May 14, 2002


A legacy of swans left to science : He is thought of as rightwing but is Karl Popper just misunderstood? (Roger James, April 27, 2002, The Guardian)
Until about 30 years ago scientists mostly believed that their task was to find as many examples as they could to confirm their theories. Now they realise that they have to look for examples that are apparently inconsistent with them. Karl Popper is to blame, and particularly his slogan "No number of sightings of white swans can prove the theory that all swans are white. The sighting of just one black one may disprove it." Scientists now look for black swans and if they cannot find any, they can feel reasonably confident that their theory is right, although not yet proved. It is, in the present state of knowledge, the best approximation to the truth.

Of course, the students weren't necessarily listening. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2002 7:56 AM
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