National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


Document Type



Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Vol. I, pp122-129.


Copyright 2016 by the author.


In "Science: Conjectures and Refutations," Karl Popper establishes a criterion for the scientific character or status of a theory: its falsifiability. And in one move, he turns a host of common scientific postulates—like the Ideal Gas Law, the Law of Conservation of Mass, Newton's First Law, and the Theory of Evolution—into "metaphysical research programs" whose nature renders them impossible to disprove though observable experiment ("Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind"). According to Popper, the nature of such postulates transcend the physical world; making them just as unfalsifiable as a spiritual power, or a god. In this way, they concern belief rather than reality, and thus he does not deem them scientific because their credibility is predicated on an inherent faith in the theory’s accuracy. However, despite Popper's assertion, scientists continue to use these respective laws and theories. And thus, assuming that Popper's claim is valid, what he would call "metaphysical research" permeates science today. If Popper’s division is assumed to be true, what does this mean for science? Does it matter if scientists need to have faith in theories? If a scientist practices science in the same manner that a cleric practices theology, then what separates these two? If a scientific community practices a level of belief, or even faith, does it lose its secular credibility for explaining reality? In making his criterion for scientific theory, Popper transforms much of modern science into a faith-based system. However, while modern scientific communities may use unfalsifiable beliefs to explain reality, the difference between clerics and scientists lies in the formation and function of their respective unfalsifiable theories. Remarkably, acknowledging scientific belief actually delineates the practice of unfalsifiable science from the practice of theistic religion, illuminating a path to faith-based secular discovery.