The Laws of Science

 

Arthur Eddington

‘Something unknown is doing we don’t know what. We have found that where Science has progressed the farthest, the Mind has but regained from Nature that which Mind put into Nature.

We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories..to account for its origins.

At last we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprints. And Lo! It is our own.’


This idea of ‘Not’ has a very long reach, a reach not fully appreciated by most of us. Here’s just one more example which might give you reason to give it its due respect. It’s an old Post from my file-box, trimmed to a quarter of its original length.  

‘Scientific-Law’ is a  forgivable exaggeration by the scientific-community. They are in fact generalizations from limited observations, tentatively affirmed hypothesis leading a precarious existence. 

A hypothesis is never proved. It only stands unrejected. Via Negativa-Lite.

The Mother Principle of Experimental-Science is the Principle of Induction. And along with the Contradiction Principle, it holds up much of what we know as modern Science.

The Principle says: ‘Like tomorrow’s sunrise, what is happening will continue happening until it doesn’t happen.’ The Induction Rule is formalized in the Mathematics of ‘Probability Theory’.

And the First Affirmation of Experimental Science is that a hypothesis can never be proved. It is impossible to prove that a man always speaks the truth, but easy to test if he never lies [One lie is proof].


There are other affirmations. With Induction, there is no requirement for consistency between derivations. Thermodynamics does not have to jive with Molecular Biology in its final results. Each God gets his own space. [I’ll get to this wonderfully liberal rule in later.]

And Induction’s ‘Rejection-Machine’ becomes functional, takes life, because of the word ‘Not’. And its sidekicks, ‘Always’ and ‘Never.

Things work, but not for the reasons you think they do. And they could stop working, again not for the reasons you think they might.

As with the Principle of Contradiction, the early Greeks refused to give the Induction-Rule the status of ‘Law’ [Irascible party-poopers, these early Greeks. ‘Random’ is a complicated idea. I’ll get to it in a later Post]

It was a helpful rule, an informed conjecture,  but no, it was not ‘Law’. For a conjecture to become law it is required that it ‘Always Work’. The Laws of Motion cannot turn off at night, nor stop working when you are not looking.

Or do they?


You know, there’s been this flip question floating around for a few centuries as to whether Mathematics measures a Real World.

Or is it just us painting with a palette limited to the colors we can see [like the visible .30 % of the Electromagnetic Spectrum]. And then claiming we’ve caught the ghost in our picture.

Sort of like the Nobel Committee limiting the Literature Prize to a Writer writing in a language it can read [about 5 out of around 7,000].

Same thing here. Most of the testing talked about in the previous post is grounded on the perfectly symmetric Gaussian Curve [the ‘Normal Distribution’: see the Diagram].

The Curve is conceived on a binary platform and mounted on the critical assumption [among others] of ‘Independent, Separate Observations’, a fairly dodgy idea but embraced in the Scientific community as perfectly realistic and sensible.

Is this the way Nature really curves? Or is this the only way Nature knows to curve given how how we’ve rigged the rules, given how we think? Is this Grandma being nice to her adorable grandson before he throws another fit?

‘What we observe is not Nature in itself but Nature exposed to our method of questioning’ noted Heisenberg [who was very familiar with the old Gaussian Curve].

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