How the Laws of Physics Lie
The essays collected in this volume may be grouped around three different but interrelated arguments for this paradoxical conclusion.
- (1) The manifest explanatory power of fundamental laws does not argue for their truth.
- (2) In fact the way they are used in explanation argues for their falsehood. We explain by ceteris paribus laws, by composition of causes, and by approximations that improve on what the fundamental laws dictate. In all of these cases the fundamental laws patently do not get the facts right.
- (3) The appearance of truth comes from a bad model of explanation, a model that ties laws directly to reality.
As an alternative to the conventional picture I propose a simulacrum account of explanation. The route from theory to reality is from theory to model, and then from model to phenomenological law. The phenomenological laws are indeed true of the objects in reality—or might be; but the fundamental laws are true only of objects in the model.