In the hydrino yahoo group "jebarchak" writes: Hi jd, My contention is that SQM is not even bad science - it is not a science at all. My biggest problem with SQM is that over the last 75 years, the SQM advocates have essentially made SQM immune to falsification. Jaynes has pointed out the one factor where SQM refuses to deal with any question that the SQM advocates deem "meaningless". The other main factor is that SQM is almost totally empirical. The Hamiltonians, curve fitting algorithms, etc. are all empirically derived, and therefore, not falsifiable. There really is no SQM "theory" that can be falsified.
The following was taken from: "Science as Falsification" by Karl R. Popper (originally published in Conjectures and Refutations - 1963):
When I received the list of participants in this course and
realized that I had been asked to speak to philosophical colleagues I thought,
after some hesitation and consolation, that you would probably prefer me to
speak about those problems which interests me most, and about those developments
with which I am most intimately acquainted. I therefore decided to do what I
have never done before: to give you a report on my own work in the philosophy of
science, since the autumn 1919 when I first begin to grapple with the problem,
"When should a theory be ranked as scientific?"
or "Is there a criterion for the scientific
character or status of a theory?"
The problem which troubled me at the time was neither,
"When is a theory true?" nor "When is a theory acceptable?"
my problem was different. I wished to distinguish between science and pseudo-science;
knowing very well that science often errs, and that pseudoscience may happen to
stumble on the truth.
I knew, of course, the most widely accepted answer to my
problem: that science is distinguished from pseudoscience—or from
"metaphysics"—by its empirical method, which is essentially inductive,
proceeding from observation or experiment. But this did not satisfy me. On the
contrary, I often formulated my problem as one of distinguishing between a
genuinely empirical method and a non-empirical or even pseudo-empirical method
— that is to say, a method which, although it appeals to observation and
experiment, nevertheless does not come up to scientific standards. The latter
method may be exemplified by astrology, with its stupendous mass of empirical
evidence based on observation — on horoscopes and on biographies.
But as it was not the example of astrology which lead me to
my problem, I should perhaps briefly describe the atmosphere in which my problem
arose and the examples by which it was stimulated. After the collapse of the
Austrian empire there had been a revolution in Austria: the air was full of
revolutionary slogans and ideas, and new and often wild theories. Among the
theories which interested me Einstein's theory of relativity was no doubt by far
the most important. The three others were Marx's theory of history, Freud's
psycho-analysis, and Alfred Adler's so-called "individual psychology."
There was a lot of popular nonsense talked about these
theories, and especially about relativity (as still happens even today), but I
was fortunate in those who introduced me to the study of this theory. We
all—the small circle of students to which I belong—were thrilled with the
result of Eddington's eclipse observations which in 1919 brought the first
important confirmation of Einstein's theory of gravitation. It was a great
experience for us, and one which had a lasting influence on my intellectual
The three other theories I have mentioned were also widely
discussed among students at the time. I myself happened to come into personal
contact with Alfred Adler, and even to cooperate with him in his social work
among the children and young people in the working-class districts of Vienna
where he had established social guidance clinics.
It was the summer of 1919 that I began to feel more and more
dissatisfied with these three theories—the Marxist theory of history,
psycho-analysis, and individual psychology; and I began to feel dubious about
their claims to scientific status. My problem perhaps first took the simple
form, "What is wrong with Marxism, psycho-analysis, and individual
psychology? Why are they so different from physical theories, from Newton's
theory, and especially from the theory of relativity?"
To make this contrast clear I should explain that few of us
at the time would have said that we believed in the truth of Einstein's
theory of gravitation. This shows that it was not my doubting the truth
of those three other theories which bothered me, but something else. Yet neither
was it that I nearly felt mathematical physics to be more exact than
sociological or psychological type of theory. Thus what worried me was neither
the problem of truth, at that stage at least, nor the problem of exactness or
measurability. It was rather that I felt that these other three theories, though
posing as science, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with
science; that they resembled astrology rather than astronomy.
