Title 2 – TOK Essay May 2017 KQ 3 : Can a Theory supplant(supercede and replace) the need for data and testing?



In the area of Quantum Physics , the leading figures of string theory and the multiverse on one hand, against the skeptics argue that current theme of investigation pursues speculative lines of research that cannot be empirically tested and that physics is parting ways with principles of empirical testability and falsifiability. The proponents of string theory and the multiverse,on the other hand, faced with the failure in applying these theories to the real observed universe, have begun to assert that empirical testing should NOT be required — if a theory is sufficiently “elegant” and free of internal contradictions, that should be good enough to pursue it without qualifying for Karl Popper ‘s “ Empirically falsifiable “ creteria.

“ String theory, in particular , has yet to produce any prediction that can be subjected to empirical test (e.g., to predict the masses of current or yet-to-be-discovered particles), and the multiverse may be fundamentally beyond the realm of empirical test. Even the inflation theory of the big bang has been criticized of late as no longer scientific because it is so flexible that it can accommodate any observational result.”

And it has been seen again and again that the theories that have been accepted and regarded as elegant and self evident for centuries have succumbed to the new and compelling theories supported by facts : Ptolemy’s system of spheres and epicycles was almost universally regarded as both elegant and self-evident for 1500 years, yet it fell to the modern cosmology of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton. Likewise, Newton’s physics was considered both elegant and self-evident for 300 years before it fell to relativity and quantum mechanics.

However , if the research in area of Mathematics is moving towards becoming more experimental in association with supercomputers and Big data – while being complemetary with rigorous proof – can theoretical physics be more focused on pure mathematical theory and less on experimental evidence? Well ,it does risk endangering the founding principles of scientific research and inquiry in that case.