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(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)
It might be objected that, since old theories are constantly being replaced by new ones (eg. Newton's theories of dynamics & gravitation by Einstein's special & general theories of relativity; the various theories of the atom; etc.), we should despair of the absolute and final truth of scientific laws. However, the replacements are not random changes of mind, but usually represent either the correction of less accurate models by ones of greater precision or the expansion of the domain of reference of the enquiry.
- From the above we may expect that any particular scientific theory is not the last word in its field. It may yet be replaced by one of wider scope or greater precision. This is not to imply, however, that we should abandon the scientific enterprise as futile. An inadequate theory of the atom, for instance, was still sufficient for the development of the technology for the release of nuclear energy.
- It is to be noted that changes of scientific paradigm are usually in the direction of greater simplicity (as in the successive explanations of planetary motion given by Ptolemy, Copernicus & Newton), often with a corresponding gain in generality. Occasionally, however, simplicity has to be sacrificed to generality (as in the further transition from Newton to Einstein) or in response to more accurate observation (as in Kepler's substitution of elliptical for Copernicus' circular planetary motion).
- Because the final form and absolute truth of currently accepted scientific laws are open to doubt, caution should be maintained in the attempted deduction of metaphysical deductions from them.
- Another reason for resisting the deduction of metaphysical conclusions from scientific theory is that such theory is taken out of its primary domain of reference and hence loses its predictive power.
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||226 (Paradigm Shifts)
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