XAT 2013 Question 22


Analyse the following passage and provide appropriate answers for the follow.

Popper claimed, scientific beliefs are universal in character, and have to be so if they are to serve us in explanation and prediction. For the universality of a scientific belief implies that, no matter how many instances we have found positive, there will always be an indefinite number of unexamined instances which may or may not also be positive. We have no good reason for supposing that any of these unexamined instances will be positive, or will be negative, so we must refrain from drawing any conclusions. On the other hand, a single negative instance is sufficient to prove that the belief is false, for such an instance is logically incompatible with the universal truth of the belief. Provided, therefore, that the instance is accepted as negative we must conclude that the scientific belief is false. In short, we can sometimes deduce that a universal scientific belief is false but we can never induce that a universal scientific belief is true.

It is sometimes argued that this 'asymmetry' between verification and falsification is not nearly as pronounced as Popper declared it to be. Thus, there is no inconsistency in holding that a universal scientific belief is false despite any number of positive instances; and there is no inconsistency either in holding that a universal scientific belief is true despite the evidence of a negative instance. For the belief that an instance is negative is itself a scientific belief and may be falsified by experimental evidence which we accept and which is inconsistent with it. When, for example, we draw a right-angled triangle on the surface of a sphere using parts of three great circles for its sides, and discover that for this triangle Pythagoras' Theorem does not hold, we may decide that this apparently negative instance is not really negative because it is not a genuine instance at all. Triangles drawn on the surfaces of spheres are not the sort of triangles which fall within the scope of Pythagoras' Theorem. Falsification, that is to say, is no more capable of yielding conclusive rejections of scientific belief than verification is of yielding conclusive acceptances of scientific beliefs. The asymmetry between falsification and verification, therefore, has less logical significance than Popper supposed.

We should, though, resist this reasoning. Falsifications may not be conclusive, for the acceptances on which rejections are based are always provisional acceptances. But, nevertheless, it remains the case that, in falsification, if we accept falsifying claims then, to remain consistent, we must reject falsified claims. On the other hand, although verifications are also not conclusive, our acceptance or rejection of verifying instances has no implications concerning the acceptance or rejection of verified claims. Falsifying claims sometimes give us a good reason for rejecting a scientific belief, namely when the claims are accepted. But verifying claims, even when accepted, give us no good and appropriate reason for accepting any scientific belief, because any such reason would have to be inductive to be appropriate and there are no good inductive reasons.

Question 22

According to Popper, the statement "Scientific beliefs are universal in character" implies that


"In short, we can sometimes deduce that a universal scientific belief is false but we can never induce that a universal scientific belief is true."

Since option D reflects the same idea as the last line of the first paragraph, the correct answer is D.

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