Blogs > Liberty and Power > The London Bombing, War Bloggers, and Falsifiability,

Jan 10, 2006 6:50 pm

The London Bombing, War Bloggers, and Falsifiability,

In the wake of today's tragedy, let me try to expand upon some of Mark Brady's thoughtful observations.

The war bloggers at Hit and Run and elsewhere have pointed to the London bombing as evidence to justify the Iraq War. Previously, however, many of these same war bloggers had asserted that the lack of a terrorist attack in Britain and the United States was evidence that the Iraq war was a success.

I noticed the same phenonemon after the the Madrid bombing. At the time, I made the case that those who tried to deply both arguments for the war had not only contradicted themselves but had flunked Karl Popper's test of falsifiability. Let me restate what I said then. Only this time, I will subsitute the words London for Madrid.

According to Popper,"A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory....but a vice."

I submit that advocates of the pro-war position seem generally oblivious to the need to fulfill this test and thus fail Popper's falsifiability principle.

Here is the pro-war approach to the London Bombing and the question of terrorism in general:

Terrorism goes up? One argument for why the Iraq war/occupation was justified.

Terrorism goes down? One argument for why the Iraq war/occupation was justified.

I will admit that the pro-war folks have a lot of moxie. They contend (or at least strongly imply) that the London bombing provides an argument for why their side was right all along.

On the other hand, any fair advocate of the anti-war position would admit that the case against the war/occupation can be falsified. Thus....

Terrorism goes up? One argument for why the Iraq war/occupation was unjustfied.

Terrorism goes down? One argument for why the Iraq war/occupation was justified.

When will the pro-war side construct a set of arguments that can be tested by Karl Popper's falsifiability principle? In other words, when will they tell us how their position can be refuted? We are waiting.

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Charles N. Steele - 7/8/2005

I don't think that an increase in terrorism refutes the idea that the invasion of Iraq was warranted. First, this really was never either the official justification, nor (I think) one of the real underlying motivations for the invasion.

Second, the invaision and occupation have pretty clearly been bungled, and losing appears to be a real possibility. (I just posted something on these first two points on my own blog

Third, the war isn't over, making final pronouncements on its overall effects on terrorism premature. (I'll admit this last seems weak if this goes on as long as I guess it might.)

Nevertheless, Beito correctly points out the inconsistencies in many war advocates blathering.

Matt Barganier - 7/8/2005

Thanks for the kind words, Mark. Link away!

Mark Laufgraben - 7/8/2005

Well, I may not be a great mind, but I said the very same thing on my blog today. This is my first time visiting Liberty and Power, and I am glad to see there are at least a few places on the web where people still believe in liberty and peace. Thanks for everything you do, you people give me hope.

Special thanks to Matt Barganier- I read your stuff on regularly, and you do an amazing job. I hope you don't mind that I linked to your site.

Best Regards,

Mark "Against" Laufgraben

Max Swing - 7/8/2005

But if the west were losing the war, what would another war get the west into? So, in the end, this would also be an argument for the unjustified war.

Matt Barganier - 7/7/2005

I agree with Mr. Steele that one could construct a pro-war argument in which an increase in terrorism (up to a point) is irrelevant. It would be pretty unconvincing to me, but it could be internally consistent. But Dr. Beito's point is simply that you can't have it both ways, as so many warbloggers do.

Charles N. Steele - 7/7/2005

Your critique of the pro-war bunch is right on target; too many of them simply will make any rationalization for the war.

But I have doubts that an increase in terrorism necessarily refutes the case for the war -- one alternative explanation is that the west is simply losing the war...