Phenomena, Atoms and Molecules: An Attempt to Interpret Phenomena in Terms of Mechanisms or Atomic and Molecular Interactions

Phenomena, Atoms and Molecules: An Attempt to Interpret Phenomena in Terms of Mechanisms or Atomic and Molecular Interactions

Phenomena, Atoms and Molecules: An Attempt to Interpret Phenomena in Terms of Mechanisms or Atomic and Molecular Interactions

Phenomena, Atoms and Molecules: An Attempt to Interpret Phenomena in Terms of Mechanisms or Atomic and Molecular Interactions

Excerpt

UP TO THE BEGINNING of the present century one of the main goals of science was to discover natural laws. This was usually accomplished by making experiments under carefully controlled conditions and observing the results. Most experiments when repeated under identical conditions gave the same results.

The scientist, through his own experiments or from previous knowledge based on the work of others, usually developed some theory or explanation of the results of his experiments. In the beginning this might be a mere guess or hypothesis which he would proceed to test by new types of experiments. If a satisfactory theory is obtained which seems in accord with all the data and with other known facts, the solution or goal of the investigation is considered to have been reached.

A satisfactory theory should make possible the predictions of new relationships or the forecasting of the results of new experiments under different conditions. The usefulness of the theory lies just in its ability to predict the results of future experiments. The extraordinary accomplishments of the great mathematical physicists in applying Newton's Laws to the motions of the heavenly bodies gave scientists of more than a century ago the conviction that all natural phenomena were determined by accurate relations between cause and effect. If the positions, the velocities and the masses of the heavenly bodies were given it was possible to predict with nearly unlimited accuracy the position of the bodies at any future time. The idea of causation, or a necessary relation of cause and effect, has long been embedded in the minds of men. The recognized responsibility of the criminal for his acts, the belief in the value of education and thousands of words in our language all show how implicitly we believe in cause and effect. The teachings of classical science, that is, the science up to 1900, all seem to reinforce this idea of causation for all phenomena.

Philosophers, considering many fields other than science, were divided in their opinions. Many went so far as to believe that everything was absolutely fixed by the initial conditions of the universe and that free will . . .

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