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Developing a Scientific Theory of the Nature of the Universe
August 24, 2010
As explained by the American sociologists Richard P. Appelbaum and William J. Chambliss, “A scientific theory consist of a set of logically consistent ideas about the relationships between things that permits those ideas to be checked against observations… Theories tell the natural scientist which facts to look for; indeed, the theory often tells the scientist what facts may be relevant. Theories help the scientist to see what is happening: facts help the scientist to construct and evaluate the theory. Theories and facts require one another, and each continually modifies the other in a never-ending process that is the hall-mark of science”1 Every scientist knows that since a scientific theory is checked by observation, it must include the scientist whose developing the theory as observer.
As Appelbaum and Chambliss tells us, “Two scientists observing the same event often have different interpretations, depending on the theory they bring to their observations.”2 A satisfactory scientific theory explains all the known facts, based on observation. I agree with the American Unitarian clergyman John Weiss (1818-79), who explained that: “Theory is the guide to practices, and practice is the ratification and life of theory. The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts, and persist in doing so, generation after generation, through all changes of opinion and detail, is the one that must rule all observation.”3
Developing a scientific theory begins with posing a question(s) and exploring possible answers to it based on observation. “Observation” is the use of one or more of our five senses to gather information about the world that we are observing. Our natural senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell provide us with evidence that the world is made up of things that take up (or occupy) space, have mass, and react to gravity. “Mass” is often defined as the amount of matter in an object. It is also defined as the inertia (or resistance) of an object to a change in its motion, a property of all matter.
“Gravity” is the force of attraction between any two objects (masses) that pulls them together. Gravity pulls objects toward the Earth. It also keeps the planets in orbit around the sun.
Here are some of the most obvious things that we observe about the world:
1. We observe that the matter of which the world is made is particulate, consisting of very small, separate particles.
2. We observe that all matter is three-dimensional, having height, width, and depth.
3. We observe that matter changes form but is never annihilated.
4. We observe that all matter is bounded by empty space and empty space by matter.
5. We observe that all matter is in motion.
6. We observed that when matter moves from one place to another, the space it occupied does not move with it.
7. We observe that when new things come into existence, they always come from something already existing.
8. We observe that matter disintegrates or decays.
9. We observe that the existence of objects varies in duration.
10. Observing the duration of existence of things, we become aware of the existence of time, which we define as the measurement of duration of existent.
11. We observe that the duration of the existence of all things always moves straight forward at the same constant rate of time.
12. We observe that space always remains the same while time passes.
13. We observe that empty space has no ability to affect the objects, or bodies, moving within it.
14. We observe that the laws of nature are immutable.
From all of the observations mentioned above, we can develop a valid scientific theory of the nature of the universe. I will reiterate: A satisfactory scientific theory explains all the known facts, based on observation. Judging by this standard, the only satisfactory scientific theory of the nature of the universe is the theory of Atomism, also known as the Atomic theory, which was developed by the ancient Greek natural philosophers Leucippus (fl.c. 450BC), Democritus (c.460-c.370 BC), and Epicurus (341-270 BC), and the Roman philosophic poet Lucretius (c.98-55 BC).
The theory of Atomism states that:
1. Everything in the universe is made of matter and void and that nothing can exist which is non-material, except the void.
2. Matter is anything that takes up (or occupies) space, has mass, and reacts to gravity.
3. Mass is the amount of matter in an object.
4. Gravity is the force of attraction between two objects because of their mass.
5. All matter is made up of atoms and void.
6. Void is pure empty pure space or nothingness. It’s the opposite of matter.
7. Atoms are the invisible and indivisible elements from which nature forms, increases, and sustains all things, and into which, when they disintegrate or decay, nature again resolves them.
7. Nothing can come into existence without atoms.
8. Our beliefs, thoughts, desires, sensations, and other mental states are properties of atomic systems.
9. Atoms and void are the ultimate instruments of nature’s work; there is nothing else.
10. Atoms are constantly in motion, but there is no motion inside them because they are absolutely solid particles.
11. Atoms possess a certain original momentum that can be transferred to other atoms by impact.
12. Atoms move faster than light, which their motion produces.
13. All changes in matter are the result of atoms moving and combining in different ways.
14. Atoms naturally move downwards.
15. In a constant state of congestion they seem immobile, but they are not.
16. Varieties of atoms size and shape cause variation in the properties of objects.
17. All objects are compounds of different kinds of atoms.
18. The number of possible compounds of atoms is finite.
19. Whatever is seen to be sentient is nevertheless composed of atoms that are insentient.
20. Atoms have no color, heat, sound, taste, smell, or feeling.
21. The movements of the atoms are random; the effects of their collisions are dictated by their construction and nature.
