KRONOS Vol II, No. 2 Winter 1976
(The Problem of Hypothesis)
First published in PSA 1974; Reprinted with
R. S. Cohen et al.(eds),PSA 1974,487498. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 1976 by D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland.
A. M. PATERSON
Professor E. A. Burtt(l) suggested that we might add "tertiary" qualities to
our primary and secondary qualities when we undertake an analysis of
reality. These tertiary qualities are the ones embodied in the human
institutions of the world. He suggests that we may be arranging nature with
our methodologies due to main conditions in us rather than due to main
conditions in nature. Nothing can provide the satisfactory generalized
concept of the world that does not entail extensive historical analysis
of the major factors that have conditioned us, according to Burtt. The
new cosmology would hardly be worth the effort, if it were merely the
synthesis of scientific data or the logical criticism of the basic
assumptions of that data, for Burtt. Sound insight must supplement
scientific data and its assumptions, through the reasoned expression of the
intellectual insight of all the ages. He goes on to point out that we see
readily the role that wishful thinking has played in older methodologies,
but we do not understand the role that wishful thinking plays in our own
methodologies. The mechano-morphic period was absorbed in the mathematical
nature of physical motion: they ignored the ultimate suppositions that they
used in order to frame their laws and their
hypotheses. Clarification is necessary and cannot proceed without the
historical studies that can expose the fundamental motives and human factors
in each of the characteristic analyses that have been adopted. In choosing
between hypotheses of two kinds, the tertiary qualities are at work in us.
The rise and fall of scholarly interests is conditioned by factors as yet
totally unexplored. Burtt goes on to state that though science may reject
final cause, it does harbor in its fundamental categories functioning
values or tertiary qualities that remain completely unseen. A comparative
study of the different stages of the growth of scientific thinking would
throw light on the nature of our models of the universe and the tertiary
qualities of the structure of contemporary scientific procedure.
As Bridgman points out: In "pure physics" the problem of the "observer" must
eventually deal with the observer as thinking about what he observes.
Historically, and also in our time, the logical foundation of the natural
sciences has been founded and grounded for the sake of usefulness and wealth
for man. Problems of controlling natural bodies have been studied primarily
for the purpose of gaining technology that would yield fruitful patents and
political power. Analysis of the course that mechanics carved out
demonstrates this graphically. The story of mechanics is a record of rapid
appropriation of experimental results into technology and the scrapping of
leftover implications if they held no immediate payoff for industrial
giantism or national political edge.
We can observe that serious and critical scientific insights have
been systematically shelved and laid to rest for 50-100-200 years, until
the technology that proceeded without comprehensive theory became
blocked, unwieldy, and chaotic due to lack of understanding of the
primary processes that were involved.
Then and only then, in desperation for further progress in profit, a
neglected generalization or analytical clue would be retrieved from the
junk heap to serve the technology. In this way, science has limped
along with ad hoc hypotheses and the narrow ranges of validity that
these hypotheses yield. This is in service to ongoing industrial wealth
and national power. The myth of purity in the sciences has arisen in
the scientific community as a compensational device. As disinterested
pursuit of truth lost its virtue early in the game, the purity that had
been rejected from scientific goals was claimed to be housed in
scientific ways and means. It is clearly understood, as one
analyzes the record, that from 1650 to 1850, science tinkered
technologically and mathematically with the primary processes of
physical theory, which were already well known, but these primary
processes were unwanted because they involved true or scientific
hypothesis rather than ad hoc hypothesis. In scientific hypothesis, a
scientist remains disinterested insofar as he stands willing to go
wherever the data might lead. During these years, science was
mechano-morphic, and these models suppressed all unwanted data.
As Bruno taught, "we only look for the fruit of the trees that we
ourselves plant." Or as Planck observed, we tend to suppress the common
nature of all phenomena.
Expectancy, then, determined their hypotheses, and their hypotheses
determined their results. Results that were outside of their expectancy
and were due to nature were ignored. No mathematics was developed for
them during this time.
Bruno noticed that "Each man takes enough fruit to fit his own bowl." In
this way, the comprehensive development of natural science has
experienced heartbreaking "academic lag".
