The Falsification Debate

  • Created by: mariam26
  • Created on: 26-04-21 13:46

Karl Popper (Falsification)

  • The Falsification Principle, proposed by Karl Popper, is a way of demarcating science from non-science
  • It suggests that for a theory to be considered scientific it must be able to be tested and conceivably proven false
  • Once Popper introduced the notion of falsification it illustrated how statements could be proven falsifiable
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Antony Flew

  • Commenced the debate by saying if a statement or belief cannot be falsified it is meaningless
  • To support his argument and to illustrate the different perspectives that people have Flew created the Parable of the Garden
  • Parable of the Garden; two people come across a well-tended Garden. One believes there is an invisible gardener and the other believes there isn't. Despite there being no evidence for an invisible gardener, the believer continues to believe.
  • Flew believed that there are religious believers who behave like the believer in the Parable of the Garden, refusing to accept any counter-evidence about God
  • Flew did not completely label religious statements as meaningless, but believed for an assertion to be genuine it should be falsifiable
  • Flew challenged others to defend religious language against the claim that it is meaningless
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R.M. Hare

  • R.M. Hare responded to Flew, arguing that he mistook religious language and that religious statements are not scientific-style explanations
  • Hare believed that religious language is non-cognitive and introduced his notion of ‘bliks'
  • A blik is a belief that is life-changing and a way of understanding the world but it cannot be verified or falsified
  • Parable of the Lunatic; a university student is paranoid that all of the Dons are out to kill him, even though they aren't. He has had a life-changing experience and has an insane blik.
  • The student has a belief in spite of the evidence against it - a blik
  • Hare argues that the concept of blik shows what we are doing when we make a religious statement
  • Religious people believe they have good reason for their belief - the blik is meaningful even when it cannot be falsified because it affects the way someone feels

Hare's notion of bliks contain an inconsistency, as Hare provides no basis for distinguishing between right or wrong and sane or insane bliks - John Hick

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Basil Mitchell

  • Believed that Flew was missing the point of religion
  • Mitchell wanted to maintain that religious statements are meaningful and cognitive though not straightforwardly falsifiable/verifiable
  • Parable of the Partisan; a stranger convinces a Partisan in WW2 to believe that the stranger is head of the Resistance that the Partisan is under. Even when he sees the stranger talking to the enemy, dressed in enemy uniform, he maintains this belief.
  • Mitchell is trying to illustrate that religious believers are not blind to the problems of faith (they recognise that evidence counts against their belief in God, but religion is based on faith and commitment)
  • If one does not accept the evidence against the existence of God, then they are guilty of blind faith and delusion

It can be said that Mitchell’s parable, is not entirely comparable to religious believers and God because the partisan’s justification for believing the stranger is due to trust being built through face to face interaction; this can’t apply to religious believers and God.

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John Hick

  • Religious language is meaningful as it can be verified in the future
  • Religious believers hold their beliefs on trust assuming that they will be vindicated in the future - eschatological verification
  • John Hick added to Mitchell’s Parable of the Partisan; After the war, the truth will come out - either the stranger will be hailed as a hero or seen as a traitor
  • Hick thought that believers with specific after beliefs will be able to verify if true, but not falsify them if they are false
  • When you die that is when you can verify your beliefs, however, they cannot be falsified

Truth about the stranger coming out and eschatological verification fail to correspond. With the stranger, it is guaranteed that the truth will eventually come out and that it will be known amongst humans, whereas after death this is not guaranteed in the same way.

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