The Science of Simplicity

Why do scientists pursue the simple solution?

When scientists, usually physicists, wax lyrical about the importance of elegance and simplicity to their enterprise, non-scientists are bound to conclude that their sense of “elegance” or “simplicity” is rather peculiar. After all, science, in both conduct and content, is difficult and complicated – and increasingly contested. But maybe this only shows how little the lay person knows about science. It is still by no means obvious that the different sciences share any common standards of elegance and simplicity.

Indeed, the received wisdom amongst philosophers of science these days is that there is no overarching sense of elegance and simplicity to be had. The very idea is likely to be dismissed as the result of an unholy conspiracy between Platonists and positivists who would have us believe that certain perspicuous patterns in nature are self-validating. It would be as if science were a sophisticated version of finding faces in clouds or inferring aliens from crop

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