A Comment on Popper’s falsificationism

 

Popper’s falsificationism, despite its limitation, provided an essential piece in modern scientific study. In this short essay, the writer will try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of it and its potential in economics. To call it a success, however, is a bold statement. It did influence the theories of many economists. Austrian School, for example, used falsificationism to justify their judgment against macroeconomics.

 

The first benefit of adopting falsification in science is that it distinguished scientific theories from other theories such a religious doctrine. The concept of every scientific theory should be falsifiable to ensure that science will keep developing without restrained by the credulity of existing theories.
The falsificationism also provided a methodology of testing and rejecting existing theories. The reason for this is because falsificationism asks theories to be testable and tested as severely as possible. The axioms in the theories which are not needed to be tested also should be minimised. Popper also restricted the purpose of using observations as they should be theory-dependent.

 

Talking about the weaknesses of falsificationism, several critiques have risen against it. According to Duhem–Quine thesis, falsifiability, as well as verifiability, are inconclusive as definitive falsification of a theory is impossible. A theory cannot be falsified by a fact. Faulty measurement, instrument and experimental set-up can also cause a false falsification. The methodology also falls into the trap of inductive enumeration as the minimal falsifications which are required to falsify a theory is unknown.
Furthermore, Feyerabend, Johansson, Lakatos and Maxwell all collectively argued about the real effect Popper’s rules would have on scientific studies. Their conclusion is that some of Popper’s rules will hinder than promote scientific studies as they are too severe and demand too much to achieve.

 

According to Caldwell, Popper’s falsificationism had made a massive impact on economics studies. Mostly because of its ability to distinguish science and pseudo-science. Economics as a social science suffers from the hardness of verification. Thus its theories are typically easy to fall into the category of pseudo-science. The danger of a theory being useless outside its abstract statements will harm the reputation of economics as a whole. It is vital to put economics theories under constant testing and observations in order to maintain its creditability in explaining the reality of society. However, Caldwell warns about the negative effect of falsificationism on economics as it allowed mainstream economists to avoid scrutiny once their theories were defined as falsified or not scientific. The writer does not agree with this argument as it further complicated the identification process. Although the testing of falsification faced many problems, falsificationism does provide a practical way to identify and regulate economics studies. This is not to say that falsificationism should remain forever, but until a better methodology is invented, Popper’s falsificationism will likely remain its current status.

 

From the perspective of the writer, it is too hard to identify if Pooper achieved his initial goal. However, falsificationism is an excellent attempt to unify an important aspect of science. Popper himself claimed that his methodology should be challengeable just like all other scientific theories should. This attitude is what all scientists should have. As for the methodology itself to economics, the influence of Pooper’s ideas remains to be seen in many areas of modern economic studies.