Episode #185

News Items

Who's That Noisy

  • Answer from last week: Edward Teller

Interview with Massimo Piggliucci

  • Massimo Pigliucci is a professor of evolutionary biology and ecology at Stony Brook University

Question # 1 Scientific Predictions

  • Hi, guys. I’ve been concerned about a clever argument about how science makes valid testable predictions, whereas non-science merely post-dicts from time to time. Consider the assertion that recent scientific discoveries are conveniently post-dicting old theories which are preferred by the scientific establishment. For example: ‘To be accepted, String Theory must ‘predict’ ordinary quantum mechanics and the Standard Model; however, Michio Kaku stated in your show that string theory has ‘infinite solutions.’ Kaku can’t lose: he can post-dict whichever solution he needs.’ Or: ‘So-called ‘transitional fossils,’ once discovered, are conveniently’ placed wherever in the tree of life they are needed to support the ‘theory’ of evolution.’ Of course, in practice, some discoveries are made chronologically after all the evidence they ‘predict’ has been collected. To accuse these scientists of foul play may sound quite reasonable (although it is an argument from final consequences). But the distinction can be quite subtle. I do not think this topic warrants a dedicated discussion; but the next time the panel discusses a discovery which predicts already-observed evidence, perhaps it is worth identifying this distinction. Jason Smith Bangkok, Thailand

Science or Fiction

Skeptical Quote of the Week.