Impossible to disprove

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Any idea or hypothesis in the domain of science must be disprovable. One of the most threatening attacks on the ideas set out in these pages is that they are too general, too vague and too all-encompassing to be disproved.

I (AG) set out some predictions in a recent review[1], details here. These focus on the proposal that there are 3D representations generated in posterior parietal cortex (e.g. head-centred) and hippocampus (world-centred) with coordinate transformations passing turning one representation into another[2]. If convincing evidence emerged of a true head-centred visual representation in posterior parietal cortex, a true world-centred visual representation in hippocampus and evidence of a method by which information could be transformed from one to another this would be profoundly important and a serious blow to the ideas set out here (see section on 3D vision).

Having said that, it is harder to pin down specific ways to 'break' a theory when it is very broad in its scope. In their BBS article[3], O'Regan and Noë say "We are providing a general framework for the study of vision, and it is not possible to subject a general framework to direct verification". There is something in this, despite the fact that unfalsifiable theories are of no use in science. When there are more general theories to debate, the demarcations that are open to experimental test should become clearer.

A very different type of test is to see how far a theory could work in practice. Starting with an amoeba and working up the evolutionary tree it is, ultimately, an empirical question as to how far it is possible to get using only the very simple mechanisms (cross correlation of input and stored vectors) that are proposed here. If it could be proved that, at some level of behavioural complexity, this mechanism was inadequate, it would force a re-evaluation of the proposal set out here.

Back to objections.

References

  1. Glennerster (2016) A moving observer in a 3D world. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B, 371(1697), 20150265
  2. Colby, C. L., & Goldberg, M. E. (1999). Space and attention in parietal cortex. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 22(1), 319-349.
  3. O'Regan, J. K., & Noë, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 939-973.