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Assume or discover? Is this a false dichotomy?

  1. Jun 16, 2015 #1
    Assume or discover?
    //Dirac did not assume the positron; he discovered it to be a consequence of an equation that described the well-established electon

    Similarly, string theorists did not assume supersymmetry, extra dimensions, the dualities of M-theory or the myriad possible universes; they discovered them to be consequences of a theory that subsumes empirically well-established features such as general relativity, gauge field theory and chiral quarks and leptons.//

    Is assume or discover a false dichotomy? Is it leaving out prediction?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2015 #2
  4. Jun 16, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    It is a false dichotomy, created mostly because not everyone uses the words the same way.

    When you discover that a theory says something should happen, and it does... Is that a prediction or did we just assume that our theory was correct... and it was.
  5. Jun 17, 2015 #4


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    Science Advisor

    The difference between prediction and assumption is clearly defined only when the theory is formulated in an axiomatic form. The theories in physics are rarely formulated in an axiomatic form. Quantum mechanics can be formulated in an axiomatic form, to some extent quantum field theory can also be formulated in an axiomatic form, but, as far as I am aware, at the moment nobody has a clue how to formulate string theory in an axiomatic form.

    A discovery is something else. Discovery may be a new important assumption, or a new important prediction that follows from the assumption, or may be dis-covered by an experiment, or even by accident.
  6. Jun 17, 2015 #5
    By what method are we using to make a discovery? Predicting effects (guess) in order to validate theories (another guess) can only give us knowledge of a guess regardless of repetition.
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