Philosophers follow rich men, according to Bacon, and the Socratic maxim
"know thyself" has been scrapped. The acquiescence of critical
philosophy and the flight of philosophers into Romanticism in the 19th
century speaks for itself. As Bacon would say: "We have not had a whole
man working." Today, things have changed. We have a philosophy of
science that holds the promise of becoming a critical philosophy. The
danger is present, though, that our philosophy of science will tend to
become a mere handmaiden to mechano-morphic science. We have played the
handmaiden role before. We must never play it again. There is a middle
way; but it does not call for the intimidation of the philosophical
search. The middle way for philosophy of science calls for firm and
rigorous watchdogging. We are the watchdogs of intellectual integrity
and intellectual freedoms.
In 1888, the American Academy of Science reminded us that Young had been
evaluated by his colleagues like this: "the absurdity of this writer's
'law of interference' as it pleases him to call one of the most
incomprehensible suppositions that we remember to have met with ....
This paper contains nothing which deserves the name of experiment or
discovery; and it is, in fact, destitute of every species of merit."(2)
The scientific lords also wrote on Ohm's book: "He who looks on the
world with the eye of reverence must turn aside from this book as the
result of an incurable delusion, whose sole effort is to detract from
the dignity of nature." And again on Ohm: "a physicist who professed
such heresies was unworthy to teach science." Ohm was penniless for six
years because he was "unworthy to teach". And again at the trial of
Deforest: "Deforest has said in many newspapers and over his signature
that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the
Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately
misleading statements, the misguided public, Your Honor, has been
persuaded to purchase stock in his company."
And Crookes wrote: "We have actually touched the borderland where matter
and force seem to merge into one another. I venture to think that the
greatest scientific problems of the future will find their solution in
this border land". The orthodoxy immediately said of his work, "How
beautiful and how useless", and did everything they could to keep young
men from being exposed to him, because he was dangerous.
Let us not forget that the principle of
conservation of energy had to be explicated by five men, none of whom
was a physicist. Helmholtz, a physiologist working in sound; Camot, an
engineer; Joule, an industrialist and brewer; Colding, an engineer; and
last but hardly least, Mayer, a physician who calculated the mechanical
equivalent of heat and who was labeled by scientists a freak or a madman
and driven to a suicide attempt by the isolation and ridicule of the
keepers of orthodoxy.
We have here a record that is a disgrace. Cultural lag is one thing,
but academic lag is inexcusable. The man in the street makes no
advertisement or commitment to full and open inquiry. The scientist
does. So do the philosophers.
It is the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of the "partial view"
mistaken for the "whole". This is a special problem in physics and
astronomy today. The idea that all of the special sciences are
reducible to physics is ridiculous. Especially when we see that what
passes for physics is natural philosophy developed in special areas of
interest for various phenomena. The phenomena (man included) do not
belong to physics. The phenomena constitute the great book of nature,
and, as deSebonde insisted over 500 years ago, "The great book of nature
can be intelligible to every man."
We see that technology uses the accumulated everyday experience
of the human race along with scientific theories. The interplay
here is crucial. We also see that mechanics was developed only after
insemination of physics by chemistry, electrical engineering, optical
and auditory experiments, and medicine. There is no disciplinary purity
to be seen in the grasping of successful scientific understanding of
natural phenomena. On the contrary, until the relationships between
laws of light, sound, chemistry, electricity, heat, and mechanical
energy were understood, researchers explained mechanical energy in terms
of the power of the horse. After insemination of mechanics by the
heterogeneous phenomena, mechanics was explained in mathematical terms.
The wedding of astronomy to mechanics was a camouflage necessary at that
time of Newton. Much of the pictorial modeling in science has been
empirical camouflage. As Bacon taught, if one would transplant
knowledge from one century to the other, he must quietly and in an
unnoticed way graft onto the knowledge—plant at its root—so that the
change would seem to occur naturally. For the change would start out as
a tiny helpless green shoot, and the keepers of knowledge-plants would
get used to it gradually and even believe that they brought it about,
It has taken 250 years for us to get used to the idea that terrestrial
phenomena can be explained without the models of practical mechanics.
The same job remains to be done now for astronomy.
