What is law of nature explain?

 

What is law of nature explain?


Perhaps we should begin with some critical thinking…. Think of the sun and the moon, how they periodically repeat their movements. Think about when you wake up in the morning, you would first of all meet the dawn, that is when night (which is always dark) is gradually giving way to daytime (which is always light).

Nighttime is always associated with some difficulties such as not seeing clearly the material things of nature, while daytime gives us light which enables us to see things very well.

You know that this is what everyone of us experiences ever y time — nighttime giving way to daytime and daytime leading us into nighttime and vice versa.

Do you know that these events are related to the daily ‘movement’ of the sun? When the earth turns its face towards the sun, that region of the earth will have daylight, when it turns its back, the region will have nighttime.

And you know that this is a continuous event which man has observed right from ancient times. This daily motion of the sun is simple to observe while the annual motions are far more difficult to observe. Both motions are also related to other important events that occur on earth such as the seasons.

In Nigeria, there are both the dry seasons and the rainy seasons while in European and American countries, they have winter, spring, summer, and autumn. These seasons as you know occur regularly, one changing into the other.

Thus there is much regularity in nature which mankind has had to recognize for survival since human beings emerged as a species. 

These include births and deaths, storms and calms, the solid earth and the ever-restless seas, etc. The pattern and regularity of these changes can be expressed as rules or laws.

These laws are called natural laws because they are derived from the natural properties of objects and phenomena.

This topic — the laws of nature — is the topic of discussion for this unit. You can see that it’s going to be an interesting article.

These articles will help you to understand a lot of natural events. And whenever such events are being discussed you would not be a novice there.

At the end of this article, you should be able to outline briefly the components of the laws of nature, explain clearly the term ‘gravitation’ and  discuss, vividly, the law of uniformity of nature.

 

What is Law of Nature?

Law of nature, in the philosophy of science, a stated regularity in the relations or order of phenomena in the world that holds, under a stipulated set of conditions, either universally or in a stated proportion of instances.

From the introduction, you now have an idea of what the law of nature is. Would you be able to define it when asked to do so?

The discussion in this section will help you. Some people believe that some regularity is figments of human imagination. They say that the human mind leaps to conclusions because it cannot tolerate disorder or chaos. Thus it constructs regularities even when none objectively exists (Encyclopaedia Britannica: 1995).

These true regularities must be established by an impartial or unemotional examination of data.

Science must, therefore, employ a certain degree of doubt criticism to prevent premature generalizations. Science also insists on getting explanations of the causes of these regularities. It, however, does not permit some kinds of causes.

For instance, attributing some causes to spiritual and divine forces is not permissible in science.  Since scientists believe that the world is comprehensible, that is, understandable because there is order in the world, finding the causes of these regularities wouldn’t be problematic. A theory explains how things are related or their common properties.

In other words, when the properties and relationships between things are discovered, including their pattern and regularity of changes, they are then expressed as theories. A good theory, if you can remember from our , article (whatare the scientific theories)  as a predictive value. It prophesies certain results. But scientific prophecy does not say that something will certainly happen, but says only that something is likely to happen with a stated degree of probability. 

Thus theories that have proved to be so universally valid or true, that is, they are true anywhere in the world and have such a high degree of probability, are called natural laws.

That means that not all theories are laws and laws also do not pronounce certainties. Based on this can you give an example of a natural law? The idea of a law-governed universe assumes that the universe unifisorm. Our ability to predict events and apply the fundamental laws of the sciences depends on this law of uniformity. That is why J.S. Mill cited in Nwala (1997) defined laws of nature as ‘nothing but the uniformities, which exist among natural phenomena’.

Thus, laws of nature refer to, that is, encompass the following:

1. Those uniformities found in nature (that is uniformities in behaviour, function, relations and properties of things).

2. Established connection of successive events which make up the order of the universe.

3. Established theories through scientific research (Nwala: 1997).

 

Examples of laws of nature

This includes:

1. Law of the uniformity of nature

2. Law of causation

3. The law of gravitation

4. The law of natural selection

 

Belief in the uniformity of nature

There is a general belief that the universe and all aspects of it are lawgoverned and that the ordinary events or procedures of nature are uniform (Nwala: 1997). 

