The science is settled? Who says so?

I recently picked up reader of samples of important ancient texts that I’ve had for a LONG time and read excerpts from Socrates Apology. Short version:

Oracle of Delphi
“Socrates is the wisest man”
Nice hypothesis, Apollo, you may be a god, but let’s test it….
Seeks out “The Wise” of his day, Politicians, Poets, Artisans … questions them … has them all expose themselves as blithering idiots.
OK, “The Wise” are all blithering idiots. They are not wise. The hypothesis holds … for now.
The Wise
(still mad), Yo, Socrates, here’s some hemlock (poison). Drink up…

There is nothing new under the sun. In the mid 20th century, in response to questions about “what is a science” Karl Popper proposed “falsification” as a way do delineate scientific theories from non-scientific theories. The basic idea is that one counter-example disproves a theory.

Socrates defense (5th century BC) is a clear example of the method Popper had in mind. There is nothing new under the sun. And if we follow Popper and Socrates, “the science” (or the pronouncement of the god) is never “settled”. Conclusions are always tentative and are always just one counter example away from being rejected.

For more on Popper and the “what is a science” question see: