Theories without predictive power should still be funded

By Confusion on Wednesday 13 August 2008 21:29 - Comments (3)
Category: Science, Views: 6.851

In this /. article about "Solar Systems Like Ours Are Likely To Be Rare " someone responded with:
Whatever... this is naval gazing and conjecture, no more credible than Intelligent Design. These guys have a few data points, they create a highly convoluted system that seems to account for their data points, then the moment they get more data, they start over. Again and again.

A good critical thinker should know when to say "We don't have a fucking clue" if they want to be taken seriously. But then, it's all about money, isn't it?
and he's partially right. Some research targets of science, even in physics, are subject to too many independent variables. This results in theories that are very vulnerable to changes: if you change only a small thing, the predictions the theory make will vary wildly. Theories explaining the formation of solar systems are such research targets and it may well be said that "we don't have a fucking clue".

However, I don't agree with his implicit conclusion that such research targets should not receive any funding. We are still interested in knowing the answers these researchers are looking for. Even a bad theory is better than no theory: they need some starting point.

Of course, alternate theories should be encouraged. If someone wishes to explain the formation of solar systems by starting from Genesis: go ahead. However, it turns out that the current scientific theories, despite lacking predictive power, are considered to be more satisfactory to most than competing theories. Theories that are based on Genesis that explain the formation of solar systems, need for more adaptations to change their predictions from "solar systems are like ours" to "solar systems are unlike ours". So we fund th scientific ones, as they seem the most promising.

Ending with a funny /. comment:
I'm no expert, but as I recall the major problem with probes into the gas giants is that the immense pressure inside of them would crush anything we're capable of making, and electromagnetic interference from the constant storms would make it impossible to transmit any data out.

Plus, every time anyone mentions sending probes into Uranus over at NASA, nobody can stop giggling long enough to seriously work on the problem.
Though I don't think this is only funny: perhaps the connotations of 'Uranus' so often result in the culturally imprinted response of embarassment, that you cannot get a research program to start.