Popper and Kuhn: Two Views of Science
In this essay I attempt to answer the following two questions: What is Karl Popper’s view of science? Do I feel that Thomas Kuhn makes important points against it? The two articles that I make reference to are "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" by Karl Popper and "Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?" by Thomas Kuhn.
In the article, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations", Karl Popper attempts to describe the criteria that a theory must meet for it to be considered scientific. He calls this puzzle the problem of demarcation. Popper summarizes his arguments by saying, "the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability." Kuhn says that he and Popper often agree as to what constitutes science and non-science. He claims that he differs with Popper in the methods that he uses to arrive at his conclusions. Kuhn says that if a line of demarcation is to be sought between science and non-science, we shouldn’t look for a "sharp or decisive" one, because science is not objective, as Popper would have us believe, but subjective.
Popper claims that the common answer to the problem of delineating between science and pseudo-science is that science uses an empirical method, deriving from observations and experiments. This explanation does not satisfy Popper. He has a gut feeling that areas of study like astrology are not science, and he attempts to come up with a theory to prove it. One of the problems I have with Popper is that instead of looking at a concrete problem and trying to come up with an explanation, Popper first made up his mind that astrology is not science, and then set out to prove it. By Popper’s own admissions, confirming evidence is everywhere, but means little. This could be applied all of Popper’s examples.
Popper is "dissatisfied" with the Marxist theory of history, psychoanalysis, and individual psychology. He sets out to describe why his gut tells him that these are unscientific theories. He argues against theories that have explanatory power. Popper has a problem with Marxists because no matter what happens in the world, they can explain the event in light of their theory. When a person believes a theory to be true, everything that happens is a verification of the truthfulness of the theory. Popper’s example is how a Marxists can’t read a newspaper without finding evidence to confirm their theory on every page. Supporters of these theories claim that their great explanatory properties are the strength of their theories. Popper thinks that it is their weakness. He contrasts Marxism with Einstein’s Gravitational Theory, noting the main difference is that Einstein’s theory is a risky prediction. He says, "The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation…" Popper says that confirmations or verifications are easy to come up with for any theory; "Confirmations should only count if they are the result of...