“Falsifiability” (and “testability”) are hopelessly incoherent terms.1
• …see some of the ambiguities in the intro above.
• …it depends on the hopelessly incoherent term, “observable.”2
A competing theory of meaning is true.1
• …correspondence theory of meaning
• …coherence theory of meaning
• …constructivist theory of meaning
• …consensus theory of meaning
• …pragmatic theory of meaning
Richard Swinburne: “In order to understand the words of a sentence, we need to be able to recognize instances where they would be correctly applied or where words definitionally related to them would be correctly applied. And, in order to understand the significance of the pattern in which the words are combined (for example, a subject-predicate sentence), we need to be able to recognize circumstances where examples of such a sentence-pattern would be true or false. But none of this shows that, in order to understand a particular sentence (and so the proposition expressed by it), we have to be able to recognize circumstances in which it would be true or false, or even to be able to recognize observations that would be evidence for or against it.” [The Coherence of Theism (Oxford, 1977).]
The falsifiability criterion for meaning is self-refuting. (After all, the proposition that only empirically falsifiable statements are meaningful is not itself empirically falsifiable.) This is relevant because self-referentially incoherent propositions are not true.
All good statements are impossible (or nearly impossible) to falsify empirically.
• …ostensible falsifications are always blamable on background assumptions, even for good theories.1
W. O. Quine: “Any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system [My insert: elsewhere in your web-of-belief].” [“Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” The Philosophical Review, 60 (1951), pp. 20–43]More elaborately:
• Alex Rosenberg: “…any hypothesis which is tested under the assumption that the auxiliary assumptions are true, can be in principle preserved from falsification, by giving up the auxiliary assumptions and attributing the falsity to these auxiliary assumptions. And sometimes, hypotheses are in practice preserved from falsification. Here is a classic example in which the falsification of a test is rightly attributed to the falsity of auxiliary hypotheses and not the theory under test. In the nineteenth century, predictions of the location in the night sky of Jupiter and Saturn derived from Newtonian mechanics were falsified as telescopic observation improved. But instead of blaming the falsification on Newton’s laws of motion, astronomers challenged the auxiliary assumption that there were no other forces, beyond those due to the known planets, acting on Saturn and Jupiter. By calculating how much additional gravitational force was necessary and from what direction, to render Newton’s laws consistent with the data apparently falsifying them, astronomers were led to the discovery, successively, of Neptune and Uranus. As a matter of logic, scientific law can neither be completely established by available evidence, nor conclusively falsified by a finite body of evidence.” [118.]
Ostensibly meaningful statements exist which are not falsifiable (including scientific statements).1
• …“x happened in the past” (i.e. most historical statements and meaningful memories).
• …“change occurs”.2
• …“x could have happened instead.”
• …“I feel xyz” (e.g. statements appealing to a patient's emotions or state of mind).
• …“causation occurs”.3
• …“whatever begins has a cause”.
• …“God exists”.
• …“quarks exist” (which can’t be separated/examined individually).
• …“electrons exist” (which we already know exist).
• …“X is morally wrong” (moral facts).
• …“2+2=4” (mathematical facts).
• …“aliens visited/abducted me.”
• …“clever toys dance when not being watched.”4
• …“other universes exist.”
• …“space-time reality is eternal in the future.”
• …“space-time reality is finite in the future.”
An untestable entity is identical to nothing (i.e. lacks empirical content). Recall the invisible gardener parable, wherein the exasperated skeptic declares, “Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from …no gardener at all?” [See full story: 1]
• …sensible disagreement over the testability of x proves x is meaningful.2
• …propositions can be distinguishable non-empirically.3
• …explanations can be corroborated by facts already known,4…
• …e.g. consider the gardener parable if the garden had a gate and sign.5
• William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland: “The very fact that the two explorers in the story could disagree about the merits of the undetectable gardener-hypothesis (or that Flew’s colleagues on the panel understood the story’s ending!) shows that the explorer’s statement was meaningful.” [Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (IVP Academic, 2003), .155.]