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Simplicity, Truth, and the Unending Game of Science

By Kevin T. Kelly


This paper presents a new explanation of how preferring the simplest theory compatible with experience assists one in finding the true answer to a scientific question when the answers are theories or models. Science is portrayed as an infinite game between science and nature. Simplicity is a structural invariant reflecting sequences of theory choices nature could force the scientist to produce. It is demonstrated that among the methods that converge to the truth in an empirical problem, the ones that do so with a minimum number of reversals of opinion prior to convergence are exactly the ones that prefer simple theories. The idea explains not only simplicity tastes in model selection, but aspects of theory testing and the unwillingness of natural science to break symmetries without a reason. In natural science, one typically faces a situation in which several (or even infinitely many) available theories are compatible with experience. Standard practice is to choose the simplest theory among them and to cite “Ockham’s razor ” as the excuse (figur

Year: 2005
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