"Capacity of a theory to generate a test which, if failed, refutes the theory" (R. FIVAZ, 1991, p. 32).
This epistemological concept – also known as "refutability" – has been introduced by K. POPPER.
D. BOHM and F.D. PEAT explain: "Repeated experiments, made on the basis of a theory's predictions, will certainly increase its credibility among the scientific community, but they can never prove its correctness in any absolute sense, All theories are in some way limited, and while a series of experiments may confirm the theory in some limited domain, they cannot rule out the possibilities of exceptions and novel behavior. The best that science can do, therefore, is to falsify a theory by establishing some significant point of deviation between experiment and prediction" (1987, p.58).
R. FIVAZ observes however: "General theories such as thermodynamics, often do not specify completely how they are to be applied; therefore, they are immune to test by reality and consequently unfalsifiable" (Ibid).
This is also the case of so-called General Systems Theory", insofar as it may really be considered a "theory".
This is an intriguing point. In fact, it would seem that the falsifiability criterion can be applied in a strong sense only to classical and narrowly specific deterministic theories, In M. BUNGE's words: "Evidently, the more general a theory, the wider the domain of facts it refers to, and the less testable it is" (1993, p.221).
True or false is in such a case a too narrow dichotomy and testability in these terms an off the mark criterion.
Could models (as for example catastrophe or chaos ones) be either proved or disproved?
From a strict semantic viewpoint, the very term "falsifiability" seems unfortunate, as, for superficial minds, it seems to introduce the notion of falseness, However, neither the corpuscular, nor the ondulatory theory of light have been recognized as "false ": they merely became integrated within a more general embracing theory.
For a short and very readable synthesis about "thinking about thinking" and an evaluation of POPPER's falsifiability, see M. CROSS (2000)
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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