History's Most Elaborate Ad Hoc Hypothesis


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.  
Your rating: None Average: 9.8 (5 votes)
livefreeretiree's picture
Columns on STR: 13

Gregory helps young people and the older people who have trouble relating to them.
View his website on education and youth coaching here: www.enabledyouth.com
Email him at gregory@enabledyouth.com


tzo's picture

Did you really mean "sans enforcement" in the last paragraph? That'll get the Utopia crowd chirping, and they may have a valid point here.

livefreeretiree's picture

I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean. Man does not have to be forced to act in accordance with his nature, he just does. That's what makes it his nature.

tzo's picture

I guess I read it as you were positing a social structure that would not require enforcement of the natural law in response to those who violate it. Because someone is always going to violate it.

Perhaps you meant that it is a social structure that does not force anyone to do anything in order to be in compliance with the natural law, since that is man's nature.

I keep rereading it, and I'm not sure exactly how to interpret it. To enforce is to compel. Society must compel law breakers to make retribution for damages done and that threat is also necessary to compel compliance.

Another part of man's nature is that he responds to incentives, which includes disincentives. A society that cannot enforce the natural law will lose it, IMO.

Even if every single member of society understand and respects the natural law, that society better have disincentives to breaking it. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic?

livefreeretiree's picture

Man's nature to avoid unpleasant things gives him a natural incentive to not associate with anyone who harms him. This gives everyone a natural disincentive to harm others (if they wish to be a functional member of society- if not then let them run to the forest for all I care). If a natural social structure wherein no one is compelled to associate with anyone else, only those who treat each other ethically will gain access to all the benefits that society has to offer. If an offender wishes to regain his good standing in society, he will have a natural incentive to make restitution for his crimes. Otherwise, he faces social ostracism and a significantly lower quality of life or possible starvation. No enforcement is necessary, this is natural to man's tendency to only contract and associate with individuals he trusts.

Suverans2's picture

G'day tzo and Vahram G. Diehl,

I don't think you are being overly pessimistic, my friend. As Frederic Bastiat put it:

“Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor, by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now, since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain in itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.

It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.” ~ Excerpted from The Law

livefreeretiree's picture

I agree completely with all of Bastiat's principles. However, what he calls "the law" is merely a collection of protective rules for restitution of property to deter crime and plunder. Such rules can either be voluntarily agreed to by those they affect, or they can be forced upon the population from the time they are born (which paradoxically then makes them part of the crime and plunder they are designed to deter). A natural civilization can have rules which protect individuals from plunder voluntarily and contractually, and this kind of "law" will be fundamentally very different than the legal systems we know today.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Vahram,

First, life, liberty and justly acquired property are ALL property, (the first two being intangible property, and the last tangible property), which, of course, is what gives the individual the right to defend and protect them.

    “All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.” ~ Frederic Bastiat

    “...which paradoxically then makes them part of the crime and plunder they are designed to deter...” ~ Vahram G. Diehl

The only paradox I see is what you wrote. And, if all the measures of the law protected property and punished plunder, that would make them “fundamentally very different than the legal systems we know today”.

    When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor. ~ Frederic Bastiat

To think otherwise is to believe in Thomas More's "Utopia".

And, what makes crime and plunder “more painful and more dangerous than labor”, Vahram?

    ”A natural civilization can have rules which protect individuals from plunder voluntarily and contractually...” ~ Vahram G. Diehl

That, Vahram, is a paradox, because “rules” don't “protect”, it is the force behind those rules that protects; there will always be some individuals who won't “voluntarily and contractually” choose to obey the rules, i.e. the natural law (of man), which is what tzo was saying, I believe, and why I said he wasn't being "overly pessimistic"; he was being "realistic", in my opinion.

livefreeretiree's picture

I'm afraid you are misinterpreting most of what I wrote. Rules do not have to be enforced if the people they apply to want to follow them, just as one does not have to be forced to buy an airline ticket if it is what he wants to do. The paradox of the state mechanism is that it uses crime to end crime, plunder to end plunder, and force to end force. In a voluntary society, no one has to be a part of that society, no has to engage in commerce, etc. The rules in effect in any given proprietary societal venture will be those agreed to by all parties involved or they simply won't participate. Preventative measures will naturally be taken to defend against those tiny minority who don't want to play along from hijacking the system, just as measures are taken to keep bank robbers out of banks. Since this is all voluntary (no one forces the bank robber to threaten the banker and get shot by the security guard as a result), it is not considered "force" as I used the word. It is defense, and it is entirely voluntary.

