Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'Karl R. Popper'.
Why falsification matters "No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude."--Sir Karl Popper The great British philosopher of science, Karl R. Popper, to whom my first book, Scientific Knowledge (1981) was in fact dedicated, championed the importance of falsification (or of attempts to show hypotheses and theories are false) as the key to understanding scientific knowledge. It was his position that the content of an hypothesis or theory is directly related to the extent to which they are amenable to being tested on the basis of observation, measurement and experiment--and that only evidence that results from unsuccessful attempts to falsify an hypothesis should count in its favor. Popper's profound insight has application to research on JFK, where some students are unable to appreciate why the search for evidence that refutes the official account is more important than evidence that confirms it. Popper drew (what he called) a criterion of demarcation between propositions that are scientific and those that are not. Claims such as "God created the universe and every living thing", for example, or that "There is an all-pervasive Force that controls the outcome of events" are classic examples, since there are no observations, measurements or experiments that could possibly disprove them. They are consistent with the world's history, no matter what its course. Likewise, the claim advanced by those who support Intelligent Design Theory on the ground that there are "irreducibly complex" organisms that appear to be inexplicable on the principles of evolution does not qualify as scientific unless it is accompanied by an explanation of how God created them, which in turn could be subjected to test. That does not make these claims meaningless, as the logical positivists maintained, but it does make them unscientific. Popper's position becomes especially important relative to hypotheses and theories about the laws of nature, because, unlike laws of society, they cannot be violated, cannot be changed and require no enforcement. An interesting example might be the claim that all pennies are copper. If we assume that the definition of "penny" is a coin having 1/100 the value of a dollar, which does not imply the metal of which it is made, then we can find millions of confirming instances, which would--at least, upon initial consideration--strongly support the hypothesis. But by subjecting it to a more thorough and painstaking study, that claim is falsified by the discovery that, in 1943, because of the shortage of copper for WWII, pennies instead were made of lead. The claim turns out to be false in spite of having an enormous number of confirming instances. The situation is similar with JFK. The Assassination as a Theory The use of the phrase, "conspiracy theory", has been widely adopted as a form of denigration for any who question the "official account" of the death of JFK, the atrocities of 9/11 or a host of other events in which there are reasons to believe that the government itself may have been complicit. The term, "theory", has stronger and weaker senses, perhaps most commonly as an interpretation of events that is based upon the available evidence. Detectives investigating crime scenes, which are well portrayed in programs such as "Law and Order", form a theory of the case, entailing the consideration of those who may have committed it. Each suspect might be regarded as an alternative hypothesis that would explain the crime, were it to turn out to be true. When they discover a suspect has an alibi that makes it impossible for him to have committed it, that falsifies the hypothesis and attention turns to others. It might be the case, of course, that an alibi is fictitious, just as photographs can be faked. In cases in which an alibi turns out to have been fabricated, instead of reducing interest in a suspect, that has the effect of increasing it. Why, after all, would anyone fake an alibi unless they had been complicit in the crime? On the other hand, those who might want to implicate someone in a crime they did not actually commit might undertake the fabrication of evidence incriminating them, which happened in the case of the assassination of JFK. We know that the Mannlicher-Carcano was planted, that his palm print on the weapon was faked, and that the backyard photographs were created by imposing his face on someone else's body, as Jim Marrs and I explained in our study, "Framing the Patsy". In this case, something like the opposite appears to have taken place, where features of Billy Lovelady's face were imposed on Oswald's body, a fascinating variation on the forms of fakery we have already encountered in this case. The government would have us believe that this photo is authentic and unaltered. One argument has been is that it was published in some (rather obscure) newspapers already on 22 November 1963, which would drastically curtail the time that would have been available to alter it. But claims about "impossible timelines" have arisen before in relation to the Zapruder film, where we have many witness reports, official testimony, and Secret Service evidence that the film was massively revised to conceal a limo stop during which JFK was hit twice in the head. Most importantly, frame 374 shows a blow-out to the back of the head that was painted over in earlier frames. The authenticity hypothesis has been falsified. The original was taken to the National Photographic Information Center on Saturday, 23 November 1963, as an 8mm, already split film that was developed in Dallas, while its replacement, a 16mm unsplit film developed in Rochester, was brought there on Sunday, 24 November 1963. Since we knew independently that the film had been altered, we knew that their had to have been time to do it, since nothing actual can be impossible. Similar considerations obtain in the case of the Altgens6. Frame 374 falsifies the authenticity of the Zapruder film, because it is inconsistent with earlier frames in which it has been blacked out. By showing a blow-out at the back of the head, which was caused by a shot fired from the right/front, it also falsifies the hypothesis that Oswald was "the lone assassin". The most famous photo of the assassination, which was taken by AP photographer James "Ike" Altgens and is technically known as the "Altgens6", likewise seems to have been altered in the area of the doorway, where the identity of a man who appears to be extending his head to observe what is going on has long been in dispute. The hypothesis that this photo is authentic has been falsified by the realization that the face of one figure (to Doorman's left/front) has been obfuscated, that the figure beside him wearing a narrow black tie is both in front of him and behind him at the same time, and that, as a consequence, Doorman is missing his left shoulder. Each of these features establish that the photo has been altered, since no authentic photo would include an obfuscated face or present impossible anatomical features like these. (continued)