The First Law (Barseghyan-2015)

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This is an answer to the question Mechanism of Scientific Inertia for Epistemic Elements that states "An element of the mosaic remains in the mosaic unless replaced by other elements."

The First Law Barseghyan 2015.png

The First Law was formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015.1 It is also known as the law of scientific inertia. It is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available answer to the question.

Broader History

The logic behind first law of scientific change is comparable to that behind Newton's first law of motion. It identifies a 'null case' in which no outside forces are acting and therefore, nothing changes.

The idea that scientific changes occur only when an alternative is available was not stated in the form of a law prior to Barseghyan's Laws of Scientific Change1, but the idea is implicit in past concepts of scientific change. Although Karl Popper stressed the importance of empirical falsification in his view of scientific theories, he did not believe a theory with falsifying instances should be abandoned unless a better substitute was available 2. "In most cases", he wrote, "before falsifying a hypothesis we have another one up our sleeve".3

Thomas Kuhn wrote of paradigms4, or later of a disciplinary matrix5, as the set of shared commitments held by members of a scientific community, including theories, concepts, and methods. What Kuhn called normal science was the task of expanding the range of phenomena that could be explained in terms of the paradigm. He believed that this task seldom produced major novelties. The opportunity for fundamental change arose only during a crisis produced by the accumulation of anomalous findings that resisted explanation in the terms of the paradigm. Kuhn wrote that "falsification, though it surely occurs, does not happen with, or simply because of, the emergence of an anomaly or falsifying instance. Instead... it consists in the triumph of a new paradigm over the old one".4p. 147

Lakatos similarly wrote that "Contrary to naive falsificationism, no experiment, experimental report, observation statement or well-corroborated low-level falsifying hypothesis alone can lead to falsification. There is no falsification before the emergence of a better theory" (Emphasis original).6p. 35

Scientonomic History

The first law of scientific change was introduced by Hakob Barseghyan in The Laws of Scientific Change in 2015.1 It has not subsequently been modified.

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this theory:
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016The law became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.Yes

Question Answered

The First Law (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to theory the following question: What makes the epistemic elements of an agent's mosaic continue to remain in the mosaic?

See Mechanism of Scientific Inertia for Epistemic Elements for more details.


The following passage from The Laws of Scientific Change summarizes the gist of the law:

According to the first law, any element of the mosaic of accepted theories and employed methods remains in the mosaic except insofar as it is overthrown by another element or elements. Basically, the law assumes that there is certain inertia in the scientific mosaic: once in the mosaic, elements remain in the mosaic until they get replaced by other elements. It is reasonable therefore to call it the law of scientific inertia.1p. 123

The First Law for Theories

The First Law for Theories Barseghyan 2015.jpg

An accepted theory is not rejected unless there is a suitable replacement, even though sometimes that replacement may simply be the negation of the theory. For example, Issac Newton's theory of universal gravitation produced small errors in predicting the movements of the planet Mercury.1p. 125 Throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it was noted that predictions of the time when the disk of Mercury would appear in transit across the sun's disk were off, sometimes by hours, or even as much as a day. These anomalies caught the attention of the French mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Leverrier, who proposed an explanation consistent with Newton's theory in 1859. Mercury, he supposed, was being perturbed by the gravitational pull of an unknown planet orbiting closer to the sun. The hypothetical planet, named Vulcan, was searched for, but never found.7 Newton's theory had other predictive failures as well, but these did not lead to the rejection of the theory. It was not rejected until after 1915, when Albert Einstein showed that Mercury's movements could be explained by his new theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity.8

The First Law for Methods

The First Law for Methods Barseghyan 2015.jpg

Formulated for methods, the first law states that the implicit expectations employed in theory assessment will continue to be employed until they are replaced by some alternate expectations.


No reasons are indicated for this theory.

If a reason supporting this theory is missing, please add it here.

Questions About This Theory

The following higher-order questions concerning this theory have been suggested:

If a question about this theory is missing, please add it here.


  1. a b c d e  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. ^  Thornton, Stephen. (2016) Karl Popper. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from
  3. ^  Popper, Karl. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson & Co.
  4. a b  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  5. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1977) The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. University of Chicago Press.
  6. ^  Lakatos, Imre. (1970) Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. In Lakatos (1978a), 8-101.
  7. ^  Fontenrose, Robert. (1973) In Search of Vulcan. Journal for the History of Astronomy 4 (3), 145-158.
  8. ^  Clark, Ronald W. (1971) Einstein: The Life and Times. World.