Also, as all definitions are arbitrary, you should probably reach some sort of semantic consensus with those you are conversing with before attempting to push your own predetermined values upon others, such as with Bastiat's definition of "property".

Suverans2's picture
    "Each of us has a natural right - from the Creator - to defend his person his liberty, and his property..." ~ Frederic Bastiat

His, when used as an adjective, denotes possession, i.e. "the act of having and controlling property".

livefreeretiree's picture

I'm not entirely sure why you are quoting Bastiat's religious views and giving me a grammar lesson right now.

AtlasAikido's picture

I found this very useful...

The Market for Liberty
Linda and Morris Tannehill http://mises.org/resources/6058/The-Market-for-Liberty

The *whole* book deals with difference between govt and free market justice. it stands on the shoulders of Ayn Rand and Ludwig Von Mises...

In fact a would be tyrant's customers--in a free market--would be an obstacle to him.

He could not extract taxes from them, as govt does, he could not even force them to buy his service at all. A market relationship is a free relationship. If a customer does not like a company's service--(including defensive), or mistrusts its goals, he is free to take his business elsewhere or to start his own competitive service or to do without the service altogether and provide his own.

There is a difference between coercive monopolies (govt driven by initiating force and ratcheting fear and power) and free market monopolies (profit motive, supply demand, attracting customers)

Natural laws are objective and compulsory. The tacit assumption that they do not apply to human relationships led men to believe men must have a central system of Statutory Laws to fill the gap and maintain social order. (The principle behind a Statutory Law written a priori cannot be made to fit all circumstances. Its application is unobjective and misses value structure objectivity of profit and loss calculations).

The so called chaos of free market customers, arbiters with a final arbiter provision and insurance companies in competition and those who actually specialize in legal work by competition--instead of politicians and their lackeys--do and would determine this. No central authority coercive monopoly--and certainly no need for such institutionalized evil as govt. I was reading that insurance companies actually have decentralized asset arrangements and connections and yet greater than all govts put together.

I thank Lewrockwell and Mises.org and Strike-The-Root.com for making it possible to see thru the political myths men have lived by since Neolithic times. And for making it possible to understand that liberty is the mother of order not its daughter and that If revolution comes by violence and advance of light the struggle will have to be begun again.

livefreeretiree's picture

Well fucking said. Especially the part about "If revolution comes by violence and advance of light the struggle will have to be begun again."

I started Occupy Your Brain recently in response to this general paradigm of fighting for peace... liberty will only ever come through peaceful and productive means. http://www.occupyyourbrain.com/introduction/

AtlasAikido's picture

"Freedom producer"--wow! I have adopted it--from your link--and used it. Hah. I love it.

Your responses in action--to posters here on this thread--are succinct application of self rule (not no rules)--anarchy-- and a good way for me to hold the ideas provided in Market For Liberty by Tannehill.

And this can be further simplified--Occam's Razor--to An Alternate Form of "Social Contract"

...Galt’s Oath and the libertarian Non Aggression Principle (NAP/ZAP) are moral/ethical principles. The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is a political statement of *interpersonal relationships* based on those moral principles. Unlike the U.S. Constitution--which was created by a committee of Lawyers to replace the (much better) Articles of Confederation, while both Jefferson and Adams were in Europe--the Covenant actually FULFILLS the promise of individual freedom in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. The Covenant is simple, rational, personal, easy to understand and even short enough to memorize.

The Covenant also satisfies the objections noted by Lysander Spooner. Instead of being a document that describes how the government shall act, and a document YOU did not sign, the Covenant is a document that describes how YOU will act and is a document that YOU voluntarily sign, if you agree. Those who do not sign (the “dissenters” mentioned by Ayn Rand above) are not punished, they are simply and clearly warned what to expect if they violate the rights of Signatories.


