Testing the validity of scientific theories and method is essential to development of any field of science. Science is based on a logical approach that gives a systematic view of how things in the universe work. Theories and methodologies need to be scientifically proven through testing and analysis of measurable results. When scientists are researching something, they utilize scientific methods for collecting data in order to test the hypothesis. The results can either support or reject the presumed theory (Gattei, 2008). For science to progress, it is important for scientists to define theories and accept them. If all theories end up being refuted, scientists would not be motivated to develop new ones. At the same time, scientific theories should undergo rigorous testing, and should be rejected if they are not valid. In this paper, I argue that scientists should feel free to scrutinize and criticize a theory by testing it. However, they should critically accept proven theories as not all scientific methods are incorrect.
It is unlikely for every scientist to believe that all theories developed by them are correct. Therefore, it would be recommended to test a theory and verify or nullify it. Kuhn and Popper have conflicting views on the ways of science’s development. Their beliefs were passed down to their students and, for instance, Lakatos was a student and defender of Popper.
Differences between Lakatos, Popper and Kuhn
Popper is one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. Popper believed in deductivism and opposed the inductivist view of scientific method. Deductivism is the process of verifying a scientific theory by utilizing a set of notions that are believed to be true. While inductivism is the belief that scientific knowledge is based on observations from experiments and predictions that can be made from the results. A proper scientific method should be challenged by testing its validity. He argues that scientific theories cannot be proven, but they can be falsified. A falsifiable statement is the one that can be questioned to be false. The process of falsifying a statement is the same as nullification (Fuller, S. 2003).
He believes that scientists cannot prove a theory to be true, but they can prove it to be false. Popper feels that dominant theories should be questioned. Kuhn, however, felt that it is fine not to question dominant theories. Kuhn believed that scientific theories should be formed and defended rather than scrutinized. Kuhn also felt that science cannot progress if scientists keep on challenging what they already have. Unlike Popper, his idea is that scientist should define scientific methods and accept them (Fuller, S. 2003).
Lakatos on the other hand, tries to balance the beliefs of the aforementioned scientists. Lakatos views theory as a succession of theories that are altered slightly and developed over time (Worrall, 2003). He believes that all scientific theories and techniques share a mutual hardcore. He named the common hardcore as the research program. Most of the works of Lakatos is based on Popper's falsification of scientific methodology. Scientists operate in a given research program shielding the core from falsification with help of research hypothesis. Lakatos’s point of view is very different from that of Kuhn. He believes that Kuhn oversimplified Popper’s point of view by rejecting falsification of scientific methods. Lakatos replaces Kuhn's idea of parading by the concept of the research program. Unlike Kuhn, who believes in empirical scientific progress, Lakatos believes scientific development can be done theoretically as well as empirically (Gattei, 2008).
Popper believes in the falsification of theories. Similarly, Lakatos believes that theories should be questioned and falsified. The similarity between Popper and Kuhn views on scientific development and changes are in the reliance on the hypothesis. Both scientists believe that any research that aims at the development of scientific theory should have a hypothesis that needs to be tested (Rowbottom, 2006).
The strongest point of view, in this case, is based on Lakatos concept. Lakatos does not do away with all the concepts of Kuhn even if he was Popper's student. He integrated the two concepts and supported what he felt was true. His take on research program is a more justified idea than Popper’s concept of falsification that did not allow further development after a theory was nullified. Popper did not provide an option of developing a theory if they were found to be invalid. However, Lakatos provides an option of correcting a theory and developing it through time in case it is invalid. The concept of research program goes beyond Kuhn’s irrational model of change that does not provide a concrete explanation on why a theory is not supposed to be challenged. For science to progress, scientists have to accept mistakes upon falsification and conduct more research required to correct the mistakes (Gattei, 2008).
A possible objection of the importance of research program in scientific development is whether it is important to use time and resources for defending a theory that was initially nullified. Another objection is that there are no controlled experiments that a scientist can conduct in order to provide that a certain philosophy is right or wrong. So then, how can the research program be used to bring change and development in science? How can one know the best and valid method of scientific development? Empirically oriented scientists view this as a major problem (Gattei, 2008). Another objection is that, as philosophers support their theories through case studies, interviews, and reason, how then will empirical method help them develop their theories.
Response to the Objections
It is important to do more research on a scientific theory that was once refuted as the scientists become more knowledgeable on what led to nullification. Researchers are also able to identify better methods of modifying a theory. The best method of scientific development can be identified through the evidence-based analysis. Any new method of scientific development should be tested to verify its reliability. The answer to the objection regarding the lack of controlled empirical experiment to prove a theory is that; one should not suppose philosophers to use empirical approaches to proving their theories (Diller, 2008). Not using empirical methods does not make their theories less valuable. Unlike physical sciences, social sciences do not require rigorous experiments that need to be tested in a laboratory (Diller, 2008). As a result, it is okay to have both empirical and theoretical methods of developments in science. Science is divided into a different field, and not all fields of science require experimental tests.
All scientists should not have similar stances as scientific development can be achieved by the use of two or more methods of development. Criticizing a procedure concept or theory is important in scientific development. A scientist is likely to do more research on a subject when it is criticized that when it is accepted without criticism. Popper believed in deductivism and while Kuhn believed in inductivism. The two different approaches are important for scientific progress if they are used together. It is important to accept theories and scientific methods that have been proven to be right. However, any theory or scientific method that have not been tested can provide wrong guidelines and therefore, they should be nullified. It is important to do more research on any nullified theory to make corrections and developments.