Friday 7 January 2022

Real Science - where do the new good ideas (true hypotheses) come from in the first place?

One of the most significant - and almost-never asked - questions about real science is: where do the new good ideas come from

Anyone can 'generate' new but false hypotheses - but where do the new and true hypotheses come from?

This key question has been obscured by several generations of focusing on the supposed ability of 'scientific method' (there is no such thing) to disprove false ideas

In other words, the ways of explaining science posit a double-negative method of eliminating-false ideas. 

But even if there was a method for disproving false ideas (and the history of science, of actual major scientific breakthroughs) suggests that there is no such method) that would not serve to do anything at all to generate the true ideas - the ones that are either confirmed by further observations and/or not-rejected by further testing.  

This is because the explanations of the value and validity of science are typically derived from within the basic (metaphysical) assumptions of science-in-general (or else some specific branch of science). 

Whereas in the first place this is an intrinsically invalid way of validating! - because there is no way that scientific research done on the assumption that the assumptions of science are correct, could ever validate the assumptions under which the science was done! 

One cannot simultaneously assume that assumptions are true, and also test those assumptions! 

But - although not a valid way of reasoning - this way of discussing science using scientific assumptions can indeed provide a coherent pseudo-explanation of how it is that false ideas get rejected; yet it does not even begin to touch the primary problem of where not-false ('true') ideas might come-from... 

Because, on the one hand there are an 'infinite' number of false ideas that might be proposed (and these might even be 'randomly generated' by a mechanical process of combination, extrapolation and interpolation of already-existing ideas. 

However, there is no imaginable way in which the one true idea could be found from among this infinite number of false ideas.

And even so this suggestion requires that already-exiting ideas already exist! Yet these need to have come from somewhere. So double-negative theories are often no more than kicking-the-can - leaving untouched the primary problem of where good ideas come from.

In other words; if a true idea is the needle, then there is a haystack of false ideas of limitlessly-vast size that would need to be searched in order to find that needle. 

Yet true ideas have-been found! 

Therefore, any hypothetical double-negative method of finding true ideas cannot suffice. 

What this argument tells us is that there must be a positive method for finding true ideas in science; and the history of science tells us that some of these true ideas have been substantially counter-intuitive, unnatural, non-obvious - as evidence by the fact that many decades, centuries or even millennia have elapsed before these true ideas were discovered.

Where does the needle come from? - or, if the good-idea needle is made up of component good ideas, then where did these components come-from? 

A valid and coherent positive answer to the question of where good scientific ideas come from also explains why such answers have been ruled-out; and the primary question buried by distracting and inadequate secondary theories of a double-negative type.   

The answer to where the good ideas come from is one that takes us out of science - as is indeed logically necessary - and into the realm of transcendental values: the realm of ultimate truth, beauty and virtue; but here (in science) with the emphasis on truth. 

And this is a spiritual-religious question: the matter of the nature of truth, beauty and virtue. We are not just asking about how Men can know transcendental truth when presented with it - which is a secondary question... 

What we are really asking is along the lines of: how can Men generate new transcendental truths? 

The generation of transcendental truth is necessary for science, but is not restricted to science; it encompasses all truths of all kinds. 

The origin of scientific truth is therefore seen to be a specific instance of the general matter of Man's capacity to discover any truth about any thing; when that truth is not already accessible and Man must create that truth. 

Creation! And with creation we have finally reached our destination; we have reached the bottom-line of explanation.

The discovery or invention of new and true ideas is a type of creation; and the matter of new good ideas in science can only be addressed within a framework in which creation is real, and also possible to Men.   

We arrive at an understanding of Men that must account for individual Men operating as genuine creators; in a sense that is associated with the attributes of a god. That is a generative source of creation, a source that does not depend entirely upon inputs for its output. A source that can make something new which is not merely caused by prior inputs...

Thus we arrive at a conceptualization of the creativity of real science as necessarily part of a theistic world view.  

Far from science being opposed to 'religion' or excluding 'god' - it turns-out that the reality of scientific discovery depends on the reality of god

Interesting, that - isn't it? And it suggests an immediate reason why real science has disappeared (to be replaced by bureaucracy) except as a rare, individual and amateur activity. 

As god has been deleted from public discourse - so has science... 

And so have all genuinely-creative human activities - as described by the term genius. (Whether in science, the arts, philosophy or anywhere.)

An age which genuinely, as a matter of assumption, denies god; is also necessarily an age that has destroyed its capacity for generating the new good ideas that are the basis of creative science; and indeed where real science of any kind is impossible; and indeed where real truth of any kind is impossible - and where real beauty and virtue are also impossible. 

(This is the nature of The System.) 

Truth is now lost... just like that needle, buried somewhere in the limitless haystack of error and falsehood. 


Note added: It took me a (worryingly?) long time to reach the above conclusion; having to un-learn so much conventional wisdom first. I eventually did so in course of writing my last significant scientific publication - although now I would take the argument even further in the same general direction. 


JohnB said...

Dr Charlton, you ought not to worry that it took you a long time to come to this conclusion, not with the bombardment of System Programming we all get through out our lives. It's an impressive piece of reasoning.

I do a lot of studying in my spare time, usually related to computing science or mathematics. As such, I tend to read very old publications - for reasons all here will probably understand. And, upon doing so, have never really understood where the whole 'Science vs Religion' thing came from. Many older books from the period 1850-1950 in the fields aforementioned are littered with Biblical references. At the very least the authors had perused Scripture and seen some relevance to what they were writing about.

At the most, many seemed serious Christians (well, as much as one can tell about a person from a book). A good example is the text 'Choice and Chance', published in 1886 by William A. Whitworth; who was also a priest. Another book with more than it's far share of biblical references is 'Structures' by J.E. Gordon. Apparently Sir Isaac himself spent more time of theological studies than he did the calculus or mechanics.

In short, there has always - to me at least - seemed a connection between great minds and God. Even if those great minds weren't particularly religious, they seemed to have some respect for Him not found amongst todays batch of Professional System Scientists.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JB - Yes indeed. I discuss this matter in more detail in my Not Even Trying book linked above (and in the sidebar). I got an important clue from Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment, which stressed the need for very strong and long term personal motivation in order to make major breakthoughs and works of genius - and how this entails belief in transcendental values above-and-beyond the normal tendency for behaviour to be guided by short-term expediency.