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Re: orion-list Kuhn and Popper

Just a brief comment on Popper.  For those interested in the
epistemological implications of his falsification approach, I highly
recommend David Deutsch's book _The Fabric of Reality_ (Penguin, 1997),
which attempts to tie quantum physics, information theory, the theory of
evolution, and Popper's epistemology into a "theory of everything."

Briefly, Deutsch's take on or refinement of Popper (or at least my take on
Deutsch on Popper) is to say that for a theory to be of any use it must (1)
be subject to falsification, tested thoroughly, and not yet disproved, and
(2) fit into or provide an explanatory framework for whatever problem is
being tackled, the more comprehensive the better.

Case in point:  Hume's classical argument that induction gives us no
grounds to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow.  Deutsch would answer
that we have a massive explanatory framework that, between general
relativity and quantum mechanics, makes sense of basically all the physical
data and indicates that the way things work is that the sun rises every day
(because the earth orbits the sun and revolves every 24 hours, etc., etc.).
Granted there are holes in the framework, chiefly that general relativity
and quantum mechanics are mutually exclusive explanations of the same
physical data.

SO, IF Hume would like to provide a new falsifiable explanatory framework
that explains better all the physical data, say, by including a theory of
quantum gravity, and IF this framework stands up to thorough and repeated
attempts at falsification, and IF it indicates that the sun won't rise
tomorrow after all, THEN his theory would deserve to become the new
consensus (and I could go to the pub now instead of trying to finish the
monograph that I'm supposed to send out the week after next).

Thus I think, and I think this is what Russell Gmyrken was getting at as
well, that the real challenge in Qumran studies at present is providing an
explanatory framework that is both falsifiable and adequate to the data.  I
am not ready to discard the Essene theory, but I do find it frustratingly
difficult to falsify and generally too vaguely formulated to be very
useful.  But I'll have more to say about that when the St. Andrews Qumran
list opens in Feburary!

Jim Davila
University of St. Andrews

For private reply, e-mail to "James R. Davila" <jrd4@st-andrews.ac.uk>
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