X-Message-Number: 8232
Date:  Wed, 21 May 97 10:53:19 
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Falsifiability

The recent discussion on simulation, etc. has raised the issue of 
whether non-falsifiable hypotheses should be taken seriously, with 
the suggestion that since they are untestable they should not. But I 
think this is not true of all non-falsifiables. For instance, 
the day-person hypothesis (that we become a new person every time
we wake up from unconsciousness) is not falsifiable, yet it makes a 
difference whether we accept it or not. A bank robber, for instance, 
could take a snooze afterward and, if caught, say "*I* didn't do it. It 
was some guy whose memories I've inherited, true, but I'm a different 
person!" (One wonders if some such thought was running 
through the mind of O.J. Simpson when he pleaded "100% not guilty.") 
Anyway, I agree with those who accept the falsifiability criterion as 
a heuristic (often a very good one) for deciding what to take 
seriously, but not as some absolute standard. Thus, in the above 
example, the (non-falsifiable) hypothesis that we *don't* become a 
different person after a period of unconsciousness is better than its 
negation, that we do. More generally, probably some 
non-falsifiables will always be with us, and not to our discredit.

Mike Perry

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