I have read and often heard it said that there is a requirement for proof to either falsify or corroborate a theory. This seems a sensible approach to any matter worth debating. My question is where should one draw the line? If we ‘Russell’s Tea Pot’ for a moment it can still be said that there is no way that anybody can completely disprove the famed teapots existence yet I feel that I may be justified in drawing a line. I am not agnostic relative to the teapot (I cannot prove its nonexistence) and I claim that it does not exist. Surely this is a defendable duality in my personality?

This same approach is one I endorse when thinking about deism or debating theists. When discussing Noah’s Ark or other such biblical nonsense I do not want to resort to Ad Hominem attacks but it is at times irresistible. From a deists perspective I guess he is not agnostic relative to God since he claims this existence is fact. Now, as nobody can completely disprove this deity’s existence can the deist be equally justified in drawing a line? After all, he just draws it at the other end of the spectrum.

I would be interested in hearing views on the burden of proof and when we might be justified in drawing a line; wherever that may be on the spectrum.

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I'm aware of all of that, thanks. But what Gould is actually doing here is popularising the very basic idea of how science progresses from facts to theories.


However, in the philosophy of science (where methodological discussions always take place) it has been recognised that this is still far too simplistic and idealistic. The criticisms on the methodology of science by Feyerabend and Kuhn (like the concept of Incommensurability), among others, has led to a more pragmatic and less idealistic view of these issues.


The topic of theory selection is still hotly debated amonst philosophers and scientists and the exact criteria are up for debate (and like everything in science, open to change) so all I'm saying is that these issues are a little more complex than "a theory should subsume ALL facts" and "a single exception means a theory is trash". The modern perspectives on this are quite a bit more complex than you give them credit for.

First, let me apologize for such a long laps since replying to your interesting response to this thread.

I do however have to make a retort to something that you write, eloquently but in my view erroneously. If it is your contention that a single exception would nullify any specific Law you might like to consider Newtonian Law\s. In our everyday life they are 'proven' correct without exception but if we consider inertia that is outside of our every day frame of reference, say close to the speed of light would you not concede that they need to be modified? If you would admit that this in fact a true analogy would it not be in conflict with your statement?

Just provoking a response to your interesting commentary.


I'm going to guess that that's a response to Brian, not to me.

The fact that the most basic Newtonian life we take for granted in our life, turn out to yield the wrong results when applied in more extreme circumstances, is indeed an example of why we can't be as rigorous as he wants to be.

The burden of proof is on religion.  All I am saying is that there is not enough evidence for me to believe in god.  Of course I cannot be 100% certain that god does not exist but the farther science advances and the more we learn about our universe, the less likely it seems.  Ironically, the goal of science is to understand the world around us, not to disprove god.  Funny though how a rational search for understanding takes us farther from god...
I certainly agree with you Tom. In fact I would go so far as to say there is no - none at all proof for the existence of any supernatural element, god or otherwise. Unless something of the sort becomes available and I do not mean Allah's name appearing inside of a cut vegetable or Madonna emblazoned on a piece of toast then to all intents and purposes - there is no God.
Thanks Mauri.
Indeed it was Matt...


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