Mechanism of Theory Acceptance

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How do theories become accepted into a mosaic?

The question of theory acceptance is one of the central problems of theoretical scientonomy. Any scientonomic theory should explain how theories become part of a mosaic. Initially, when philosophy had a static conception of science, this question did not exist. However, as science progressed, it soon became clear that science replaces its theories with theories that it considers superior, and it does this on a continuous basis. At this point, how science accepts theories became a central question for the philosophy of science. Answering this question is not trivial, because all of the obvious answers, such as verisimilitude and best fit to the data, all come with philosophical problems. The difficulty of solving the problem was compounded when it was realized that the methods by which theories are accepted changes over time.

One historical example of theory acceptance was the acceptance of Copernican heliocentrism, which involved the rejection of Aristotelian-Ptolemaic astronomy. Another example was when Einstein's general theory of relativity replaced Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available theory on the subject. The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015) states "In order to become accepted into the mosaic, a theory is assessed by the method actually employed at the time."


This question has been one of the central questions of the philosophy of science. Initially, philosophy held a static conception of science. Immanuel Kant believed that the axioms of Newtonian mechanics were a priori synthetic propositions. 1 Philosophers believed in a static conception of science because no scientific revolution had been experienced since the advent of modern science. While Scientonomy recognizes the transition from the Aristotelian-Medieval method to the Newtonian world view as a scientific revolution, this was not the case historically.

The scientific revolutions in the early twentieth century caused philosophers of science to wonder how science accepts its theories. In his Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl Popper argued that old theories are replaced by new theories when an old theory is falsified and a new theory is corroborated in by experimental evidence. This occurs when an experiment successfully tests a bold conjecture made by the new theory.2

A major development occurred when Thomas Kuhn presented his groundbreaking analysis of scientific change in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions According to Kuhn, periods of 'normal science' are interrupted by 'scientific revolutions' that involve paradigm shifts. In a paradigm shift involves a fundamental change in world view for the relevant scientific communities. In his conception of theory change, the old and new theories are incommensurable.3 While Kuhn's ideas stirred much controversy, they were generally recognized as highly important.

In his Methodology of Scientific Research Programs, Imre Lakatos advocated a less cataclysmic view of scientific change. In a refinement of Popper's views, he believed that theories are not necessarily falsified by failed predictions. Rather, a theory's fate depends on its centrality in an overarching research program. The more central a theory is to its research program, the more effort will be extended towards saving it by modifying the research program's auxiliary hypotheses. 4

Paul Feyerabend argued in Against Method that the methods of theory acceptance change over time in science, and that these changes are largely arbitrary. Dudley Shapere agreed that scientific methods change over time. In The Character of Scientific Change, Shapere argued that the scientific methods used at the time are affected by the beliefs that the scientific community holds.56

Larry Laudan agreed. In Science and Values, Laudan argues that the methods that scientific theories are accepted depend on the epistemic values that scientists hold. He recounted how knowledge of experimenters bias and the placebo effect led to the development of the double blind method in drug testing. Laudan's ideas are important precursors to Scientonomy.78

In contrast, the strong program of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK), including sociologists like Barry Barnes and David Bloor seek to explain science as a sociological phenomenon and sometimes stress the role played by non-empirical social values in scientific change.


Patton, Overgaard and Barseghyan have proposed a reformulation of the Second Law of Theory Acceptance. The reformulated Second Law allows for the possibility an inconclusive outcome to theory assessment. With an inconclusive outcome, theory acceptance, unacceptance or mosaic split are all possible. 9

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016This is when the community accepted its first answer to this question, The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015), which indicates that the question is itself considered legitimate.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015)In order to become accepted into the mosaic, a theory is assessed by the method actually employed at the time.2015
The Second Law (Patton-Overgaard-Barseghyan-2017)If a theory satisfies the acceptance criteria of the method employed at the time, it becomes accepted into the mosaic; if it does not, it remains unaccepted; if assessment is inconclusive, the theory can be accepted or not accepted.2017
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Accepted Theories

The following theories have been accepted as answers to this question:
CommunityTheoryAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyThe Second Law (Barseghyan-2015)1 January 2016

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this topic:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2017-0004Scientonomy5 February 2017Accept the reformulation of the second law which explicitly links theory assessment outcomes with theory acceptance/unacceptance. To that end, accept three new definitions for theory assessment outcomes (satisfied, not satisfied, and inconclusive) as well as the new ontology of theory assessment outcomes, and accept the new definition of employed method.Open

Current View

In Scientonomy community, the accepted theory on the subject is The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015). It states: "In order to become accepted into the mosaic, a theory is assessed by the method actually employed at the time."

The Second Law Barseghyan 2015.png

Open Questions

The following related topic(s) currently lack an accepted answer:

  • Conclusive Theory Assessment: Are there really instances of conclusive theory assessment or does every case of theory assessment involve some degree of inconclusiveness? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.

Related Topics

This topic is a sub-topic of Mechanism of Scientific Change. It has the following sub-topic(s):

This topic is also related to the following topic(s):


  1. ^  Kant, Immanuel. (1781) Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^  Popper, Karl. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge.
  3. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^  Lakatos, Imre. (1978) Philosophical Papers: Volume 1. The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^  Feyerabend, Paul. (1975) Against Method. New Left Books.
  6. ^  Shapere, Dudley. (1980) The Character of Scientific Change. In Nickles (Ed.) (1980), 61-116.
  7. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
  8. ^  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  9. ^  Patton, Paul; Overgaard, Nicholas and Barseghyan, Hakob. (2017) Reformulating the Second Law. Scientonomy 1, 29-39. Retrieved from


Paul Patton (17.6%), Markus Alliksaar (49.2%), Jacob MacKinnon (1.6%), Hakob Barseghyan (31.6%)