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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Problem of Induction

For Sunday reflection today, a passage from physicist David Deutsch touching on science and philosophy, from his "The Fabric of Reality":
(I've added emphasis)
"In fundamental areas of science, observations of ever smaller, more subtle effects are driving us to ever more momentous conclusions about the nature of reality. Yet these conclusions cannot be deduced by pure logic from the observations. So what makes them compelling? This is the 'problem of induction'. According to inductivism, scientific theories are discovered by extrapolating the results of observations, and justified when corroborating observations are obtained. In fact, inductive reasoning is invalid, and it is impossible to extrapolate observations unless one already has an explanatory framework for them.  But the refutation of inductivism, and also the real solution of the problem of induction, depends on recognizing that science is a process not of deriving predictions from observations, but for finding explanations. We seek explanations when we encounter a problem with existing ones. We then embark on a problem-solving process. New explanatory theories begin as unjustified conjectures, which are criticized and compared according to the criteria inherent in the problem. Those that fail to survive this criticism are abandoned. The survivors become the new prevailing theories, some of which are themselves problematic and so lead us to seek even better explanations. The whole process resembles biological evolution."

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