Falsifiability, the Mark of True Science

Karl Popper, respected scientific philosopher.

In his work Science: Conjectures and Refutations, renowned scientific philosopher Karl Popper lays down a standard for distinguishing science from pseudo-science. This standard he calls testability or falsifiability. In Popper’s own words, “Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it” (1963). In essence Popper writes that if it can’t be proven wrong or if there is no way to test if it is right, then it is not a scientific endeavor. Within science, the more falsifiable a theory, the stronger it is. “Some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation, than others; they take, as it were, greater risks” (Popper 1963).

When we think of scientific inquiry and experimentation we usually think of the traditional life or physical sciences. This standard of what is true science equally applies to the field of sociology however. Sociologists use the scientific method. A hypothesis or conjecture is made based upon preliminary observation. A study or experiment is conducted to test the hypothesis. The only difference with sociology is that these hypotheses result in theories about social behaviors and cultural mores.

References

Popper, Karl. 1963. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge New York: Harper Torchbooks.

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