Can we prove scientific hypotheses?

Today was the first day of the French Baccalauréat, the comprehensive exam at the end of high school French students must get to enter higher education. Customarily, the first day of the exam starts with the philosophy composition and one of the questions this year was “Can we prove scientific hypotheses?“. This is both a nice question and a hard topic for teenagers! For instance, I do not think they have been exposed to Karl Popper as part of their program. Maybe not even Immanuel Kant. And certainly not Poincaré’s La science et l’hypothèse. (I do remember reading Feyerabend’s Against Method on my own, but this may have been the year after baccalauréat… And I definitely tried Kant as beach reading in Corsica only two years later!) So the most likely answer from students exposed to experimental methods (and not at all to statistics) will be a cautious yes. Even the poor correction provided by Philomag concludes this way (despite quoting Popper and Kant). A funny thing is that this question was part of the literary section, not of the scientific section! In the science section, the question was not unrelated “Can we be right against the facts?” but was certainly harder to argue. (My son took instead a cautionary approach by discussing a text from Pascal. I would have rather picked the above or “Does culture de-nature man?“)

One Response to “Can we prove scientific hypotheses?”

  1. […] the mathematics exam of the baccalauréat my son took on Tuesday, the probability problem was a straightforward application of Bayes’ […]

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