Posts tagged ‘Carnap’

May 27th, 2013

Q&A 24: Induction, Deduction, and Falsifiability

by Max Andrews


Hello Max,

I did have a few questions in regards to the nature of scientific explanation and furthering (or ‘advancing’, if you prefer) scientific knowledge. Hume had recognized that the problem of induction can not be justified by an inductive rule (that would be circular) or a deductive rule (or else the principle wouldn’t be inductive – we cannot deduce the truth of induction from the axioms of logic). This of course being Hume’s fork.

However, does Karl Popper’s interpretation of scientific methods being deductive (or falsifiable) solve this problem more so than science on the inductive interpretation? In short, Im just curious if we are reasonable in rejecting Hume’s skepticism, but sound in still adhering to science hinging off of induction.


Hi Steven!

I did a lot of work on this question in my MA thesis. My full answer is a bit long but I hope it’s easy to follow. For the Reader’s Digest version, I’d say that I’m not a fan of deductive arguments and I prefer inductive arguments. (Actually, I love abductive arguments much more but that’s another issue!) I’m very sympathetic to Popper’s criterion of falsifiability but it’s not a necessary condition for science–it’s just preferable. I’ll try to contextualize and elaborate on some of the hidden talking points in your question so some of the readers can follow along.

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September 9th, 2012

The Inductive-Statistical Model of Scientific Explanation Preferred over the Deductive-Nomological Model

by Max Andrews

The Deductive-Nomological model, strictly speaking, certainly seems ideal but is untenable.  This is ideal for empiricists arguing from fixed premises but this view hardly seems amenable to novel discoveries and even predictions.  D-N does have a robust explanatory scope and power of causal laws such as the law of conservation. This model doesn’t have any explanatory power for other laws (i.e. the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which prohibits atomic electrons from collapsing in on the nucleus and being propelled away from the nucleus).  The D-N model, if it were to implement the Pauli Exclusion Principle, would have a self-defeating condition in the explanandum or explanans (depending on how the principle is being used). So, the model itself seems inert to the effect that it could never be verified or falsified by its own merit and criteria.  It stands in a privileged explanatory position.

Additionally, the D-N seems incompatible with many models of our universe.  This model assumes that the universe is deterministic.  Its view of causality is more than the Humean notion of effects rooted in habits of association, and rightly so, but it assumes that causality is applicable in every instance of a law.  There are several problems with this in the quantum world.  Quantum calculations are solely based on probabilities.  The vast majority of quantum interpretations are indeterministic (i.e. the traditional Copenhagen, GRW, Popper, transactional, etc.).  Additionally, there are other interpretations that suggest that the quantum world is deterministic (i.e. de Broglie-Bohm and Many Worlds).[1] What this goes to say is that the world may not be completely deterministic but it’s certainly not chaotic either.[2]  This is where I get caught between the efficacy of the I-S model and the D-N-P model.  The D-N-P model makes sense of deterministic and probabilistic explanandums.

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