allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

Science Aims for the Improbable

Posted by allzermalmer on July 27, 2013

Karl Popper helped to present the principle that separates scientific statements from non-scientific statements. This separation was based on principle of falsifiability.

One of the things that follows from the principle of falsifiability is that those scientific statements that are highly improbable have more scientific content. Those statements that are improbable say more about world.

The content of an empirical statement is based on simple logical observation.

Suppose that we have the statement (1) “Ravens won Superbowl 35 and Ravens won Superbowl 47”.

This statement is a conjunction, and joins two individual statements. These individual statements, respectively, are (i) “Ravens won Superbowl 35” and (ii) “Ravens won Superbowl 47”.

The content of statement (1) is greater than each part. For example, (i) says more than (ii), and vice versa. The Ravens winning Superbowl 35 doesn’t say anything about winning Superbowl 47, or vice versa.

Here is another example, but a more general example.

(2) All ravens in North America are black.

This statement is a conjunction, in some sense. Because we can say it has three parts. (i) All ravens in US are black, (ii) All ravens in Canada are black, and (iii) All ravens in Mexico are black.

So the content of (1) is greater than “The Ravens won Superbowl 47”, and the content of (2) is greater than “All ravens in US are black”.

Law of Content:

Content of (i) ≤ Content of (1) ≥ Content (ii)

Content of “the Ravens won Superbowl 35” ≤ Content of “the Ravens won Superbowl 35 & the Ravens won Superbowl 47” ≥ Content of “the Ravens won Superbowl 47”.

Content of (1) is greater than or equal to the Content of (i) and the Content of (ii).

Law of probability:

P(i) ≥ P(1) ≤ P(ii)

Probability of “the Ravens won Superbowl 35” ≥ Probability of “The Ravens won Superbowl 35 and the Ravens won Superbowl 47” ≤ Probability of “the Ravens won Superbowl 47”.

Probability of (1) is less than or equal to the Probability of (i) and the Probability of (ii).

So we immediately notice something. When we combine statements, the content increases and the probability decreases. So an increase in probability means a decrease in content, and increase in content means decrease in probability.

Let us work with the second example, i.e. (2) All ravens in North America are black.

This statement would only be true if all the individual parts of it are true. This means that (2) can only be true if all ravens in Canada are black, and all ravens in US are black, and all ravens in Mexico are black. Supposing that all ravens in Canada aren’t black because there exists a raven in Canada that is white, shows that (2) is false. It shows that (2) as a conjunction is false, and shows that (ii) is false. But this doesn’t show that (i) and (iii) are false. All ravens in US or Mexico are black, hasn’t been falsified yet.

(2) would be false because for a conjunction to be true both of it’s parts or conjuncts must also be true. If one of them is false, then the whole conjunction is false.

We immediately find that those empirical statements that have more content are going to have lower probability. And those empirical statements that have lower probability are also easier to falsify. It is easier to find out if they are false, and help us to make progresses.

For example, we find that hypothesis (2) has a lower probability than each of its parts. But finding out that this hypothesis is false by observation will eliminate either one of its conjunctions, like eliminate (ii) and not eliminating (i) and (iii).

These hypothesis not being eliminated means it opens progresses of science. It shows what is false, which informs us of a modification need to make. In making this modification we learn that (i) and (iii) haven’t been falsified. So our new hypothesis would have to contain both (i) and (iii), and also the falsification of (ii).

This new empirical statement would also have more content, it contains (i), ~(ii), and (iii), as part of its content. It contains both what hasn’t been shown false yet, and also shows what has been false.

 

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