I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx,
Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories,
and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories
appear to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the
fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the
effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, open your eyes to a new
truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you
saw confirmed instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications
of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared
manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the
manifest truth; who refuse to see it, either because it was against their class
interest, or because of their repressions which were still
"un-analyzed" and crying aloud for treatment.
The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to
me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which
"verified" the theories in question; and this point was constantly
emphasize by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without
finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not
only in the news, but also in its presentation — which revealed the class bias
of the paper — and especially of course what the paper did not say. The
Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by
their "clinical observations." As for Adler, I was much impressed by a
personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not
seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in
terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, Although he had not even seen the
child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of
my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying:
"And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become
What I had in mind was that his previous observations may not
have been much sounder than this new one; that each in its turn had been
interpreted in the light of "previous experience," and at the same
time counted as additional confirmation. What, I asked myself, did it confirm?
No more than that a case could be interpreted in the light of a theory. But this
meant very little, I reflected, since every conceivable case could be
interpreted in the light Adler's theory, or equally of Freud's. I may illustrate
this by two very different examples of human behavior: that of a man who pushes
a child into the water with the intention of drowning it; and that of a man who
sacrifices his life in an attempt to save the child. Each of these two cases can
be explained with equal ease in Freudian and Adlerian terms. According to Freud
the first man suffered from repression (say, of some component of his Oedipus
complex), while the second man had achieved sublimation. According to Adler the
first man suffered from feelings of inferiority (producing perhaps the need to
prove to himself that he dared to commit some crime), and so did the second man
(whose need was to prove to himself that he dared to rescue the child). I could
not think of any human behavior which could not be interpreted in terms of
either theory. It was precisely this fact—that they always fitted, that they
were always confirmed—which in the eyes of their admirers constituted the
strongest argument in favor of these theories. It began to dawn on me that this
apparent strength was in fact their weakness.
With Einstein's theory the situation was strikingly
different. Take one typical instance — Einstein's prediction, just then
confirmed by the finding of Eddington's expedition. Einstein's gravitational
theory had led to the result that light must be attracted by heavy bodies (such
as the sun), precisely as material bodies were attracted. As a consequence it
could be calculated that light from a distant fixed star whose apparent position
was close to the sun would reach the earth from such a direction that the star
would seem to be slightly shifted away from the sun; or, in other words, that
stars close to the sun would look as if they had moved a little away from the
sun, and from one another. This is a thing which cannot normally be observed
since such stars are rendered invisible in daytime by the sun's overwhelming
brightness; but during an eclipse it is possible to take photographs of them. If
the same constellation is photographed at night one can measure the distance on
the two photographs, and check the predicted effect.
Now the impressive thing about this case is the risk
involved in a prediction of this kind. If observation shows that the predicted
effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible
with certain possible results of observation—in fact with results which
everybody before Einstein would have expected. This is
quite different from the situation I have previously described, when it turned
out that the theories in question were compatible with the most divergent human
behavior, so that it was practically impossible to describe any human behavior
that might not be claimed to be a verification of these theories.
These considerations led me in the winter of 1919-20 to conclusions which I
may now reformulate as follows.
- It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every
theory — if we look for confirmations.
- Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky
predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in
question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the
theory — an event which would have refuted the theory.
- Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids
certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is.
- A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is
non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often
think) but a vice.
- Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to
refute it. Testability is falsifiability; but there are degrees of
testability: some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation,
than others; they take, as it were, greater risks.
- Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a
genuine test of the theory; and this means that it can be
presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to falsify the theory. (I
now speak in such cases of "corroborating evidence.")
- Some genuinely testable theories, when found to be false, are still upheld
by their admirers — for example by introducing ad hoc some
auxiliary assumption, or by reinterpreting the theory ad hoc in such
a way that it escapes refutation. Such a procedure is always possible, but
it rescues the theory from refutation only at the price of destroying, or at
least lowering, its scientific status. (I later described such a rescuing
operation as a "conventionalist twist" or a "conventionalist
One can sum up all this by saying that the criterion of the
scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or
refutability, or testability.
All the best
Read the whole paper at: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/popper_falsification.html