The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015)

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An attempt to answer the question of Mechanism of Theory Acceptance which 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

This version of The Second Law was formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015.1


In his 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions'2, Thomas Kuhn supposed that theories, methods, and values formed integrated units which he called paradigms. Kuhn's holism lead him to view scientific change as a kind of gestalt shift, seemingly involving a non-rational leap of faith. Critics charged him with attributing scientific change to "mob psychology". Later, he suggested that scientists are guided by epistemic values in making such choices. He supposed these values were fixed through history 3.

Past philosophers of science have generally failed to provide a definitive answer concerning the existence of a mechanism that governs transitions from one accepted theory to the next. In regard to theory acceptance, they have often failed to clearly distinguish between "method" and "methodology"1pp. 52-61.

Both Rudolf Carnap and Karl Popper realized the beginnings of a distinction between method and methodology by recognizing that it is the implicit method of a scientific community that is employed in theory assessment instead of its explicit prescriptions. Larry Laudan also tacitly acknowledged the distinction within his reticulated model by showing that the accepted rules of scientific practice (methodology) were at odds with the actual scientific practice of the time (method)4. However, he then goes on to explicitly criticize a similar distinction accepted by Lakatos and Worrall.

There has also been a fierce debate among philosophers of science over the status of novel predictions. While, Popper, Lakatos and Musgrave argued for a special status of novel predictions, Hempel, Carnap, and Laudan maintained that, as far as criteria for theory goes, there is no substantial difference between the value of novel predictions and post factual explanations of known facts. Nonetheless, some philosophers have used the lack of novel predictions in past historical episodes as a way to argue against the idea that theories are always accepted when they meet the criteria of the employed method. However this argument is unsound because it assumes that the hypothetico-deductive method was employed in every historical case.


This was the original formulation of the second law proposed by Barseghyan in The Laws of Scientific Change. Seminar discussions revealed the law's two major flaws. First, it didn't clearly indicate what happened to a theory when a certain assessment outcome obtained. Specifically, it didn't link theory assessment outcomes to the theory's acceptance or unacceptance. Secondly, the law sounded like a tautology which is not what a good law should sound like. Consequently, in 2017, a new formulation of the law was suggested by Patton, Overgaard and Barseghyan, which became accepted towards the end of that year and, thus, replaced the initial formulation.5

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016The law became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.No29 November 2017The law became rejected as a result of the acceptance of the new formulation of the Second Law by Patton, Overgaard, and Barseghyan. For details, refer to the modification.

Suggestions To Reject

These are all the modifications where the rejection of the theory has been suggested:
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.AcceptedThe new formulation of the law became accepted as a result of a communal consensus. It was noted by the commentators that the "modification provides a much improved formulation of the 2nd law".c1 It was noted that the new formulation "decouples the method from acceptance outcomes" and "is needed to avoid a contradiction for cases where assessment by the method is inconclusive, but the theory is accepted".c2 It was agreed that the new law eliminates two of the major flaws of the previous formulation. First, it clearly states the relations between different assessment outcomes and the actual theory acceptance/unacceptance. Second, it clearly forbids certain conceivable courses of events and, thus, doesn't sounds like a tautology.c329 November 2017

Question Answered

The Second Law (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to answer the following question: How do theories become accepted into a mosaic?

See Mechanism of Theory Acceptance for more details.


The second law explained by Hakob Barseghyan

According to the law, in order to become accepted, a theory is assessed by the method employed at the time by the scientific community in question.1p. 129 The key idea behind the second law is that theories are evaluated by the criteria employed by the community at the time of the evaluation. Thus, different communities employing different method of evaluation can end up producing different assessment outcomes.

Since it follows from the definition of employed method (a set of implicit rules actually employed in theory assessment), this formulation of the second law is viewed as a tautology. Thus, a theory may violate the methodology to which a scientific community explicitly subscribes, but not the actually employed method - a fact true by definition.


No reasons are indicated for this theory.


  1. a b c  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  3. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1977) The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
  5. ^  Patton, Paul; Overgaard, Nicholas and Barseghyan, Hakob. (2017) Reformulating the Second Law. Scientonomy 1, 29-39. Retrieved from