How Science Fails

For the émigré philosopher Imre Lakatos, science degenerates unless it is theoretically and experimentally progressive.

If you were to ask a practicing scientist a question about the philosophy of science, there’s a good chance you’ll get an answer that features one or both of the names of just two philosophers: Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. Popper’s name will likely arise in the context of his famous principle of falsifiability, the ‘demarcation criterion’ that many scientists still use to distinguish science from non-science. A theory is only considered to be scientific if it makes predictions that can – in principle – be proved wrong. So, astrology is not a science because its predictions are typically so vague they can’t be falsified: they are irrefutable. This is the basis for Popper’s take on the scientific method. Scientists make a series of creative conjectures which they then attempt to refute. They make progress by refining their hypotheses in the light of these refutations, and the process begins again.

Imre Lakatos and the philosophy of bad science | Aeon Essays