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Uncertainty of Scientific Laws

William Shedd published his three-volume Dogmatic Theology from 1888 to 1894. He had some interesting comments on scientific laws: “The material universe is too vast for all of it to come under the notice of men’s senses. Though perhaps improbable, yet it is possible that some established and accepted generalizations, in the existing physics, may be overthrown by future observations and new phenomena. The following facts illustrate the uncertainty of which we are speaking. Water in cooling contracts down to forty degrees of Fahrenheit; then if it continues to cool it begins to expand, and at thirty-two degrees freezes, which very great expansion. Nature here reverses herself, and contradicts herself.

“The first part of her process would yield the generalization, that cold contracts substances; the second, that cold expands substances. He who should have observed only the phenomena above forty degrees, would have deduced the general law, that water invariably contracts in cooling; and were he of a certain school of physicists, he would add to this, that it necessarily contracts. If upon this planet there were no natural or artificial temperature below forty degrees, the law that cold uniformly contracts substances would be regarded as well established and indisputable as the law of gravitation.”