Posted by: Nicholas Davis | March 11, 2009

Popper on science and non-science

I’ve been reading Ben Goldacre‘s highly interesting book Bad Science recently, and have thus been drawn back to the science/non-science debate. Here’s Karl Popper, the guy who championed falsifiability as the boundry between science and quackery on myths:

Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths; neither with the collection of observations, nor with the invention of experiments, but with the critical discussion of myths, and of magical techniques and practices. The scientific tradition is distinguished from the pre-scientific tradition in having two layers. Like the latter, it passes on its theories; but it also passes on a critical attitude towards them. The theories are passed on, not as dogmas, but rather with the challenge to discuss them and improve upon them. Popper,  Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Harper & Row, 1963)

While I haven’t yet delved deep into Popper’s writings first hand (the above quote is from Popper’s wikipedia page!), I think that ensuring that there exists “a challenge to discuss … and improve upon” ideas and theories is an excellent guiding principle for all discussions.

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