Here’s a thought experiment and a challenge for philosophers and scientists alike:
Imagine there are two universes, A and B, exactly alike in all ways except one.
In universe A there is a physical law that dictates and governs the behavior of coin flips. Every coin that is flipped in universe A is caused by this law to produce the exact following predictable pattern, 50 heads, 1 tail, 50 heads, 1 tail, and so on…
In universe B there is no such physical law governing the behavior of coin flips. However, by coincidence, meaning, without any cause, there is the exact same predictable pattern in every coin that is flipped, 50 heads, 1 tail, 50 heads, 1 tail, and so on…
The challenge then is to design an experiment that can detect within which one of these two universes the experiment was actually carried out. Remember that both universes behave exactly the same way and indeed are exactly the same in every way but one. In universe A there is a governing law that causes the predictable pattern but in universe B there is no law. It’s merely a very large coincidence that coin flips have that exact same predictable pattern every time.
If you’ve been honest with your mental construction you will realize that there is no possible experiment that can be performed to tell the difference between these two universes. That’s because the claim that there are “laws” that govern the universe, is an unempirical claim. But wait, there’s more.
As you can already see, the idea of physical laws that govern the universe is already on shaky empirical ground. The question now should be, “does the idea of physical laws that govern the universe add any explanatory power?” No, nothing is gained at all. When asked why there is a constant relationship between massive objects, it is no more informative to be told that there is a law that governs it than to be told, “that's just the way it is”.
Some might claim this view of nature threatens to “pull the rug out from under us” at any moment. Things that have been predictable so far, because they aren’t being controlled, may suddenly veer off course into randomness at any moment. The proper response to this is, so what? This is a problem for all of science. The problem of induction specifically points out that we have no reason to believe that a “sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past”. Likewise, there’s no reason to believe these laws that govern things won’t simply change at any time, just as randomly, as purely descriptive laws would. Either some things will continue to be predictable in the future or they won’t and there’s no way to know in advance. Neither view of laws, prescriptive or descriptive, gives any reason to believe differently.
So then what exactly is the point of thinking that these laws govern and control things? There is no point. The idea of physical laws that govern the universe is a throwback to religion and should be rejected outright based on a lack of empirical evidence. I don’t know what else to call the apparent belief that invisible forces are somehow controlling my every thought and action other than metaphysical “woo”.
“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” -Delos B. McKown