AtlasAikido's picture

Regarding those who say "Well don't take this the wrong way but *it sounds like it is just nothing then*. A signor just signs it[--the Covenant of Unanimous Consent--] for the purposes of signing it. and that's it"?

1. When I Stopped using an Authoritarian formula--of, "We hereby make the following illegal"--and STARTED using "I believe that if you do this, I will do this--using my own moral code, my own interpersonal rules and my own security--in this way" I am using Direct Alternatives and this IS "How I Found Freedom in an UnFree World" by Harry Browne.

2. When I Stopped asking (essentially begging, raising my hand, pleading, voting ) for permission--(an Indirect Alternative that I do not control)--I stopped playing into the hands of tyrants and their wannabes. The only way to achieve freedom is first to achieve mental freedom and fiber which comes by realizing *No one has the right to rule another, which means govt is NEVER legitimate*.
Paraphrased from "The Most Dangerous Superstition" by Larken Rose.

3. When I Started using the 5 precepts of the Covenant of Unanimous Consent I covered ALL the issues--including the crow epistemology--as that relates to *NOT initiating force on others* AND Keeping it Simple and Strategic! I opted into *natural law of relationships* and opted out of a myriad of complex unjust non-objective Statute Laws and bureaucracy. Paraphrased from "Market For Liberty" by Linda and Morris Tannehill.

4. Where I Choose to be and go--that is humanly possible--makes a difference. Do I go to the airport? No!! The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is not going to serve me there! In fact it warns and confirms to me that I should stay away; and what and who I choose to talk to; and about what makes a difference. I do not talk to sociopaths (who are he antithetical to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent).
Functional Rights: The Elephant in the Parlor, Part II

5: When it is I Ensuring the Job of living peacefully and taking the direct responsibility and risk *paying the price* to make good my life experience, reputation and on-going freedom--I am objectifying self reliance, security and future trade opportunities with compatibles. Paraphrased form Harry Browne's "The Great Milk Robbery"; and 'Freedom Has No System--Challenge the premise. There is no “we.”' http://zerogov.com/?p=2334

5. When it is I who has Given Up the Belief in Government, it is I who has to develop rules for *interpersonal relationships* which, at first glance, *might* resemble what are now called laws to some. It is both legitimate and useful to write down, and publish for all to see, statements about the consequences of doing certain things. But there will be a fundamental difference. And it turns out that the Covenant of Unanimous Consent accomplishes this.

6. When I actually Make the Rules and Warnings--and Decide what retribution I personally feel justified in inflicting on those that harm me--then I ALONE will bear the actual *responsibility and the risk* for making and enacting such warnings. Picture you and I talking and you do x. I will only do what is in my maximized rational self interest short and long term to do.

7. When I do Not Require any election or lawyers or other group traps then I become less vulnerable. Free! The warnings would not be seen as "the will of the people" but only as a statement of the intentions that I actually issue. Me and you. If you are a dissenter who will not sign the covenant then you are not going to get very far in this community of you and me. You may well build trust and perhaps find yourself a de facto signatory. This happens everyday but not without risk....as was pointed out above.

8. When I decide the Legitimacy of such warnings and judge not by "Who" made the rules but by whether the consequences in the eye of the observer and are appropriate for the wrong committed then I wouldn't feel any obligation to agree with or abide by such a debt if deemed unfair of unjustified.

9.When I realize that such warnings would not pretend to alter morality, make new crimes nor would imagine such warnings to be legitimate simply because they were issued the way people now view authoritarian laws then instead such warnings would simply constitute statements about what those making the restitution believe is justified.

10. When I see that a dispute resolution might be flawed by free market natural law standards such as retribution is too high or a person is innocent then I am not going to get paid or I will incur a debt. The cost will be arrived at so that it makes more sense to make a payment than not to.

livefreeretiree's picture

And that, friend, effectively summarizes the paradigm shift required for individuals to participate in a voluntary and prosperous society based upon principles of human nature and sans enforcement. Well said.