Inductive reasoning is the base of scientific reasoning. We reach a certain number of verified claims upon which a hypothesis is established. But underneath this method lies what is known as a problem of induction. Now, I would like to open a discussion by presenting Karl Popper’s view and a potential solution to it and ask what do you think of it, as it is still an evergreen topic in science. Would you accept or deny it, while still acknowledging the problem of induction exists? Or would you see a proposition for some middle ground?
This problem clarifies that no matter how many verified claims we amount, they still represent an approximation and can never bridge the gap to the unquestionable truth. If I have seen 1000 black crows, and in the next month a 1000 more, my claim that “All crows are black.” is not getting any more support. This quantity cannot substitute for “quality”, which in this case would stand for superseding the possibility there are white crows to refute our claim.
And Popper is aiming at precisely this. Because there can never be enough support for conclusively positing our hypotheses, we have to rely on deductive reasoning, therefore trying to find reasons against our hypotheses. His idea relies on the insight that we can only defy claims with certainty, but not corroborate them. So, for Popper, a real scientist, as he would say, would not try to claim any truthfulness, but only probability. Also, she is aware that when starting a research, we always have some prior beliefs, and so science can never be based on pure observation.
Ergo, through something called modus tollens in logic, Popper basically proposes his falsification method:
If (“I walk 5km today”) then (“I will fulfill my daily quota”)
I didn’t fulfill my daily quota.
Therefore, I didn’t walk 5km today.
But although quite intuitive and persuasive when it comes to the ad hoc visible strength of falsification compared with verification, is there really nothing to object to this method? The objections started even with Popper’s contemporaries. To name a few most prominent:
We simply have to recognize that science does not work this way most of the time. Even though this may prove conclusive and shed more light on the wrongness of some hypothesis or auxiliary hypothesis, scientists try to gather more and more varied (this is important to keep in mind as a scientist) evidence for their assumptions.
It is very hard to reach a consensus about which theories we take as basic ones. This is important because then we are not able to determine which ones are prior beliefs we posit as indubitable for the time being.
To be completely certain in falsification, we have to add more contextual assumptions, and they are based on induction. Picture this example:
If I expose polaroid photos to the sun for long, they will fade.
Therefore, I didn’t expose them to the sun for long.
Logically, this syllogism is flawless. But empirically, can I really conclude because the photos didn’t fade, I didn’t expose them to the sun? And what does “for long” really mean? Maybe I exposed them for 2 hours, but at least 4 was considered “long”.
See what we did there? I am eager to hear your support or criticism of Popper. Do you sometimes use this method in your own research?