The value of falsifiable predictions

We understand the world around us either by making assertions or by making falsifiable predictions. The biggest difference? An world-view based on assertions grows weaker in the face of contradictory information, while one that is based on falsifiable predictions gets stronger each time it is falsified.

Every religion has underlying assertions – Jesus’s virgin birth, the story of the Buddha’s life, Mohammed receiving the Koran and Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna. These assertions are handed down as stories, and prescribe certain principles such as The Ten Commandments or the Eightfold Path. The power of any religion is derived from how unchanged its stories and assertions remain through the ages.

Science is constructed around falsifiable predictions. Every scientific theorem is an interpretation of the world that can be put to the test. John Dalton first theorized that everything around us is made up of indivisible atoms. But Dalton was disproved when positive and negative charges were discovered. This gave way to J.J. Thomson’s pudding pie model, which incorporated protons and electrons, but could not explain some experiments by his student Ernst Rutherford.¬†Rutherford then proposed his own model, which was then replaced by Neils Bohr’s model with electrons revolving around a nucleus with protons and neutrons. All of this refinement within a window of about 100 years was possible because each of these scientists made predictions that could be falsified and replaced with a better model of how the world works.

While religious texts try and remain unchanged, scientific literature changes with every passing decade. To get closer to the truth, one must, ironically, be vulnerable to falsification.

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