In the eyes of a casual citizen, philosophical notions stay unrelated to the events happening in real life. However, all philosophical concepts have been designed for the description of the events in the real world, the main scenarios of which become unchanged for thousands of years. Thus, each of them is likely to find its references in the events happening in the lives of casual people. This paper will review the concept of falsifiability, which is a part of the theory of Karl Popper, the concept of enlightenment, which is a part of Immanuel Kant's theory of enlightening, and identify the connection of these terms to the recent events published in media. Namely, the paper will prove that the concepts of falsifiability and enlightenment are connected, both being related to the ability of critical thinking, which, in its turn, is a key subject of the interview “We Are Striking to Disrupt the System”: An Hour with 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg” by Amy Goodman and published on the website of Democracy Now.
The Definition of the Concepts
The Concept of Falsifiability
Popper is a scholar who proposed an idea of the identification of the criterion of a scientific theory. He proposed a criterion, by which the theory that claims to be scientific can be checked. One of the examples brought by the scholar in the explanation of his ideas was 'No number of sightings of white swans can prove the theory that all swans are white' (Chapter 2, 149). The observation that all swans are white is a theory, which, according to the proposed criterion, is falsifiable. In other words, it can be proven that the theory is non-scientific and wrong. Moreover, after a while, his words were proven; not all swans turned out to be white since black swans were found in nature.
Thus, falsifiable theories have contradictions in their basic statements; hence, they cannot be considered scientific. Similarly, if one says that falling from the tenth floor, a person dies, the theory is not scientific since there have been survival cases in the cases of falling from the tenth floor. Therefore, scientific theories do not have contradictions in their basic statements (Chapter 2 n.d.). Thus, every theory that humanity believes in is supposed to be proven by a piece of clear scientific evidence, at the same time passing Popper's criterion of falsifiability.
The Concept of Enlightenment
The concept of enlightenment was proposed by Kant as an idea opposing to the traditional religious views. “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage” (Chapter 1, 51). In this definition, enlightenment is understood as the realization of the power of an individual. The enlightenment refers to the understanding that a human has the power to study and to implement the innovations in education, religion, politics, and every other aspect of life. The motto of the theory of enlightenment has become 'Sapere Aude,' which can be translated as 'dare to know' (Chapter 1, 51). Compared to the previously popular belief that everything in the world happens by the grace of God, the theory of enlightenment encourages getting an education in every sphere of life and taking personal responsibility for every aspect of human activities.
The Interview of Greta Thunberg
The reviewed interview is dedicated to the life struggles and challenges of a 16-year-old activist whose aim is to attract the attention of humanity towards the aspects of a climate change. In her speech in the United Nations Organization, Greta Thunberg was trying to awaken the policy-makers and humanity to dare to know more about the changes that – according to her beliefs – are caused by the irresponsible human activity (Goodman, n.d.). Her lifestyle and her reasoning, which are highlighted in the interview, attract people with uniqueness and her brave character. The choices and the speeches of this young lady inspire the whole world to increase their awareness and the responsibility in the aspects of climate change.
The Connection Between the Concepts and the News Article
As mentioned above, the activities of Thunberg are inspiring; however, an interesting perspective opens when the interview is analyzed through the prisms of the concepts of enlightenment and the falsifiability. People believe that Thunberg’s emotional speeches are based on the theories that have already been checked and proven by scholars (Goodman, n.d.). However, it is not the case.
Being one of the most popular topics, it - surprisingly - does not pass the Popper’s criterion (Chapter 2, n.d.). Namely, the theory of global warming suggests that the temperature on the surface of the Earth is increasing due to the unpleasant human activity and pollution (Allchin, 2015). In reality, the theory is difficult to be proven following the criterion of falsifiability. Even though the results of the current studies clearly show that the temperature on the surface of the Earth is increasing, the reasons for it cannot be identified clearly by the scientific community.
In world history, there have been periods when the temperature was rising (global warming) and falling (ice age) because of the reasons not related to human activity and pollution. Thus, the theory that global warming is caused by human activities does not meet the criterion of falsifiability, which means that it cannot be considered scientific (Allchin, 2015). In this regard, Greta Thunberg, even though she does a great job on the popularization of awareness of climate change, does not operate true facts and scientific theories in her speeches and interviews (Goodman, n.d.). It does not mean, however, that there is no correlation between human activity and the global increase of temperature. However, it means that the theory on the connection between these events can hardly be proven scientifically.
Thus, humanity believes in the theories that do not pass Popper's criterion, which, hence, are not scientific. Nonetheless, it does not mean that the subsequent research in the area should not continue. However, it means that people can be fooled believing in the information, which cannot be proven (Chapter 2, n.d.).
At the same time, the concept of enlightenment is related to Popper's criterion, which, in its turn, is applicable to the reviewed interview. As mentioned above, people who rely on the evidence or the knowledge that does not pass the criterion can be misguided, and their opinion can be easily manipulated (Chapter 1, n.d.). At the same time, it will not be easy to manipulate the opinion of a person who – according to the ideas of the theory of enlightenment – has personal responsibility for the obtained knowledge and follows the principles of lifelong education. Hence, people who have realized the importance of enlightenment are more likely to apply Popper's criterion in making their judgments. In other words, the popularity of Thunberg’s speeches is understandable through the prism of human emotions, and at the same time, can be defeated with the principles of falsifiability by the adepts of the enlightenment.
I think that Ms. Thunberg is a brilliant speaker who inspires the audience. However, I cannot agree with her position on the aspects of climate change. In my opinion, she takes irrational decisions; traveling through the Atlantic for two weeks on a boat is time-wise unaffordable in the twenty-first century. At the same time, the concepts of falsifiability and enlightenment are in a strong connection to the studied interview of Thunberg. Namely, the concept of falsifiability changes the attitude towards the theory of global warming. At the same time, the interview shows evidence of how the opinion of society can be manipulated with the use of concepts that do not pass Popper’s criterion.
The notion of enlightenment refers to the majority of the processes happening in science and politics. It is linked to the concept of falsifiability, as both concepts refer to the critical thinking of a human. In my opinion, the scale of the problem is immense, as a huge amount of people may be misguided once not having enough knowledge of these concepts. Thus, regardless of me being inspired by Thunberg’s activities, her speeches need to be checked through the prism of the studied concepts. I am sure that both Popper and Kant would agree with my skepticism, as both scientists promote the ability to think critically.