This belief is found in primitive and traditional thought as well as in modern scientific thought. The birth of children, death, growth, normal and abnormal occurrences, lightning and thunder, the seasons, day and night, etc: these phenomena are usually explained in terms of general rules or causal laws.

In traditional thought, these laws are believed to have a spiritual and teleological character. This means that in traditional thought, when these events occur, for instance, death, the traditionalist believes that it was the gods who caused the death to occur and also that the death occurred for a purpose.

Teleology is a view that developments occur because of the purpose or design they serve. 

Therefore, traditional people look for the purpose for the occurrence of any event. If a tree, for instance, breaks or a house suddenly collapses, traditional mind will seek to explain such a happening in terms of the purpose, interest and wishes of some spiritual forces.

Thus, the principles, laws or factors, which the traditional mind uses to explain the work of nature is often speculative, that is, meditational in character.

Therefore the laws or factors may be superstitious and unreliable (Nwala: 1997). The scientist, however, explains the work of nature in terms of material, causal and rational factors. That means that the scientist reasons through and tries to find the causes by means of some activity.

 We cannot knowledge of anything unless we are able to show why and how it occurs. This knowledge is expressed in terms of general rules or laws.

Scientific laws are objective, factual and can be expressed in quantifiable (if you like mathematical) form. They are independent of our subjective wishes and interests.

Therefore according to J.S. Mill cited in Nwala (1997), it is the custom in science, wherever regularity of any kind can be traced, to call the general statement which reveals the nature of that regularity a law. Science establishes such laws through the steps of the scientific method.

You know that the steps include observation, problem definition, hypothesis formulation, experimentation, conclusion and, finally, an appropriate theory is formulated which embodies the law.

The entire universe is said to show uniform patterns and to form a united system. This view is called the law of the uniformity of nature. You will learn more about this in the next section.

The study of nature is the study of these laws and uniformities, which different natural phenomena show or exhibit. The regularities, which different phenomena exhibit, are sort of connected. They form something like a web but they can be studied separately.

 

The law of uniformity of nature

Men generally believe in the coherence, consistency or common pattern in all phenomena, which can be observed and even in non-observable ones.

Do you think that includes you? This natural sequence, regularity and pattern of behaviour of things is evidence that there is a causal order. Hence, men believe that every event has a cause, and that for anything that happens there must be a cause for it.

It is said that like events behave alike and also have similar causes. Belief in the uniformity of nature enables us to explain, predict and reproduce these events, where we can (Nwala: 1997).

Induction (a type of scientific reasoning where facts are produced to prove general statements), according to some scientists, is based on the general law of the uniformity of nature. You will learn more about induction in a subsequent article.

Since there is order and regularity in the occurrence of events, if we observe certain characteristics in a certain number of members of a class, we can assume or conclude that all members of that class must have the same characteristics.

For example, if we know from observation that all the men we have come across are mortal (that is, they die), we then conclude that ‘All men are mortal’. This generalization covers all men who have died, all those who are alive and all those who will be born in future.

From the point of view of logic (science of reasoning), the law of the uniformity of nature claims that nature is a system composed of many parts. Within this system, everything happens according to rule.

The law assumes that the universe does not change and, therefore, the law of the uniformity of nature governing its behaviour remains constant (Nwala: 1997).

David Hume cited in Nwala (1997) has criticised our concept of causation. He attributes the use of the idea ‘cause’ to the habit of anticipating one event after another because they have been associated in the past. His view is that we cannot demonstrate the idea of causation. And also that the necessary thing which links two events that are often associated together may not be there.

What is there is the habit of seeing one following the other and thereby expecting that this will always be the case. For example, red and green lights may succeed each other without causing the other. That is, red light does not cause the green light to appear and vice versa, but they might succeed each other, that is, one appearing after the other. It is good for you to know that causal notions or ideas are being replaced by statistical formulations in science.

