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Simplicity, Truth, and the Unending Game of Science Kevin T. Kelly

Summary: Simplicity, Truth, and the Unending Game of Science
Kevin T. Kelly
Department of Philosophy
Carnegie Mellon University
April 11, 2005
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.
0.1 Introduction
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


Source: Andrews, Peter B. - Department of Mathematical Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University


Collections: Mathematics