When something happens, your brain has learned to ask why. It wants to be able either to stop it happening again, or – if it was something nice – to repeat it. Science now offers a way of looking at the world that has removed much of the fear and superstition that troubled previous generations. But its “laws” are no more than well-tested best guesses at how the universe really operates.

Events without cause are a worry,
For we like to know why they arose.
“Help!” cries the brain, in a flurry,
“Is there a reason, d’you suppose?”

So it dreams up ingenious hypotheses
And challenges you to invest in them.
It often produces a lot of these,
But leaves you to set about testin’ them.

In the past, brains would posit that forces
Deployed by a devil or god,
Had summoned their mystic resources
To conjure up something so odd.

So we’d sacrifice, worship and pray
To the powers we thought were involved,
That good fortune would soon come our way
And our transgressions all be absolved.

But nowadays, science has taught us
A method of testing the claims
That our mental activity’s brought us,
So that what is most likely remains.

Yet “most likely” is never enough.
We describe our conclusions as “laws”,
But to say that we’re “certain” is tough,
For we’re not in control of the cause.

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