Positivism in evolutionary science

James Francis Lyons-Weiler weiler at ERS.UNR.EDU
Thu Dec 4 06:55:02 CST 1997

On Wed, 3 Dec 1997, Tom DiBenedetto wrote:

> Parsimony is a crucial factor in scientific tests. The corroboration
> of a hypothesis represents the parsimonious explanation for the
> concordance between a prediction and an experimental result. It is
> also a ubiquitous standard to make recourse to as few ad hoc
> supplementary hypotheses as necessary to explain discrepencies
> between predictions and results.

        You're making the same mistake others have made in
        the relationship between parsimony and corroboration.
        In practice, the degree of corroboration afforded
        to a hypothesis h increases when it has survived
        a critical test T as the hypothesis (1) becomes more outlandlish.
        For such hypotheses, the same type of test T represents
        greater risk, so, when h survives the test, we are
        surprised. The degree of corroboration affored to h
        is linked to the degree of surprise. If the hypothesis
        is obvious, then the test affords lower corrboration.
        What Popper saw as the only link between the degree of
        simplicity of a hypothesis and corroboration is often
        confused, too.  He did not say that simpler hypotheses were,
        automatically, better corroborated.  He said that they
        were, in general, easier to test (i.e., better corroborable),
        and that therefore we should examine the simple hypotheses

        I don't think your version of the relationship between
        parsimony and corrboration is compatible with Popper's.

        James Lyons-Weiler

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