Proof of Nothing

Scientifically Proven

This is such a ridiculous statement; I assume it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek and does not require an extensive debunking. In case the meme’s author is serious, I would certainly love to know how researchers quantified the experience of falling in love, and furthermore how they determined when a human subject had reached that threshold.

Rather than spending any more time talking about the absurdity of measuring love, I’d like to focus on two words near the top of the meme: scientifically proven.

These words are meaningless, but you hear them used repeatedly by people trying to promote an idea or agenda. If anybody persists in telling you that something is scientifically proven, you should know that this person has a less-than-perfect understanding of science, and you might adjust your acceptance of their claims accordingly. But why should we be skeptical of people who speak of proof in science? Can scientists ever be certain of their findings?

To an extent: yes. However, in the philosophy of science (in other words, thinking about the way we know things), certainty must always be accompanied by falsifiability. An idea can be falsified if we can imagine a realistic observation that would disprove the idea. For example, the statement “All female birds lay eggs” is falsifiable since we can easily imagine the kind of discovery that would disprove the statement. Note that falsifiability does not mean that an idea is wrong; only that it could be wrong, and we know what would disprove it. If a statement is not falsifiable – usually because it is not testable – then it is not considered to be scientific.

As an idea is repeatedly tested without being disproved, scientists invest more certainty into the idea; however, no amount of testing is sufficient to completely prove a scientific statement. Proof indicates 100% certainty, and 100% certainty would require a god-like omniscience that no human possesses. So we see that the concept of “scientifically proven” is an oxymoron: if a concept is proven, it isn’t falsifiable, and if it isn’t falsifiable, it isn’t scientific. QED.

If you’re interested in learning more about how scientists work, I strongly recommend spending some time with Understanding Science 101, a website produced by the University of California at Berkeley. You won’t regret it.


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