For some reason you will not find much information on whether scientific laws can change or not. The short answer is yes to the question “can scientific laws change?” This article will tell you how scientific laws change and how scientists use the scientific method to test and formulate scientific laws and theories.
Scientific Laws Can Change!
A good example of scientific laws changing is Newton’s Laws of Motion. From 1687, when first published, until the Twentieth Century Newton’s Laws of Motion stood the test of time. Then came Quantum Mechanics, and the scientific law of motion needed to change. Even so Newton’s laws continue to give an accurate account of nature, except for very small bodies such as electrons or for bodies moving close to the speed of light. See Britannica for more on Newton’s Laws of Motion.
Scientific Laws Change Little as They Are Based on Observed Phenomenon.
A Scientific Law at its essence is a description of an observed phenomenon. Unlike Scientific Theories that focus on why, Scientific Laws focus on what. As Scientific Laws are based on observed phenomena, these laws do not change much once formulated. Scientific Laws will only change if new phenomena or facts are discovered. A good example is with Newton’s Laws of Motion needing to be adjusted due to new observed phenomena in regard to Quantum Mechanics. Here new facts were discovered, and thus the Laws of Motion had to be qualified in regard to very small bodies and bodies moving close to the speed of light. See Live Science’s What is a Law in Science for more information.
Scientific Theories and Laws Can Change if Proven Wrong.
Ideally, a good scientist is always asking the question, “How can I show myself wrong?“. To advance scientific knowledge, theories are formulated and need to be tested using the scientific method. Theories and laws need to fit the observed phenomena. If not, they need to be changed to account for the new data. See Live Science What is a Law in Science.
Use of the Scientific Method Can Change a Scientific Law or Theory.
The Scientific Method is a proven method for testing and formulating a Scientific Law or Theory. The steps include:
- Observe. Start with an observation that evokes a question.
- Formulate a Hypothesis. Using logic and previous knowledge, state a possible answer, called a Hypothesis.
- Test the Hypothesis. Perform experiments.
- Publish / Peer-Review. Publish findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
- Verify. Other scientists experiment and come up with the same results. They also try other methods to make sure previous experiments were measuring what they were supposed to. Again, they get the same results every time.
- Scientific Theory or Law Is Generally Accepted. If experiments continue to support the hypothesis, it becomes a Scientific Theory.
See Wilstar’s The Scientific Meaning of the Terms for more on the Scientific Method.
Data science is an exciting field that employs innovative scientific tools and techniques to gather knowledge. Although it exemplifies the scientific method, it distinguishes itself from other scientific disciplines in a unique manner. Click here to gain an understanding of how data science serves as an excellent scientific method example while differing from other scientific fields.
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