From PhilPapers forum Philosophy of Physical Science:
The Logic of Physics: Some Problematic Concepts
Reply to Hachem El Ouggouti
The Logic of Numbers
Sometimes a theory comes that seems to explain all the numbers.
I gave one example in Through the Looking Glass: Is the distinction between "real" and "virtual" image real? . Another one was given in The Michelson Interferometer. By the way, if my analysis is correct, Michelson did not prove that there is no ether, and Lorentz's equations have no reason to be. What does that make of Relativity Theory?
For those who still wonder why, the whole experiment rested on the assumption of interference fringes that could be measured as an indication of the two beams traversing each a different distance, or the same distance in a different time. Once the status of the fringes is put to the question the whole line of reasoning starting with Young and ending with Einstein, Bohr and their respective gangs, becomes at least very doubtful.
Those two examples illustrate reasonably well what I mean by the logic of numbers. We give a certain interpretation to a physical phenomenon and a specific meaning to our calculations of that same phenomenon. Those calculations form then the basis of further experiments, the results of which we have to interpret again. We cannot ignore the first interpretation and have to come up with a story, a theory, which takes it into account. This is where the genius of individual scientists comes into play. They are like playwrights that have been given a few gossips and are expected to weave a coherent scenario out of them.
There is only one important caveat: the scenario has to take into account any new calculations that can be made. The writer is not allowed to let his imagination roam free of reality.
The hope is that the more calculations are made, the more reasons we will have to believe in the authenticity of the scenario.
That is counting without the genius of thinkers to adapt their scenario to new facts.
What is therefore the value of any scientific theory? It depends what you expect it to do. If it is seen as a real explication of nature, then you are bound to be disappointed, or at least surprised, every once in a while. Par contre, if you consider it as a means of streamlining your exploring efforts and making sense of empirical facts, then theory remains indispensable.
Just remember. There is no guarantee of proof. A scientific theory can never be more than the script of an episode in a never ending series. Even dead characters can be brought back to life. Like the corpuscular theory of light. The waiting now is on the comeback of the ether in a non-Einsteinian form. That wouldn't surprise me at all. Even if it still wouldn't convince me.
Let me finish with what might be considered as a daring, if not gratuitous remark. Relativity as well as Quantum Theory are based on the validity of the results given by (a version of ) the Michelson Interferometer. Where does that leave them if it turns out that this device is not showing what these theories assume it does?
[see Quantum Computing: Myth or Reality?,]