Article 18968 of
From: (James J. Lippard)
Subject: Re: AUGH!  Popper AGAIN! (was Re: evolution)
Date: 13 Jan 1994 18:48 MST
Organization: University of Arizona
Lines: 90
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References: <> 
News-Software: VAX/VMS VNEWS 1.41    

We don't have here.  Rich, could you forward this reply?

In article , (Rich Trott) writes...
> (Laurie Appleton) writes:
> >   What do you think of the famous Karl Popper's thoughts as
> > below?
> >   "I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a
> > testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research
> > programme - a possible gramework for testable theories. It
> > suggests the existence of a mechanism of adaptation and it
> > allows us to even study in detail the mechanism at work. And it
> > is the only theory so far which does that."
> > (UNENDED QUEST (1976)
> >   Do you see any substantive difference between a metaphysical
> > matter and a philosophical matter?  Perhaps evolution as such
> > should NOT be allowed in a Science echo then?

1.  Metaphysical matters are (a subset of) philosophical matters.
2.  The above quotation says "Darwinism," not evolution.  Earlier
    in the same source (p. 151; the above quote is from p. 168),
    he writes that "I intend to argue that the theory of natural
    selection is not a testable scientific theory, but a
    metaphysical research programme."  What Popper is raising here
    is the famous "natural selection is a tautology" objection.
3.  Popper subsequently wrote:
       The fact that the theory of natural selection is difficult
       to test has led some people, anti-Darwinists and even some
       great Darwinists, to claim that it is a tautology. ... I
       mention this because I too belong among the culprits.  Influenced
       by what these authorities say, I have in the past described
       the theory as "almost tautological," and I have tried to
       explain how the theory of natural selection could be
       untestable (as is a tautology) and yet of great scientific
       interest.  My solution was that the doctrine of natural
       selection is a most successful metaphysical research
       programme. ...
          I have changed my mind about the testability and logical
       status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to
       have an opportunity to make a recantation. ...
          The theory of natural selection may be so formulated that
       it is far from tautological.  In this case it is not only
       testable, but it turns out to be not strictly universally
       true.  There seem to be exceptions, as with so many biological
       theories; and considering the random character of the variations
       on which natural selection operates, the occurrence of
       exceptions is not surprising. (Popper, "Natural Selection and
       the Emergence of Mind," _Dialectica_ 32(1978):339-355; quotations
       are from pp. 344-346)

    And Popper also wrote:
       It does appear that some people think that I denied scientific
       character to the historical sciences, such as paleontology, or
       the history of the evolution of life on Earth.  This is a mistake,
       and I here wish to affirm that these and other historical sciences
       have in my opinion scientific character; their hypotheses can in
       many cases be tested.  (Popper, Letter to _New Scientist_,

    Both of these quotes, and many others, have been published in a source
    read by many creationists (_Creation/Evolution_, issue XVIII, Summer
    1986, in Frank J. Sonleitner's "What Did Karl Popper Really Say
    About Evolution," pp. 9-14).  But the creationists continue to cite
    the 1976 quotation as an appeal to authority in support of their
    bogus claims.  A particularly egregious recent example may be found
    on p. 35 of Duane Gish's 1993 book, _Creation Scientists Answer Their
    Critics_, where Gish completely ignores the Sonleitner article, but
    quotes the same 1976 Popper statement and then says:
       Popper published a letter in _New Scientist_, the British 
       quasi-science journal, in which he modified his position a bit.  On
       the basis of that letter, many evolutionists insist that Popper has
       retracted the statement quoted above.  That is simply not true.  
       [The previous sentence is correct--the previous statement from Gish is
       untrue.  The retraction claim is made on the basis of the _Dialectica_
       article, not the _New Scientist_ letter--but Gish completely ignores
       that article. -jjl]  In the above statement, Popper was referring to
       Darwinian evolutionary theory, but in his later letter his remarks
       referred only to the theory of natural selection.  [Again, Gish is
       incorrect, as the additional quotation I gave from Popper's 1976
       book shows. -jjl]

Informed and honest creationists should not appeal to the Popper quote.

Jim Lippard              Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Dept. of Philosophy      Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721

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