How To Overthrow A Scientific Theory In Three Easy Steps
“As science becomes a more developed, evidence-rich enterprise, it becomes a more herculean task to create a single theory that explains the full suite of data. Yet that’s exactly what the most successful theories do. No matter how successful an idea has been in the past, all it takes is one inconsistent observation to throw the whole thing into doubt. Our greatest scientific theories of today will most likely all fall in the future as new and superior evidence is gathered.
Massive neutrinos are a hint of physics beyond the Standard Model; the black hole information paradox is a hint of gravity beyond General Relativity; the fact that sexual reproduction exists is undeniable, but how it arose is still unknown. These puzzles, and many others, may serve as harbingers of a monumental scientific advance. Until then, we can only speculate at the frontiers of science, in our attempts to take these three massive steps towards a better understanding of the Universe.”
In practice, coming up with a new scientific theory that’s better than the best ones we have today is a monumental task. It’s an achievement that very few scientists ever succeed at. And yet, once you recognize the successes and failures of the prevailing theory under question, your new theory needs to only take the following three steps to get there:
1.) Reproduce all the successes of the pre-existing theory.
2.) Solve a problem that the pre-existing theory couldn’t.
3.) Make a new, testable prediction that differs from the pre-existing theory’s prediction.