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consisted of enumerating all the facts about the world now, as useful as it might be, wouldn’t seem to count as a full-fledged science by today’s standard, nor would it seem to follow the tradition of historical science; successful or not, scientists since Aristotle (at least!) have, it seems, tried to describe the world not just as it is, but as it will be.

This leads us to another (perhaps) banal observation: science is about predicting how the world changes over time. Indeed, a large part of how we judge the success (or failure) of scientific theories is through their predictive success; the stock example of Fresnel’s success with the wave theory of light, as demonstrated by the prediction (and subsequent observation) of a bright spot at the center of the shadow cast by a round disk is a stock example for good reason—it was a triumph of novel predictive utility. General relativity’s successful prediction of the actual orbit of the planet Mercury is another excellent paradigm case here; Mercury’s erratic orbit, which was anomalous in Newton’s theory of gravity, is predicted by Einstein’s geometric theory. This success, it is important to note, is not in any sense a result of “building the orbit in by hand;” as James Ladyman and John Collier observe, though Einstein did (in some sense) set out to explain Mercury’s orbit through a general theory of gravitation, he did this entirely by reference to general facts about the world—the empirically accurate prediction of Mercury’s orbit followed from his theory, but nothing in the theory itself was set with that particular goal in mind. The history of science is, if not exactly littered with, certainly not lacking in other examples of success like this; indeed, having surprising, novel, accurate predictions “pop out” of a particular theory is one of the best markers of that theory’s success[1].


  1. The Aharnov-Bohm effect, a surprising quantum mechanical phenomenon in which the trajectory of a charged particle is affected by a local magnetic field even when traversing a region of space where both the magnetic field and the electric fields' magnitudes are zero, is another excellent example here. This particular flavor of non-locality implies

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