Being Disagreeable

Scientific method: Defend the integrity of physics (via zapperz)

Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue — explicitly — that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical. We disagree. As the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued: a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.

Wow. Add me to the “disagree” list. This seems like it would be a huge step backward — like zapperz said, this is more like religion. We would have dogma, not science. It harkens back to the philosophy of old, before modern science. Heavier balls fall faster than lighter ones — that’s pretty elegant. Why bother testing it? Things move owing to their inherent nature. There are four lights elements. The universe is in steady state. Galilean transforms and Euclidean space are pretty elegant, too. Too bad all of these are wrong, to varying degrees, because they disagree with nature — and that’s the requirement we have for all of science: it has to describe what actually happens in nature, and because we can be fooled by a great explanation, we have to know we’re getting it right. The article also points out the danger of a model that’s too vague, so that any result can be explained. Not a lot of scientific value in that.

What is the measure of elegance, anyway? Without falsifiability, there’s no way to know if you’re wrong. What if you have two competing theories — do they wrestle for it? Talent competition?

Do we really want to go there? I don’t think so.

3 thoughts on “Being Disagreeable

  1. “Talent Competition” – Simon Cowell is already lining you up as a judge/mentor for the first series of “American Scientist!”

  2. The latest observation that half of the visible light doesn’t come from stars in galaxies should have a large impact on the galaxy rotation curve problem, and therefore the amount of dark matter in our universe, but apparently not.

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