Column by Vahram G. Diehl.
Exclusive to STR
In the formulation of scientific laws, there is a concept called an “ad-hoc hypothesis”. A hypothesis is essentially just a generalization, a singular idea encompassing and explaining a particular set of observed events. It is the starting point for all new understanding, the first attempt at comprehension of something previously unknown. A hypothesis only gets promoted to a theory when it can be corroborated through further demonstration. No matter what our personal biases or presuppositions about the subject in question, an intellectually honest scientist must always adapt his hypotheses (i.e., his conceptions of reality) to consistently fit with every new observation of the functional universe from any subjective source.
Not every generalization of reality proves to be true through further examination; most are wildly inaccurate and require scrapping or major overhaul to match objective data. But often, a hypothesis can seem to be very close to explaining what it is supposed to, only requiring minor variations extrapolated from new data taken in under slightly altered conditions. A theory is only considered true when it can account for 100% of observable phenomena in the universe with absolutely zero observed exceptions. The most basic and easily observed examples of these are now common sense tenets like Newton's Conservation of Energy or Darwin's Natural Selection.
If a particularly stubborn and intellectually dishonest scientist has a falsified hypothesis that he wishes to be made true, there is one other option at his disposal. Since no one can change the nature of objective reality, it is inevitable that through enough independent observation, that someone, somewhere will eventually observe and record an occurrence which counters his original idea. The only thing he can do to prevent his hypothesis from being discredited is to perform a slight modification to the idea, to add something new that encompasses whatever the freshly observed event is.
This seemingly minor alteration in the rule might work quite well until the next occurrence is spotted that also doesn't match the modified preconception. Hesitant to scrap an idea he has invested this much in already, he might decide it’s easier just to perform one more slight addition to his rule. The hypothesis becomes longer and less concise than its original inception, but so long as new clauses can freely be added, it remains a working model of reality.
Eventually, through enough iterations of refinement and shaping to new events, the starting idea becomes like a distant relic of the one now being worked on. Every attempt to keep the growing idea accurate to reality is increasingly harder, as the new additions must remain consistent with the old ones and the smallest of flaws can require the biggest of changes. A point may be reached where all the steps taken to get from the starting principle to the current level of complexity can no longer be easily documented or remembered, so the details are transcribed into large volumes and a committee is created to memorize and employ certain parts of it as they are needed and applicable.
The hypothesis may grow so large in scope that no one person can possibly understand it all. It becomes like a house of cards stacking higher and higher, with each card relying upon the integrity of the one below it to have any function. The idea is so grandiose and so seemingly genius that it has attracted attention and support from hordes of followers, as complexity is often mistaken for quality and validity. Still, no one seems to agree completely on exactly how the growing hypothesis should be stated, or which new observations have already been included and which require further addendum to the principle. More committees are formed specifically to fulfill these purposes on behalf of its followers.
It is this obsessive level of delusion to reason that distinguishes an ad-hoc hypothesis from a true theory or law of nature. While the masses will continue to add unfathomable amounts of superfluous auxiliary parts to compensate for the fundamentally flawed starting design, a reasonable man will know when to cut his losses and try something else. A reasonable man will not spend more money and effort on repairs than the entire thing was worth in the first place.
Occam's Razor then becomes an integral part of scientific discovery and reason, stipulating that we keep our ideas as simple as possible and always disregard over-complexities in favor of equally valid simplicities. One who lacks the capacity to employ Occam's Razor has then developed a potentially very serious kind of madness. We see this madness in gamblers who don’t know how to quit when they are down. We see it in miserable housewives who can’t bring themselves to leave their abusive husbands. We see it in automobile owners who don’t understand the meaning of the word “totaled.”
Most notably and consequentially in our present world, we see an inability to employ Occam's Razor and rampant ad-hoc hypotheses in all manner of politicians, political activists, and voters. They will continue to prolong the lifespan and magnitude of the house of cards (erroneous man-made laws) towering over us, and will expand its reach until reality (natural laws about human nature) cause it to come crashing down all around us. Our hope for change then at that point is to prevent it from being started getting built anew, as it always has been in the aftermath of social collapse.
Every major civilization and imposed set of rules governing human action has started as a simple but erroneous idea about how humans ought to be living. Rarely have any social “scientists” taken the time to carefully observe the nature of man and formulate their hypotheses around what is universally observable about the subject of society. More often, those in power dictate their preference for how they wish things to be. When these phony rules inevitably fail, increasingly further illusion is cast over time and enforced at spearpoint or gunpoint to create a temporary appearance of congruence with nature. Never has a stone been made to fall when dropped through the threat of violence; it happens naturally without the inference of human will and desire.
Only a social structure which acts in accordance with man’s basic nature can achieve sustainability and last indefinitely sans enforcement. Man's universally observable nature, like all principles of reality, is simple and succinct. Every individual person is always seeking to better his own circumstances in life and to avoid all manner of things unpleasant. These concepts are entirely subjective and relative, so what is considered an improvement in quality of life for one individual may not be an improvement at all for another. It is for this reason that only a social structure of optimized individual choice without any centralized planning and interference in human affairs can allow man to live in accordance with his own natural design, and only such a leaderless structure will create the greatest conceivable amounts of peace, production, mutually beneficial exchange, and happiness.