Has science removed all of the mystery of life?

Not exactly. The radical materialist idea that organisms are "computations" of their genes and environmental conditions has had critics, most notably Richard Lewontin (1929-) in his Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (1991) and The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment (2000). Lewonton's main contribution has been to point out that seemingly random factors in the development of organisms, which cannot be predicted before the fact, are the third element in biological replication.

Who was Ernest Nagel?

Born in Czechoslovakia, Ernest Nagel (1901-1985) lived in the United States after 1910 and was a member of the Columbia University philosophy department for over 40 years. His The Structure of Science (1961) is probably the last important logical positivist account of scientific investigation. Nagel extended the principles of the "covering law model," whereby explanation is based on a generalization that has been inductively built up, for the social sciences. He argued that although historical events are unique and non-recurring, historical explanation implies that such events would happen again, given the same conditions and proven generalizations.

What was Karl Popper's contribution to philosophy of science?

In his The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935; English translation, 1959), Popper (1902-1994) attacked the logical positivist assumption that scientific hypotheses could be derived from experience and confirmed by it inductively. Popper claimed that hypotheses can never be completely confirmed because we can't know what the future will hold with certainty, or even with high probability. It requires an unspecifiably high number of positive instances to confirm a hypothesis and only one negative case to falsify or discredit it. Popper's theory of falsification was very well received by working scientists.

What was Karl Popper's theory of falsification?

Popper (1902-1994) did not think it mattered how hypotheses were inspired or arrived at, so induction was not necessary for their formation. In fact, he thought that the more bold and imaginative a hypothesis, the more scientific it was because it would be possible to specify what would falsify it. He argued that science progresses through a process of falsification, or, if hypotheses withstand crucial tests, then "corroboration," but never confirmation. Hypotheses or theories that cannot be falsified, such as religious, Marxist, or Freudian claims, according to Popper, could never qualify as scientific claims.

How did falsification work according to Karl Popper?

Popper (1902-1994) postulated a hypothetico-deductive method. From the hypothesis—together with descriptions of initial conditions—certain future events, or known past events could be logically deduced. If the hypothetico-deductive method were applied to the past, it worked as a form of explanation. If it was applied to the future, it was the form of prediction. Prediction and explanation thus had the same logical structure.

Karl Popper claimed that hypotheses can never be completely confirmed because we can

Karl Popper claimed that hypotheses can never be completely confirmed because we can't know what the future will hold with certainty (AP).

What is the story about Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein's poker?

Witnesses disagree, but the most neutral account is that there was a meeting of the Moral Sciences Club in Room H3 at Kings College, Cambridge, on October 25, 1946. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) presided, and Karl Popper (1902-1994) came to give a critical paper on Ludwig Wittgenstein's (1889-1951) language game theory of truth and how to do philosophy. For one thing, Popper thought that there were moral rules.

At some point, Wittgenstein picked up a poker from the fireplace. He either did this to make a point or out of anger; stories differ. When Wittgenstein asked Popper what the example of a moral rule was, Popper is said to have replied, "Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers." Bertrand Russell, who was by then alienated from Wittgenstein, may or may not have interceded and told them to calm down.

A very entertaining book has been written about this episode and the lives and times of Popper and Wittgenstein by British Broadcasting Corporation journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow: Wittgenstein's Poker (2001).

Popper's notion of falsification required that one falsifying instance either lead to the rejection of the original hypothesis, or more likely, to a reexamination of initial conditions. For example, if the hypothesis is that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a body of water does not freeze at that temperature, the rule or hypothesis that water freezes at that temperature is unlikely to be discarded. Rather, the thermometer may need to be checked, as well as the chemical composition of the liquid presumed to be water.

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