chris peck <>

> Both evolutionary theory and the natural selection have a history that
> predates Darwin.

The idea that non human animals might somehow evolve goes back as far as
Aristotle, but as for Natural selection the only one who has a legitimate
claim of beating Darwin to the punch is Patrick Matthew who in 1831 wrote a
short paper about it. But clearly Matthew did not relies the importance of
the matter and saw Natural Selection only from the point of view of the
Royal Navy and how they should choose trees to cut down to build their
ships. Much later Matthew criticized Darwin’s 1859 book, and in a 1871
letter to Darwin he said he believed there is evidence of design and
benevolence in nature and that Natural Selection could not explain beauty.

> You'll like this quote from Newton's Optiks :
>  "Hypotheses have no place in experimental philosophy”

Well, if Newton was able to discover the things he did using methods that
Popper did not like then Popper’s methods must be crap. However I think
what Newton meant was that if a experiment contradicts your hypotheses the
experimental result is still valid.

> and from his Principia:
>  "hypotheses non fingo" - which is latin for 'I don't make hypotheses’.

I know the exact context this quotation comes from. Newton was saying if
gravity decreases with distance as a inverse square law then he could prove
that such a law can only mean that the planets move in elliptical orbits.
As for why gravity worked by a inverse square law Newton did not know and
refused to pretend that he did, and that is why he said "I don't make

> He [Newton] worked inductively.

Newton used calculus, a branch of mathematics he invented, to find the
equation that produces the curve of a hanging chain. Please show me how to
do that inductively.

> He used observations to arrive at theories.

If Popper says science can only work one way, and Newton says science can
work in other ways then I say to hell with Popper, I’m going with Newton.
With the possible exception of Darwin no human being has found out more
about how the world works than Newton. Popper discovered diddly-squat.

> In actual fact, the idea that a scientist should work from the top down,

There are lots of ways science can work. You can have a theory, make a
prediction, and see if the prediction comes to pass.

You can look at a bunch of observations, make a theory that explains them,
and, because you must always get more out of a theory than you put in or
it’s pointless, use that theory to make a new prediction.

Or you can make a observation that is so puzzling that you can think of no
theory to explain it that is worth a damn. The observation is still valid
and you don’t need to pretend to be able to explain it when you do not. It
is not unscientific to say in a loud clear voice “I do not know”.

> ie. should have a theory, make a hypothesis about some phenomena, derive
> an observational prediction upon which the hypothesis stands or falls and
> then test for it

Real science NEVER works as simply or cleanly as philosophers say it does,
but then philosophers have never done any real science.

> Interestingly, Darwin was aware of the top down approach from theory to
> observation and used it but hid that fact from peers. He advises a young
> scientist the following:
>  “let theory guide your observations, but till your reputation is well
> established, be sparing of publishing theory. It makes persons doubt your
> observations”

Sounds like good advice. You may have the outline of a radical theory in
your mind but even you suspect it might be utter nonsense, so just keep a
eye open for new evidence that could have a bearing on the matter.

>  but in public he said he proceeded :
>    "on true Baconian principles and without any theory collected facts on
> a wholesale scale”
> So, even in the 1860s bad science was considered to be science that moved
> from theory to prediction and testing.

That is utterly ridiculous! In 1845, 57 years before Popper was born,
Urbain LeVerrier used Newton's theory and irregularity in the orbit of
Uranus to predict that there must be a undiscovered planet in the solar
system. LeVerrier told astronomers exactly where to point their telescopes
and they found the planet Neptune almost immediately.  At the time this was
considered to be a huge victory for Newton's theory and rightfully so.

And If Popper says do science one way and Darwin says do it another way
then I’m going with Darwin. Why the hell didn’t Popper use this brand new
magical method you claim he invented to actually find out something about
how the world works? Popper lived to be 92 and never discovered a damn

>> One doesn't need to read Popper to know that pseudoscience exists
> > And that shows just how famous and influential Popper's demarcation
> principle has become. Rightly or wrongly it has been appropriated as a good
> principle so universally that smelly, lazy and ignorant academics insist
> that its just common sense. That only 'an idiot' would fail to see it. 200
> years ago though, and certainly in 1600s, that just wasn't the case.

And even though Popper insists (or rather you insist, I don’t think Popper
was actually that dumb) that they were doing it all wrong, Newton and
Faraday and Maxwell and Darwin nevertheless managed to make wonderful
scientific discoveries, while Popper never made a single scientific
discovery in his life. Popper telling them how to do science is like me
telling Beethoven how to write symphonies.

   John K Clark

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