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Accept that the handling of scientific error, as defined by Machado-Marques and Patton, is compatible with the theory rejection theorem.

The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by Paul Patton and Sarah Machado-Marques on 1 August 2021.1 This modification presupposes the acceptance of Sciento-2021-0003. The modification was accepted on 8 October 2021.


In 2018, Maxim Mirkin and Sinan Karamehmetoglu raised the issue of whether cases of scientific error were compatible with the theory rejection theorem. They were concerned that it appeared as though, in cases of error handling, a theory was simply being removed from the mosaic without being replaced by any other theory. The first law of scientific change states that "an element of the mosaic remains in the mosaic unless replaced by other elements". The first law, together with the compatibility corollary can be used to deduce the theory rejection theorem, which states that "A theory becomes rejected only when other theories incompatible with the theory become accepted".

Having analyzed several instances of scientific error, we show that scientific error handling, when properly analyzed, is fully consistent with the theory rejection theorem.1 Instances of scientific error typically involve the rejection of one or more of the premises of the argument that leads to the erroneous conclusion as well as the conclusion itself. In most cases, first-order propositions of the original erroneously accepted theory are replaced by other first-order propositions incompatible with them. In some cases, however, first-order propositions are replaced by second-order propositions asserting the lack of sufficient reason for accepting these first-order propositions. In both cases, such a replacement is fully consistent with the theory rejection theorem.


Theories To Accept

Questions Answered

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

  • Mechanism of Error Rejection: When epistemic agent discover that a theory was accepted erroneously, they often reject the theory; the theory rejection theorem suggests that those propositions are replaced by something. What are they replaced by?


The modification was accepted on 8 October 2021. The commentators agreed that "the historical cases of scientific error identified and treated by Machado-Marques and Patton effectively demonstrate the compatibility of instances of scientific error with the theory rejection theorem".c1 c2 c3 It was agreed that the rejection of a theory that was accepted erroneously can be "a result of the acceptance of other theories incompatible with it - be these some first- or second-order theories".c4 c5 c6 One commentator expressed a common opinion when saying that "the authors are able to put to rest concerns about the handling of scientific error potentially contravening the theory rejection theorem".c7

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  1. a b  Machado-Marques, Sarah and Patton, Paul. (2021) Scientific Error and Error Handling. Scientonomy 4, 21-39. Retrieved from