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"Science doesn't prove things,
science probes things"
Mind And Nature, A Necessary Unity
Similar to the philosophy,
science is also a game to be played by the minds that consider themselves
able. It just so happened that, because of their coincidental practical
applications, scientific theories came to be regarded as the Truth incarnate.
Seeing how many impressive changes scientific theories could bring in a
short period of time, many people started worshipping science. Some even
saw it as a legitimate replacement for the religion. This, unfortunately,
is a sad reminder of what can happen when we allow ourselves to be carried
away too much.
Invariably, people are astonished when
they learn that a theory could be considered to be truly scientific only
if it allows for some future piece of evidence to prove it wrong. If a
theory is constructed in such a way that it is so airtight that nothing
could ever break it, then it is not a scientific theory. It is as simple
This is the fundamental rule of this game
we call scientific research. Many people (including, believe it or not,
some professional scientists!) are not aware of this fundamental postulate.
Consequently, they believe that all those scientific theories are actually
the infallible laws. Such views are extremely naive, to say the least.
What's This Scientific Research
Game All About?
By carefully studying the work of many
great scientists, we invariably come to the conclusion that science and
scientists are obsessed with elegance. To put it more specifically:
given a set of evidences, there usually is more than one plausible explanation
regarding how such evidence functions, and how it came into being. What
science does in such cases is to zero in on the most elegant of these explanations.
This is where things start to get a bit
tricky. The problem revolves around the definition of elegance. The simple
fact is that there really isn't any broadly accepted definition of this
all-encompassing notion. It would be a gross oversimplification to claim
that the elegance is nothing else but simplicity. Notice how nobody
defines science as a discipline that strives to achieve the simplest
explanation. But everyone agrees that science strives for providing the
most elegant explanation.
The elegant explanation is powerful because
it brings with it certain sense of clarity. It eliminates, as much
as is possible, the background noise and minimizes the chances of any form
of confusion creeping into an explanation. Such an explanation does not
have to necessarily be simple, or simplistic. But it must carry with it
the power of explaining more complex things by relying on the simpler principles
exposed in such scientific theory.
The Two Pillars Of Science
Seeing that the most important ingredient
of any scientific research endeavor, namely the elegance, is really
nothing more than some intuitive, gut feel, we must discuss other, auxilliary
principles of scientific research discipline which may give it a more exact
aura. There are, indeed, two principles that lend an air of exactness and
repeatability to this discipline:
1. Occam's Razor
This principle is borrowed from the field
of philosophy of science,
and is defined as:
When explaining phenomena, it is vain to multiply
entities beyond necessity
William of Occam
This principle is borrowed from the scientific
discipline of thermodynamics. The Law of Entropy, in its
broadest rendition, states that:
Given sufficient time, all systems tend to reach
their least complex state.
Although this law was initially formulated
(more than a hundred years ago) to describe some important aspects of the
behavior of mechanical systems, it was discovered later on that it is equally
applicable to other systems, no matter how complex.
The curious part of this law of entropy
is how closely it is tied with the law of probability. Slightly
reformulated, the law of entropy could read:
The probability for a system to be in its least
organized (or least complex) state is greater than the probability for
such system to be in a more organized state.
Science And Formal Systems
The Null Hypothesis
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