 

The law of gravitation

In section 3.3 you were introduced to the law of uniformity of nature, which is one of the natural laws. The next natural law you will learn is the law of gravitation. What is gravitation? Gravitation is the force which pulls every object in the universe toward every other object in the universe (Arkady: 1997). It is the force that makes a body fall through space towards the earth.

Thus the force exists between all bodies. For instance, two stones are not only attracted towards the earth but also attract each other (Abbot: 1973).

Normally, we do not notice this force because of its smallness, although it can be measured with sensitive instruments. The law of gravitation first started as a theory of universal gravitation. The theory was first postulated by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) an English mathematician and physicist.

He tried to explain the behaviour of falling objects. Before this theory, mysterious interpretations had been given as the reason why objects do fall downwards when suspended in space. The theory was the first scientific explanation of the behaviour of falling Newton noted that the earth possesses some force which attracts objects towards it. This force was recognised as gravitational force. Gravitation is the attraction between masses. This is what pulls objects around towards the surface of the earth. Hence, all objects within the earth’s gravitational field fall towards the earth (Nwala: 1997).

Why don’t you experiment now? Throw up any object you can lay your hands on and see what happens. Since the earth has a centre of gravity, all objects in the universe are attracted towards this centre. It was also noted that as objects move away from the earth, the gravitational force decreases, and their weight also decreases. If you can remember the definition of a theory given in section 3.1, you would agree that this theory of gravitation has turned the fictitious idea surrounding falling objects to science. It did this by explaining theoretically and empirically why objects behave the way they do.

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which was formulated in 1905, explained the Newtonian theory properly by asserting that gravitation is a property of space. The presence of any physical substance within space causes it to curve in such a manner that a field of gravitational force is created (Eneh: 2000).

With this clarification by Einstein and others, the theory was elevated to the rank of a law. Therefore, Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that ‘any two bodies attract each other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them’. What this whole statement means is that if the mass (amount of matter) of one of the two attracting bodies is doubled, the gravitational attraction will also be doubled, but if their distance apart is doubled the force will be only one-fourth (1/4) as great (Arkady: 1977).

Newton realized that gravitational attraction applies not only to bodies on the earth but is also responsible for holding the moon in its orbit round the sun. And it is also responsible for the movement of the earth and its fellow planets in their orbits round the sun.

 

Conclusion on what is law of nature explain

In this article, you have learnt what natural laws are and how laws differ from theories. And you should now be able to give examples of natural laws. Other topics discussed here include the law of uniformity of nature and the law of universal gravitation.

From these discussions, you now know that these laws relate to events which we encounter every day of our lives.

The main points in this unit are

• Theories that have proved to be so universally valid or true and have such a high degree of probability are called natural laws.

• In general, law of nature refers to the following:

(a) Those uniformities found in nature (behaviour, function, relations and properties of things).

(b) Established connection of successive events which make up the order of the universe.

(c) Theories established through scientific research.

• Examples of laws of nature are the

(a) Law of the uniformity of nature.

(b) Law of causation.

(c) Law of gravitation.

(d) Law of natural selection.

• Scientific laws are objective, factual and can be expressed in quantifiable form.

• The entire universe is said to show uniform patterns and to form a united system. This view is called the law of the uniformity of nature.

• Gravitation is the force which pulls every object in the universe towards every other object in the universe. It is the force that makes a body fall through space toward the earth.

• The first scientific explanation (theory) of the behaviour of falling objects was given by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

• Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity which was formulated in 1905 explained the Newtonian theory further by asserting that gravitation is a property of space.

• With this clarification by Einstein and others the theory of gravitation was elevated to the rank of a law.

• The basic idea of the law is that if the mass (amount of matter) of one of the two attracting bodies is doubled, the gravitational attraction will also be doubled; but if their distance apart is doubled, the force will be only one quarter as great.

• Gravitational attraction explains the behaviour of falling objects and the motions of the moon and the planets and other motions we observe on earth.

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