TA23 (Miller)

Commentary 12

by Lewis Wolpert
14 February 2000, posted 29 February 2000

Philosophers of science this century have contributed nothing that helps us understand the scientific process and why it is so successful. Most scientists have no use at all for the philosophy of science. The oft quoted counter-example is Karl Popper's famous book The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Popper claimed to have solved the problem of induction by arguing that science proceeds by a sequence of bold conjectures rather than being based on observations, and that then these conjectures are replaced when they are falsified. Falsification is all and verification irrelevant. This view completely ignores the nature of discovery in science and fails to explain how one knows that a falsification is correct. As has been pointed out, the graveyard of failed scientists is filled with those who gave up their ideas at the first indication that they were wrong. Falsification also does not help us distinguish science from non-science; eating hamburgers will make you a better poet is falsifiable but not science. He goes so far as to say 'Our science is not knowledge; it can never claim to have attained truth, or even a substitute for it , such as probability........We do not know; we can only guess'. What nonsense, for example, DNA is the genetic material and codes for proteins. A grotesquely overrated book.

It would help me if Miller could tell me if he believes the heart pumps blood around the body or whether force causes acceleration. The problem of Hume lies with him, not us. Clearly science tells us truly that the heart is a pump and DNA the genetic material. It is up to Miller to sort out philosophical confusions and to resolve the Hume issue. Is Miller really a relativist at heart ! And why should one give any falsification any credence a la Hume ? Popper did not solve the Hume problem.


Lewis Wolpert
Anatomy and Developmental Biology, UCL
Gower St., London WC1E 6BT
Phone 0171-391-1320
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e-mail <l.wolpert@ucl.ac.uk>