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Ideologies are Hypotheses. Hypotheses are Testable.

Falsifiability, as defined by the philosopher Karl Popper, defines the inherent testability of any scientific hypothesis.

All scientific models must be testable and falsifiable. In other words even the best and most elegant scientific models must be subject to being proven wrong by experimental or observational data. – What is Science?

Doesn’t an ideology consist of at least the following two things: 1) a set of assumptions about the way the world works, i.e., about what IS, and 2) based on those assumptions, a set of assertions about the way it should work, i.e., about what OUGHT to be?

Isn’t the first of those a hypothesis?

Aren’t Jon Haidt’s two stories about capitalism, summarized here and here two hypotheses consisting of a set of assertions and assumptions that are falsifiable?

Doesn’t his next book do exactly that?  Isn’t his “third story” essentially identify which of those assertions and assumptions are false, and which are true?

Aren’t the Grand Narratives of liberalism and conservatism hypotheses?  Or at a minimum, can’t they be written more crisply such that they are hypotheses?

I am highly confident that if say, Jerry Z. Muller’s “hypothesis” of conservatism (the first chapter of his book Conservatism), and an equivalent hypotheses of liberalism – like maybe that of Rawls – each were to be tested, conservatism would be found to be more right than wrong, and liberalism more wrong than right. 


11 thoughts on “Ideologies are Hypotheses. Hypotheses are Testable.

  1. I respectfully disagree with the statement that : “each were to be tested, conservatism would be found to be more right than wrong, and liberalism more wrong than right.”

    Liberalism and conservatism are both equally wrong in the same way. They both replace an objective analysis of a problem and history with a political narrative. Once this narrative is in place than confirmation/disconfirmation bias and a whole host of related cognitive distortions and associations are triggered involuntarily.

    At the same time, I would say the philosophical conservatism of Edmund Burke was superior to the philosophical liberalism of Godwin and Condorcet, as illustrated by the rise of 18th century England over the French Revolutionaries, however, today’s laissez-faire utopian, tax cutting, regulation-gutting, rugged individualist conservatives are far more committed to their failed abstract assumptions than reality-based conservatism of Burke and Hamilton.


    Posted by Tom Rossman | January 15, 2017, 10:45 am
    • Agree with both halves of your comment.

      The second half of your comment, about Burke and the others, is what I mean.

      Also this: https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/conservatives-understand-liberals-better-than-liberals-understand-conservatives/

      And this: https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/haidt-conservatives-understand-human-nature-better-than-liberals/

      Better understanding leads to better policy.

      French Revolution was liberal.

      American founding was conservative.


      Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 10:51 am
      • I would actually argue that the American Revolution was neither liberal nor conservative, but an exercise in innovation and creative problem solving. The original argument was that they had not only the right, but the duty to oppose the oppression of a distant, divinely appointed monarch. But quickly, the Framers realized that having won a country, they could lose everything if they didn’t organize themselves in an insightful and effective way. Therefore, they dispensed with abstract assumptions and focused on how men actually behaved in the real world. The product of these brilliant deliberations was a synthesis of ancient and modern liberty, of individual rights with the necessity for broader organization and a federal system, and, most importantly, of checks and balances on various branches of government, interest groups and factions within the 13 colonies. Yes, did they seek to preserve the wisdom of the institutions that existed within society, absolutely, but they also did not shy away from embracing new ideas on how those institutions could be improved in a most decidedly non-dogmatic fashion. Immediately, the dogmatic forces of anti-federalism and loyalists who wanted to reunite with Britain fought them tooth and nail, but fortunately for us and the world, innovation and pragmatic problem solving won the day.

        As Jefferson said prophetically, only the future will tell if this ‘great experiment’ will succeed.


        Posted by Tom Rossman | January 15, 2017, 12:14 pm
      • By moral foundations, by the type of thinking used, and by the principles embodied, the American Founding was conservative.



        Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 12:17 pm
      • If you restrict your frame of reference to moral foundations, yes, I see your point, but if you consider the fact that they overthrew their chief executive and co opted his power, destroyed the previous structure of the rule of law and the relationship of citizens to the government and invented an entirely new form of modern democracy, then declaring it strictly ‘conservative’ strains credulity.


        Posted by Tom Rossman | January 15, 2017, 12:34 pm
      • Not at all. The American Revolution was a fight to CONSERVE an intellectual, cultural, and political inheritance and way if life that was being ripped out from under the British citizens in North America by their own government.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 12:37 pm
      • I think your response begs the question – how does one conserve one’s inheritance by severing ties with the his patriarch? Was the prodigal son ‘conserving his inheritance’ by leaving his family? People often forget that as much as 1/3 of the colonists wanted to remain with the crown and another 1/3 swung back and forth between the two sides.

        If you examine the political and intellectual heritage of the Founding Fathers, I believe you will find it firmly rooted in England and the British/Scottish Enlightenment. Common Sense and the Declaration of Indep. were essentially restatements of John Locke’s 2nd Treatise on Government.

        Independent and purely ‘American ideas’ on government didn’t emerge until the Constitutional Convention.


        Posted by Tom Rossman | January 15, 2017, 3:08 pm
      • When the patriarch changes the rules out from under you, and violates the very ideals it purports to uphold, and betrays your trust in it and those ideals. That’s how.

        The Declaration of Independence described it in detail. The principles; the violations; all of it.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 3:36 pm
      • I completely respect your opinion, but I maintain your argument devours itself because the very ideas that were used as justification for severing those ties were British ideas. The arguments in favor of the universal right of self-determination and natural law liberty all came from British thinkers. All men are created equal and the law should be applied equally to all men(except for slaves of course), life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. – revolutionary new ideas directly quoted from Locke and used to justify the Glorious Revolution a century earlier. They were also perpetuating the British legal system of common law and the British concept of local representative democracy in each colony’s house of Burgesses.


        Posted by Tom Rossman | January 15, 2017, 3:53 pm
      • Yes they were British ideas. And the British government was trampling them.

        The Brits of North America severed ties with their government to PROTECT those ideas.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 4:51 pm
      • You make my point for me. What you just described is conservative through and through, and opposite of liberal.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | January 15, 2017, 12:19 pm

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