Social Scientist. v 17, no. 190-91 (March 1989) p. 22.

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Science, Falsification And Ideology

The demise of classical physics spelt the doom of certainty in science. Science was no longer the invincible conqueror, who armed with absolute reason, would explain all phenomena definitively. In the interstices of certainty, now lurked uncertainty, instead of rational and explanatory models, natural phenomena was reduced to abstract mathematical functions. The Enlightenment Project conceived not only to establish the superiority of scientific rationality but also of Western thought, faced a new enemy which had arisen from science itself. Axiomatic pronouncements regarding the model building and logico demonstrative nature of Western thought now faced the quantum world and instrumental rationally. It has been stated that philosophy always operates on science, but wit^h a time lag,[ 1] unlike the general view that philosophy starts where science ends. In this sense, we are yet to come to grips philosophically with the revolution within science — a probabilistic world and quantum categories.

The purpose of this paper is not to address the crisis ojf philosophy faced with indeterminacy and a lack of explanatory models at the quantum level. What this paper proposes to do is ,to examine how valid are the ralativistic positions advanced with respect to the scientific revolutions, of which the overthrow of classical phisics is the most striking one. In the process we shall also examine the relation of ideology and science, particularly in view of changing views of science itself.


Popper belonged to a school which locates in science the antithesis of metaphysical thought. To Popper, the criterion of science Was not derived out of the logic of scientific discovery but out of a need to counterpose science TO all ideologies [2]—religious or otherwise. He has explicitly stated that his motivation to create such a criterion arose from his need to demarcate science from Marxism. In the process, he did contribute significantly to clarifying certain concepts, even if his central project was to add only another name to an increasing list of such refuters.

The Popperian criterion of science therefore proceeds from not what science is, but from what science is not — it is essentially a negative criterion. If a proposition is incapable of being falsified it does not belong

* Secretary, Delhi Science Forum, New Delhi.

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