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I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to hear Professor Lipton lecture on the Philosophy of Science at my 6th form recently. He used an allegory to describe scientific progress as a process of elimination, where the chance of finding the truth is increased with every refuted theory and every new paradigm shift. The allegory was that, should you lose your keys in your house, and you know with certainty that they are in one of the rooms, then each room you search and find nothing in can be discounted, leaving you with less rooms to search and a greater likelihood of finding the key.
My question is simply: what if there is no key?

This is a good question. I gave the lost keys analogy as part of a reaction to the pessimistic argument that since past scientific theories have turned out to be wrong then its likely that present scientific theories will turn out to be wrong as well. My reaction is that we may be learning from our mistakes and indeed we cannot discover the truth immediately but must try things out and eliminate what turns out to be mistaken. In this case, a history of false theories does not show that present theories are likely to false; indeed it may make it more likely that they are true. But what if there is no key? Your point I take it is this. Sure, if we know that one of a group of competing theories is correct, and we can rule some of them out, then this will increase the probability that one of the remaining theories is true. But maybe none of the theories we consider is true. In that case, no amount of elimination will expose the truth. Clearly, if no theory we will...

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