November 17, 2003
By definition the compensating conception is such a theoretical construction which contains a mistake in its foundation. This mistake is compensated by additional hypotheses. These additional hypotheses are chosen in such a way that the compensating conception can describe a series of physical phenomena. When the set of considered phenomena expands, more additional hypotheses are needed for description and explanation of new physical phenomena.
Well known example of compensating conception is the Ptolemaic doctrine in celestial mechanics, which contains the false statement on the Earth's immobility. The Ptolemaic doctrine explains very well the planet's motion, the lunar and solar eclipses. But in the framework of the Ptolemaic doctrine one could not discover the gravitation law, or calculate the trajectory of a rocket flying to the Moon. In other words, the compensating conception is unable to further development.
Further development of the celestial mechanics appeared to be possible only after a correction of the false statement on the Earth's immobility. This correction was made by Copernicus. Copernicus version of the celestial mechanics appeared to be enable to further development, as it is well known from the science history.
The compensating conception avoids long reasonings, because the compensating conception is an inconsistent conception, and its inconsistency can appear in a long reasoning. If the reasoning is short (additional supposition -- test of its direct corollary) the inconsistency does not catch to be displayed.
The quantum theory is another example of a compensating conception. Here there are two mistakes:
Quantum theory contains additional hypotheses (quantum principles) and describes very well nonrelativistic physical phenomena of microcosm. But it has failed to describe the essentially relativistic quantum phenomena.
Compensating conceptions were existing for a long time (Ptolemaic doctrine was existing in several centuries, and quantum theory is existing in almost a century). Many generations of researchers worked with them. They knew no other conceptions except for the compensating conception. They thought that any theory must be a compensating conception (i.e. a theory with features of a compensating conception).
To develop the existing theory they tried to invent new (more perfect) additional hypotheses, which could describe new physical phenomena. The idea that one should to discover a mistake in foundations of the theory to correct it and to remove all additional hypotheses was considered as a heresy. Besides, it was very difficult to discover the mistakes, because discovery of mistakes needs long strict reasonings. Technique of any compensating conception avoids long reasonings, they a replaced by additional suppositions. This way of the theory development seems to be simpler and more effective. Most researchers conceive a perfect theory as a compensating conception with well chosen additional hypotheses. They tried to invent these perfect additional hypotheses, but they failed, because these perfect hypotheses do not exist. One needs only to find and to correct the mistake. Copernicus made this, and the celestial mechanics began to be developed.
The Newtonian slogan "Hypotheses non fingo" is very actual in this situation, because it closes the door before the idle search of perfect additional hypotheses.
Considering the well founded theory as a compensating conception, most researchers think that they consider a compensating conception. They demand that the well founded theory have the properties of the compensating conception and would be tested easily. Any compensating theory is tested easily, because its additional suppositions are chosen in such a way that they would be tested easily. The well founded theory has no additional hypotheses, which could be facilitate its test. For instance, the Copernicus doctrine was testing in the period more than a century before its validity was proved, and its advantages became clear.
A characteristic test for a new compensating conception looks as follows. Author of a new compensting conception is suggested to answer the following question: What new effects does your theory explain?" It is, indeed, a test, but it is a test only for the compensation conception. This test determines to what extent the new suppositions made in the suggested theory are general and effective. But it is not a test for the well founded theory, because this theory does not contain any additional hypotheses. Test of the well founded theory is a test for the whole theory, but not for some new part of it, because any new part of the well founded theory is a mathematical corollary of its fundamental principles. One needs a long time for such a mathematical development, if really new physical phenomena are considered.
For instance, if the mentioned question would be asked to Copernicus, he could not answer it positively. Only having discovered the gravitation law, Newton could answer positively this question. But the gravitation law was discovered more than a century later.