False pretences

August 22, 2003

Joanna Swann (Letters, THES , August 1) implies that Karl Popper originated the theory that science is, or should be, distinguished from non-science by the criterion of falsification.

Popper claimed that his views on falsification were first published in a letter to the editor of Erkenntnis in 1933 and then in Logic der Forschung in 1935. But in 19, sociologists William Thomas and Florian Znaniecki advocated that scientists should make a "systematic search for such experiences as may contradict their theories" in The Polish Peasant .

Popper and his supporters have overstated his importance as a philosopher of science.

Hugh McLachlan
School of Law and Social Science
Glasgow Caledonian University

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