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Accept the definition of compatibility, as the ability of two elements to coexist in the same mosaic. Also replace the zeroth law with the compatibility corollary.

The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by Patrick Fraser and Ameer Sarwar on 28 December 2018.1 The modification was accepted on 3 June 2020.


The current zeroth law of scientific change is problematic in many respects. First, it pertains only to epistemic elements that are part of the mosaic, and says nothing about the compatibility of elements outside the mosaic. In addition, unlike the other accepted laws of scientific change, it attempts to explain the process of scientific change from a static perspective that deals with the state of the scientific mosaic at some particular point in time, rather than a dynamic perspective that describes the actual mechanics of the process of scientific change. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the current zeroth law is tautological, as it pretty much restates what is implicit in our notion of compatibility. While there is currently no explicitly accepted definition of compatibility, it can roughly be explicated as the ability of two elements to coexist within a particular mosaic. If this is what we currently mean by compatibility, then the formulation of the current zeroth law is a direct consequence of it, which means that the law lacks empirical content. For all these reasons, a series of modifications are necessary, including the replacement of the zeroth law with a new definition of compatibility, and the compatibility corollary, which collectively preserve the gist of the current zeroth law.


Theories To Accept

Compatibility (Fraser-Sarwar-2018).png

Compatibility Corollary (Fraser-Sarwar-2018).png

Theories To Reject

Questions Answered

This modification attempts to answer the following question(s):


The modification was accepted on 3 June 2020. While the modification induced a few comments on the encyclopedia, it became accepted as a result of discussions that took place mostly offline. It was agreed that the modification "comes to remedy one of the glaring omissions" in the current zeroth which doesn't "say much above and beyond what is already implicit in the notion of compatibility"c1 as it "is lacking in empirical content, and should be replaced with a definition of compatibility".c2 It was also noted that the proposed "definition of compatibility criteria... captures the gist of the concept as it has been used in our community".c3 It was also agreed that "the compatibility corollary follows from this definition".c4 c5 Finally, the community accepted that the definition and the corollary "recover the content of the Zeroth Law".c6

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  1. ^  Fraser, Patrick and Sarwar, Ameer. (2018) A Compatibility Law and the Classification of Theory Change. Scientonomy 2, 67-82. Retrieved from