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Beyond the Laws of Nature

Russell Berg gives us a brief philosophical tour of the history of scientific theorising.

The origins of the idea of laws of nature lie with the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosophers (from the sixth century BC). These philosophers rejected traditional explanations of events in terms of the capriciousness of the gods, to instead explain natural phenomena in terms of natural causes. Some assumed that there were patterns in nature which, once gleaned, could be used to make predictions. Eclipses were predicted, for instance. However, pattern analysis gave way to runaway reductionism: Thales claimed that all is water; Anaximenes claimed that everything is made of air; and the Epicurean Atomist school said that there were just atoms falling in the void.