The above ideas stated by the theory of Atomism have led to the discovery of the following atomic principles, or laws, of reality:
1. Nothing can be created out of nothing (the non-existent). If something comes into existence, it must come from something already existing.
2. Nothing can be destroyed into nothing (masslessness), but only broken up into constituent atoms.
3. Matter exists in the form of invisible particles.
4. The universe is void space as well as solid matter.
5. Matter and void are the only ultimate realities; there is no third form of existence.
6. All other things are properties or accidents (unessential attributes) of matter and void.
7. Atoms are the ultimate instruments of nature’s work.
8. The atoms are solid, everlasting, and simple.
9. Being solid and simple, the atoms are indivisible.
10. The atoms cannot undergo change.
11. Although physically indivisible, the atoms have parts, which are the minima of extension and magnitude.
For over two thousand years, natural philosophers believed that all of nature could be understood by describing the atomic structure of matter and the atomic laws governing its behavior.
In 1638, the Italian mathematician, astronomer, and natural philosopher Galileo Galilei (1561-1626), expressed his belief in the theory of atoms in a book that he wrote entitled Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche intorno a due nuove science, 1638 (The Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences). In this book, he described objects as being made up of an infinite number of infinitesimally small particles held together by an infinite number of small vacua.
In 1687 and 1704, the English mathematician, astronomer, and natural philosopher Isaac Newton (1642-1727), described the nature of matter as follows:
1. “The least parts of bodies are all extended, and hard and impenetrable, and moveable, and endowed with their proper inertia.” (Newton, Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687, Book 1)
2. “Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the them.” (Newton, Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687, Book 1).
3. “Are not the Rays of Light very small Bodies emitted from shining Substances?” (Newton, Opticks, 1730, Book 3, 4th ed., Query 29)
4. “Do not Bodies act upon Light at a distance, and by their action bend its Rays, and is not action (other things being equal) strongest at the least distance?” (Newton, Opticks, 1730, Book 3, 4th ed., Query 1)
5. “Are not gross bodies and light convertible into one another, and may not bodies receive much of their activity from the particles of light which enter into their composition?... the changing of bodies into light, and light into bodies, is very conformable to the course of nature, which seems delighted with transmutations….?” (Opticks, 1704, Book 3, Part 30)
In 1806-8, the English chemist John Dalton (1766-1844) unified the theory of Atomism with the modern theory of elements. He explained that:
1. All elements are made up of atoms.
2. All atoms of a given element are identical.
3. The atoms of a given element are different from those of any other element.
4. Atoms of one element can combine with atoms of other elements to form compounds.
5. Atoms are indivisible in chemical reactions.
The above statements by Dalton are based on experimentation, not on pure reason. He conceived of atoms in a compound as mere juxtaposition, with each atom under the influence of Newton’s law of gravitation, or gravity, the force that draws any two bodies together because of their mass.
Dalton, like every Atomist before him, conceived of atoms as “absolutely solid” particles that are the smallest particles of matter that can exist; the ultimate and smallest division of matter. Being absolutely solid particles, he held that atoms could not be destroyed. This idea about the atoms became the basis of the law of conservation of mass (the atoms that make up mass can neither be created nor destroyed).
To help him explain that atoms are absolutely solid particles, he used models depicting them as “billiard balls” or “solid spheres.” The models are useful because an experiment can show that atoms cannot be split or divided and always act as wholes in chemical changes. They do not, and cannot, break up under any condition.
No new facts about atoms have been discovered since Dalton. But, in modern physics, it is taught that Dalton’s concept of the atom had to be modified when new facts about the atom were discovered, claiming that atoms can, and do, break up under certain conditions. I will reiterate: The English word “atom” comes from the Greek word atomos, meaning “uncuttable”. If the description of a particle does not fit this definition of an atom, it cannot be an atom. The particle called an atom in modern physics, which has been split into sub-particles – protons, neutrons, and electrons – is certainly misnamed.
Now that I have shown you how to develop a scientific theory of the nature of the universe based upon observation, I will leave it to your own judgment about whether or not the theory of Atomism, also known as the Atomic theory, is correct or not.
1- Richard P. Appelbaum and William J. Chamblis, Sociology, Second Edition (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1979), p. 14.
3- John Weiss, The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations (New York: Standard Book Company, 1944), p. 643.
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