The importance of falsifiability

I think I’ve totally lost track of the point of this sidetrack, but lots of obviously unlikely things have turned out to be true. The speed of light being the ultimate speed limit, for instance. Relativity. Quantum mechanics.

BTW, the hypothesis that LGMs are not now visiting has the advantage of being very easily falsifiable.

Oh really? How would you prove that LGM are not presently visiting earth, then? Keep in mind that they could have any sort of ridiculous, undefined technology hiding them them and disguising their appearance and ships (if they needed ships).

I would have thought that LGM were a classic example of a non-offensive unfalsifiable statement.

I think you have it backwards.

If the hypothesis is that LGMs are NOT visiting the earth right now, you can falsify it by finding a LGM.

On the other hand, it’s potentially a lot more difficult to falsify the hypothesis that LGMs ARE visiting the earth right now.

Okay, I can see that. I must have gotten confused; sorry. Backing out now…

There are important questions which are not falsifiable.

“You’re in denial” is a classic one. Whether you are in denial or not is a empirical statement, however, it’s impossible to falsify. If you’re in denial, then you won’t believe you’re in denial, if you’re not in denial, then you won’t believe you’re in denial.

I would dispute that. There are statements that can’t be falsified, but they are not important questions.

For example if someone were to say “You are in denial about being sexually abused” the statement can be falsified by demonstrating that the person was never sexually abused. If the event they are supposedly denying never happened then obviousy they can’t be in denial about it.

We might not be able to falsify whether someone is in denial about being homosexual (although even there we could falsify it in at least some cases) but then again the question isn’t really important.

Falsifiablity is an amazingly robust tool and can be applied to almost any position that have as a basis in reality. It can’t be applied to positions that have only a subjective basis (such as denying sexuality) but such positions aren’t important IMO.

Falsafiabilty is an important and robust tool when talking about the external world but can quickly fall apart when engaging in meta-reasoning, that is reasoning about the reasoning process itself.

I disagree that these are not important questions, too often, when dealing with people, these become the most important questions.

Fred: Falsifiability is very important.
Tom: How would you falsify that?
Fred: …
Tom: …
Fred: You’re a jerk.

You haven’t been to the proper conventions. Or book signings.

Is it safe to say that statements of the structure “______ exists” are always unfalsifiable?

No., or at least no more than any other statement is unfalsifiable. For example it is easy to falsify the statement “A giant human 30, 000 km tall exists”. Such a person would be noticed with even a cursory look at Google Earth. He isn’t the ergo he has been falsified. Similarly “An elephant that can only live in my kitchen exists” can be falsified very easily, and so forth.

We could only claim those things to be unfalsifiable by altering the definition of those things. A human is a species enedemic to Earth. An elephant is a large creature made of regular matter. They can only be unfaslifiabe if we alter those definitions and propose a giant human on another planet, or an invisible elephant.

But if we want to do that then no statement is falsifiable. “A giant human 30, 000 km tall does not exist” is equally unflasifiable because even if we find a giant human of that size I can twist the defintion and say that it isn’t a giant human, rather it is a bumblebee in disguise.

The thing is that any statement can be phrased as its negative. “x exists” is exactly the same as “x does not fail to exist” or “x is not extinct”. If statements of the format “x exists” is unfalsifiable then all statements are unfalsifiable because all statements can be phrased in the format “x exists”.

Cute, but you don’t falsify heuristics or methods. You can’t falsify Ockham’s Razor either - nothing says it has to be 100% correct all the time.