iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Science and simplicity

Scientific methodology makes extreme simplicity (or parsimony) a key quality of a hypothesis or theory. One flaw in this is that there are multiple kinds of simplicity. The cultural milieu then becomes the arbitrator of which kind of simplicity is preferred. Historically, one version of simplicity becomes dominant until another version overthrows it. Then it may take centuries for science to develop from a simple model to a composite of different explanatory variables.

For example, from classical times the simplicity was favored that the earth and the species on it are the same as they always were so no movement or speciation or extinction was thought to take place.  Discoveries in the 19th century such as extinctions discredited earth and species fixity which was then abandoned in favor of an opposite simplicity: slow, continual change with speciation of all life.

We can easily see where this is leading.  Theories of the future will be combinations of slow and fast changes, of fixity and speciation.

Whatever simplicity science starts with, it ends up in an intermediate place between extreme simplicities.  One conclusion is that simplicity is a simplistic place to start investigation.  Simplicity hurts science because scientists cling to it too tightly and mislead people with simplistic ideas about the world until centuries have passed and more sophisticated theories are developed.  Why not start from at least a combination of extremes instead of picking one and holding onto it until it is proved wrong?  That would be a more flexible and efficient method.

May 2013

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