The accumulated record of man in his physical environment includes his
experience with stars, moon, planets, and the sun, but early in the game
these physical bodies were tied to a rich-emotional milieu. The time
has arrived to sever the intellectual analysis of these physical bodies
from old cultural hysterias. To hold that ancient reports of human
experience (set aside in holy books) are the sole basis of scientific
knowledge is, of course, ridiculous. But to hold, because some
records of ancient human experience have been previously set aside
as holy books, that they cannot now be used to demonstrate the
source of careless metaphysical assumptions by the human race—is
equally ridiculous. The law of uniformity is one such metaphysical
Analysis can demonstrate that human life devised this principle as a
means of coping with unpredictable global physical catastrophe. The
basic laws of both analytical psychology and behavioristic psychology
demonstrate the avoidance phenomenon that humans develop in order to
cope with massive anxiety. The hypothesis of racial amnesia is stated
by Dr. Velikovsky:
The memory of the cataclysms was erased, not because of lack of written
traditions, but because of some characteristic process that later
caused entire nations, together with their literate men, to read into
these traditions allegories or metaphor where actually cosmic
disturbances were clearly described.
This hypothesis is actually a scientific or site(3) hypothesis, as
opposed to technological hypotheses, such as a working hypothesis or an
ad hoc hypothesis. The site hypothesis is a statement of
admittedly unproven assumptions that are adopted as a basis for
Ancient written experience is used in all the natural sciences. It is
sorted out and sifted through analytically. Only relevant parts of the
material are used for the scientific perspective. It is not a case of
all or nothing at all.
We have always ignored much of Newton. He spent over fifteen years
writing material not relevant to scientific perspective. We must ignore
a lot of Kepler, Bruno, Descartes, Cusanus, Occam, and Archimedes, etc.,
because not every idea they left behind is relevant to the scientific
perspective. And yet, as we sift through their works carefully, we find
the clues relevant to our scientific perspective. It is the same for
all of the ancient records that report human experience.
Scientists decide to accept Chinese records of the sudden appearance of
the Crab Nebula, because it fits their expectations. They reject some
of the historical evidence cited by Velikovsky, because it does not
fit their expectations.
But to arbitrarily take the position that some books are automatically
off limits to analysis, because of the way past cultures have
used them, is a case of political expediency for the scientific
orthodoxy. As philosophers of science, should we support academic lag
on that basis?
Let us look at Dr. Velikovsky's hypotheses in terms of their predictive
successes. The record is overwhelmingly a success. Yet the astronomer,
like the 19th century "physicist", prefers to wait, and after the
actual fact to look around for an ad hoc hypothesis to cover it.
This will not do. The immature need to retain the pictorial image -
e.g., the "greenhouse effect" - must be given up. Physics had to give
up its "pictures", and astronomy must also yield.
Actually, the battle is over. Dr. Velikovsky has emerged the victor
because his scientific hypothesis that there have been physical
planetary catastrophes in historical times has been proven to have
enormous predictive power. For example, a few from very, very many may
be listed: Radio noise from Jupiter, strong charge on Jupiter ( 1953);
[Earth's extensive magnetosphere ( 1956); An extensive magnetic field
in the solar system extending to Pluto (1946); The Sun is charged
(1950); Venus is very hot, has a heavy atmosphere, and was disturbed in
its rotation and may have an anomalous rotation (1950); Mars' atmosphere
contains quantities of argon and neon (1945); Mars is moon-like,
battered, and geologically active (1950); There have been many reversals
of Earth's magnetic poles (1950); Some of Earth's petroleum was
deposited only a few thousand years ago (1950).
And successful deduction about the Moon: Hydrocarbons, carbides, and
carbonates will be found (July 2 and July 21, 1969); Strong remanent
magnetism in rocks (May 19, 1969); Pockets of radioactivity (March 14,
1967); Excessive argon and neon in the regolith (leading to incorrect
age estimates) (July 23, 1969); Steep thermal gradient under the surface
(July 2, 1969). ]
A scientific or site hypothesis is a statement of admittedly unproven
assumptions that are adopted theoretically as a basis for inference of a
predictive nature. In this site hypothesis, inference is pointed in a
certain direction but is not limited in that direction. The parameters
of this fundamental or site hypothesis may be very broad or very narrow
in scope. If this site hypothesis is very narrow, the range of this
hypothesis is broadened by re-adjustment of the site itself through
deductive inference from working hypotheses in combination. This is a
logical fanning out from an analytic position gained through reflection
upon a combination of working hypotheses.
A working or techno-hypothesis is a statement that attempts to explain a
particular physical process that takes place during a particular
physical experiment, and so it involves making provisional
assumptions with vested interest in the experiment. Another type of
techno-hypothesis is the ad hoc hypothesis that provides a
reasonable description of the physical experiment, and so it suggests
that there is a physical explanation for that particular experiment,
and the job that the experiment does.
