A quote by Einstein
. Also the title of a essay I wrote about said quote.
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Everything Must Be Made as Simple as Possible, and not Simpler
Before Hawking, before Kepler, and before Galileo, there was Ptolemy. Ptolemy reigned supreme among astronomers for nearly two millennia. He had reduced the heavens to a set of numbers and he could predict the motion of the heavenly bodies. He had used a dozen generations of observations, predating him by hundreds of years, all dutifully recorded, and kept for the future. The Ptolemaic system was nearly perfect, at least to the accuracy of anyone's tools in those days.
Then came Copernicus. He had a new system, no more or less accurate than the Ptolemaic system, just simpler. It proposed that the earth was not at the center of the solar system, but rather the sun was. Copernicus' system could be taken down to a few basic rules, and because of that, it was more powerful. And it was right.
In a system of infinite complexity, anything can be explained. That is, if the rules that you believe govern the world allow other rules to be added, anything can be explained in any number of ways, but it doesn't do you any good. In ancient astronomy, new circles of motion could be added, or bodies offset (epicycles and deferents, respectively). In present day quantum physics, the same can be accomplished with the addition of new types of particles or other additions. Consequently, Einstein, who rejected the theories of quantum mechanics, noting "God doesn't play dice with the universe." In order for a scientific system to be useful, its rules must be constant.
However, there is danger in taking this idea to its logical extreme. If you were to do so, you would end up with one conclusion: there exists an all-controlling god. Certain religions believe that everything is simultaneously controlled by god, there is no gravity, god wills your feet to stick; the earth and the sun don?t move on their own accord, god moves them. This belief is just as useless as an overly-complex system, neither allow for any predictions or insight into the way the universe works.
Indeed, Einstein was correct when he said, "Everything must be made as simple as possible, and not simpler." We must strike a balance in order to have any useful insight into the working of the universe.