition, conflict, and cooperation--that is to evolutionary theories of scientific change, such as those of Toulmin (1972) and Hull (1988).
For instance, that connection is present in Popperian falsificationism, which is one of the most influential explanations for scientific discovery: According to falsificationism an acceptable conclusion in science is a conclusion that an experiment has failed to prove that it is false, and consequently the hypothesis can be accepted as true for the time being because it can no longer be reasonably doubted (Karl Popper, 1991, 106-111).
Dogmatic falsificationism says that all theories are conjectural and science cannot prove; it can disprove.
Popper is, of course, best known for the idea that falsificationism can be used as a litmus test for science--a solution to the demarcation problem of distinguishing scientific from nonscientific insights.
The methodology of science carries this innocent chat as two aspects of falsificationism, namely, naive and sophisticated.
KEYWORDS / Ecological Research / Evolutionary Biology / Falsificationism / Philosophy of Science.