The site hypothesis provides the fundamental parameters of a scientific
theory that usually has been demonstrated with various models. These
models are actually constituted of three levels of hypotheses, ad hoc,
working and site or scientific. With the site hypothesis in view,
reflexion fans out the collapsed position of deep analysis that is an
attained working hypothesis. When the reflexive flow that is directed
toward the site hypothesis indicates any chance of a "fit" into the site
model, analysis takes over and picks up the scent, to pursue the
possibilities. The coupling is accomplished through analytical
deductive inference. This entails the collapsing of the reflexive flow
into the mould of the analytical deductive inference. A simpler working
hypothesis is now achieved.
From this newly achieved position, and still in view of the site
hypothesis, reflexion fans out the new material. This dialectical
process of reflexive fanning out and analytical collapsing of the
material under study can proceed without limit. However, the site
hypothesis demands parameters. It is crucial that the site hypothesis
be constantly dilated to accommodate all the families of ad hoc
hypotheses that are supporting the numerous working hypotheses that
eventually combine to form ground for remodeling the site hypothesis.
Since a working or techno-hypothesis attempts to explain a particular
physical process that takes place during physical experiment, it
involves making provisional assumptions of a general and peculiar
nature. These working hypotheses are written in the highly technical
language of mathematics. Using the precision of the mathematical
language and the mathematical inference, the working hypothesis
establishes an objective frame of reference within which site or
scientific hypothesis can be expressed in terms of the ad hoc hypothesis
that first generated it.
The working hypothesis sits between the site or scientific hypothesis
on the theoretical side and the ad hoc hypothesis on common sense side.
The working hypothesis integrates these two logical thresholds by
demonstrating in mathematical terms and operations what kinds of
inferences are being used in order to thread the ad hoc experiment into
the theoretical logic of the site or scientific hypothesis being used.
The working hypothesis is the co-incident of the ad hoc hypothesis and
the site hypothesis (a global methodological perspective). It
represents the conceptual lift-off from the ad hoc operation, in
coincidence with the basic assumptions of the site hypothesis or global
methodological perspective that is involved. This formulation involves
an analytical collapse or deductive inference that provides a theorem to
the basic axioms or assumptions of the site hypothesis or global
methodological perspective. The richer and more structural this
mathematical formulation is, the more families of ad hoc hypotheses it
will include. There will be entire families of ad hoc hypothesis
covered by a deeply reflexive working hypothesis. If the site
hypothesis has been well chosen, it will be able to support myriads of
these working hypotheses and their innumerable families of supportive ad
We see here a regular pattern of intermittent fanning out reflexively
and collapsing analytically as the three levels of hypothesis are
accomplished. These complementary logical operations move the reasoning
forward from the ad hoc to the site level as surely as the caterpillar
is able to move forward by this style. And in human gait, the same
phenomenon can be understood. Ambulation is achieved by the dialectic
of expansion and contraction operations. Human logic focused on
conceptual problems operates by the same physical law.
In the techno- or working hypothesis, the statement is understood ahead
of time to be inadequate to explain or control the facts that have
appeared. However, because a limited part of the new facts can be
handled through such an hypothesis that it can control an interesting
fragment of the new facts, this type of hypothesis can be used. It is a
function of special interest in a very fragmentary portion of a
phenomenon. The chain of higher level reasoning that follows the
adoption of this techno-hypothesis eventually will support deductions
that will help form the statement of a scientific or site hypothesis.
Or this techno-hypothesis can lead to simple formulations that can
logically fan out, and at that level this fanning can suggest a
deduction that fits into the site hypothesis.
The second kind of techno-hypothesis is the ad hoc hypothesis.
This type I shall call the inductive hypothesis, because it does not
catalyze deductive fall out. Its range of validity is not only narrow,
but this range is unlike the narrow range that might be involved in
either the working hypothesis or the site hypothesis. This narrow range
of validity is tied to the common sense by a direct relationship. The
success of this ad hoc hypothesis is tied to simple observation.
The one redeeming feature of the ad hoc hypothesis is that the human
agent present in the demonstration of this hypothesis can (IF HIS
LOGICAL OBSERVATION RUNS AHEAD OF WHAT THE AD HOC HYPOTHESIS
DEMONSTRATES) extend the results of the ad hoc hypothesis. These
inductive extensions usually involve analogy and memory in a very active
and trained mind totally immersed in the relevant problem. The ad hoc
hypothesis is the one that the technicians who live by government
subsidy will prefer. Here, they take a very small calculated risk, and
results are pretty well guaranteed. It is slow, and it is safe.
