Why I often test the simpler stuff

Tom Barr

Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
Well, it's the low picked fruit first off:)

But this quote is about Karl Popper and is very much true:

"Karl Popper argues that a preference for simple theories need not appeal to practical or aesthetic considerations. Our preference for simplicity may be justified by his falsifiability criterion: We prefer simpler theories to more complex ones "because their empirical content is greater; and because they are better testable" (Popper 1992). In other words, a simple theory applies to more cases than a more complex one, and is thus more easily falsifiable."
Off Wiki..........

It's like testing a single variable vs 6 interactions, the test will generally tell you a lot about one issue(say like agriculture or Horticulture) or much less about all 6 (like in natural systems Ecology). Folks often use such multivariate stat's and conclusions and try to apply them in a specific case in aquarium aqua culture or horticulture. It's also plainly much easier for me to test.

They are not the same and there is a lot more power and easier manipulative test we can do to test such things and falsify them(or accept them cautiously).

But as we consider our systems, while simpler, they are still multivariable.
We have Light, CO2 driving nutrient issues, we have bacterial communities, fish and plant species differences, interactions we cannot predict.
But we go down, one by pone, single parameter at a time and then build on that.

There are a great many things we do not yet know, but rather than just saying that anytime I do not know something, I'm suggesting there's a method to learn about them in a logical manner and build from a foundation.

We can add complexity and interactions later and test those, two or three at time.
You may still get a lot of power out such test also. Example is adding more light and more CO2 together vs not adding CO2 when you add more light. Then adding more light, more/less CO2 and more/less nutrients and vary just one at a time to see the effects.

That's a lot more complex a test than say seeing if high K+ causes stunting in Ammannia gracilus.

That's a very specific easier test to set up and falsify.
Like the above quote suggests, much easier than answering a multivariate one like why does algae grow in my tank?

It does not deal with other aquarist possible other causes and interactions with other variables, only that K+ alone is not the cause.
Same with old PO4 ppm readings and algae.
The trick is being able to set up the falsification test.

Not giving up and falling back on "there's so much Science does not yet know", That's what snake oil sales men say when there's no evidence for support.
Start simple then work your way up from there. So algae is a ways off, but there's a decent foundation already started.

Tom Barr