Falsifiable Scientific Theories Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 September 2016

Falsifiable Scientific Theories

This paper is about the comparison and contrast of two equally strong theories about the view of the universe and its entities’ strategic formation. The geocentrism and heliocentrism theories are to be examined in terms of their falsifiability, as both had been cause of conflict of scientific thought in the earlier times.

In Karl Popper’s account, any theory in the science can only be proven as scientific if and only if it is falsifiable. The conflict of thought between the two major structures of planetary movements, geocentrism and heliocentrism, we take into account the points wherein each is deemed falsifiable.

The geocentric theory, as developed by Ptolemy, was the worldview which says that the Earth I the center of the universe, where other planets and objects go around it. This theory was then supported by the seemingly cyclical revolution of the stars and the sun around the Earth, and concentrating on the perception of Earth to be unmoving and stationary. To further show that the Earth was still, some people tested the reaction of birds whenever they let go of a tree branch – the birds did not get thrown off into the sky.

In the 5th century BC, Plato was able to develop a mythical explanation of the cosmic movement of the Sun and the stars: that the cosmos is the Spindle of Necessity where Sirens turned the three fates. This mythological explanation is a ground for the falsification of the theory since it suggested trivially unscientific explanations. Euxodus who worked with Plato derived a mathematical explanation of the planetary movements, basing on Plato’s principle that all planetary phenomena in the universe could be explained by uniform circular motion.

Aristotle also deduced that all cosmic entities rotate around the Earth, and there were 56 concentric spheres that are attached to thee heavenly bodies. The moon is supposedly the innermost sphere which gets dark upon contamination with the Earth. This dark spot is late on deduced as the lunar eclipse.

This notion of geocentrism which was then the leading theory of the structure of the universe proved it to be indeed fully scientific since it was able to create a model that made correct predictions of future observations. The parallax was described in the geocentric theory to result as either the Earth is stationary and so no effect exists, or the stars are so far away the effect was undetectable.

The Ptolemaic system was scientific in the sense that it produced testable results and was modified over time in response to observations. It was also supported by the prevailing philosophies of the time. The support for this position was varied: from the basic fact that we don’t feel the earth rotate to the idea that if it did, the winds would be enormous because the air would stay fixed (it actually doesn’t, but they thought it would). With the addition of epicycles, it was possible to predict eclipses and the position of the planets to a fair accuracy.

However, this theory was put into criticism and question in 1543 when Copernicus challenged it with his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, which explains that the planets, including the earth, revolve around the Sun. The Sun is deemed to be the center of the universe. The heliocentric theory made better predictions of more kinds of observations, but most of these were not available until Galileo.

Nevertheless, there was also strong scientific evidence against heliocentrism. Before the invention of the telescope, there was but one potential experiment that could demarcate between geocentrism and heliocentrism: that of the parallax of the stars. Parallax is the apparent displacement or difference of location or orientation of an object which is seen along two different lines of sight. It is measured by the angle inclination between those two.

The experiment showed results which favored the geocentric model. Lack of parallax was a fully scientific falsification of heliocentrism. The heliocentric theory could not explain the parallax of the stars until Galileo was able to observe completely the moons of Jupiter and the complete phase of Venus.

Obviously, these two scientific theories are deemed falsifiable in terms of Popper’s criteria. Each has its own way of falsifying the other in terms of scientific basis. The Quine-Duhem principle has been employed in thee observations: we can not test a scientific hypothesis in pure isolation because a relatively plausible explanation would require one or more background assumptions in testing its empirical truthfulness.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 28 September 2016

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