However, it has nothing to do with the disinterested pursuit of truth
and is instead the father of technology and applied science.
It is the scientific or site hypothesis that the truly disinterested
curiosity yearns to produce. The record demonstrates that the ability
to abandon the senses at the correct stage in reflexion is the only way
in which the objects under analysis can appear under the discipline of
the reflexive reason. Here, the objects under analysis are no longer
pictorial images. Instead, they are structural relationships that the
reflexive reason can readily arrange in structures that the intellect
Perhaps the most crucial characteristic involved in these three levels
of hypothesis is flexibility and contingency. Whereas, the procedures
within each hypothetical step may be certain and necessary, the steps of
hypotheses themselves must be capable of expansion as the staircase of
Speculative and descriptive method are integrated to produce what is
commonly called the empirical method. To proceed merely by speculative
method is also impossible. The rub comes in when it cannot be decided
what can be included as descriptive data. For Dr. Velikovsky and a host
of other scientists, ancient written records can be submitted to
critical scrutiny in order that distinct descriptions of cosmic
disturbances experienced and recorded by the human race can be
recognized and used. Tertiary qualities generated by socialization
patterns must be set aside by the scientist who scrutinizes ancient
Analysis is merely the function of reason. Reason faces both the senses
and the intellect. The descriptive method uses the sensual side of
reason and its function, analysis. The reflexive method is based in the
reason but faces the intellect or structural reasoning (mathematics).
The reflexive method entails the stripping of descriptive pictorial
images into structural relationships. This is accomplished by
logically restructuring them with the active suggestions of the
intellect, which stands over the objects under reflexion much like a
lamp. In this way, the reflexive capacity can yield strictures from
deductive relationships (working hypotheses). These reflexive
structures (models) themselves can be taken under the reflexive study,
and the denuding of these structures can yield sophisticated remodeling.
Sophisticated remodeling of the scientific or site hypothesis may also
be the result of direct, severe reflexion on and analysis of, raw
descriptive data. In this case, the remodeling appears as idio-
syncratic or novel. These re-modelings must never be rejected
automatically because they call for a re-organization of working and ad
hoc hypotheses and a re-modeled site hypothesis. Scientific or site
hypothesis, then, is the tuber or the pod for reflexive deductions. It
can be historically demonstrated that sociological conditioning has
greatly impaired this insight. Undue fantasy has caused the faculty to
come into disgrace. Undue social control has caused the faculty to hold
tight to the ad hoc hypothesis. However, the site hypothesis is the
result of a critical and courageous, well-trained mind controlled by a
mature personality. Because we have the constant emergence of mature
personalities despite the sociological threats, true hypothesis will not
ever be completely suppressed. Because every man can form crude
hypothesis from practical experience, men of scientific reflexion are
often intimidated by the resemblance. All one can say to this is that
philosophers from Plato to Broad have understood this problem. It is
treated by the demand for reflexive, critically sufficient reasons. One
man will have them and another man will not.
Dr. Velikovsky has the proper scientific or site hypotheses rather than
the techno-hypotheses of the science that is merely a public utility.
When the site or scientific hypothesis remains in the shadow of
petrified tertiary material fed to it through working and ad hoc
hypotheses that are themselves limited to the tertiary qualities those
tertiary qualities had better be severely reflexive and analytical.
1. E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of
Modern Physical Science.
2. The quoted reactions of the scientific community to
new ideas in the past have been taken from Lloyd Taylor's book,
Physics: the Pioneer Science. This book was chosen because it is 33
years old and is an introductory physics text. Yet, its recorded
lessons have seemingly escaped the attention of the academic towers.
3. The term "site" is used here in an attempt slowly
to drop the term "scientific". The term "scientific" has been found to
be misleading and ambiguous, with no clear meaning. The concept
"hypothesis" is more logically broken down into three types, site,
working, and ad hoc.
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Garden City, New York.
Campbell, Norman Robert: 1957, Foundations of Science, Dover, New
Dampier-Whetham, William Cecil Dampier: 1929, A History of Science,
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Science, University of
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Helmholtz, Hermann von: 1904, Popular Lectures on Scientific
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translated by Ralph Manheim,
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This section revised by author 11/77.