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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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2.5 The Role of Confirmation

From now on I am going to switch perspectives. So far I have described science from the point of view of philosophy, which is an outside perspective. Researchers, who apply the scientific method every day, tend to look at it differently. Many scientists think that the hypothetico-deductive method, and falsificationism in particular, gets a negative taint by stating that science progresses by disproving theories. With a little bit of travesty, falsificationists would remain unmoved if their observations were to support their hypotheses. Instead of cheering at the confirmation of their ideas they would begin to think about new ways to kill them. This is counter-intuitive to most working scientists. People are seldom awarded Nobel prizes for having disproved a theory but rather for discovering and explaining new phenomena. In all fairness, confirmation does play a role in the hypothetico-deductive approach [3]. If a bold hypothesis is confirmed it corresponds to the discovery of something unlikely. Similarly, if a cautious hypothesis is falsified it means that something that seems self-evident is, in fact, incorrect. Both of these scenarios represent significant advances in science. Conversely, little is learnt from the falsification of a bold theory (something unlikely is false) or confirmation of a cautious theory (something likely is true). For the hypothetico-deductivist, confirmation is important so long as it is of novel predictions resulting from ...

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