On Being an Absolute Skeptic

“Remorseless though the logic is, it is at this point that reasonable people dig their toes in. Can it be seriously maintained that present-day science is no more than a string of lucky (and unlucky) guesses, guesses that are no better than are those of ufology, dianetics, and similar unseemly bunkum? It is important to understand why this is not what is being maintained by critical rationalists. Scientific hypotheses are guesses, yes; these guesses are no better backed by observation and experiment, and have no more claim on our credulity, than have the (unrefuted) fancies of pseudoscientists, again yes. But science is more than the sum of its hypotheses, its observations, and its experiments. From the point of view of rationality, science is above all its method—essentially the critical method of searching for errors. It is the staunch devotion of science to this method that makes the difference. What is wrong with pseudoscience is the manner in which it handles its hypotheses, not normally the hypotheses themselves (though if they are designed to be unassailable and unfalsifiable, then unassailed and unfalsified they doubtless remain). But although a hypothesis that survives all criticism thrown at it is preferable to a hypothesis that dies, it does not become a better hypothesis through being tested. It may have been a better hypothesis from the outset, of course; it may be true. True hypotheses are what we seek.”

-David Miller


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