Another View on Climate

My Own View of Global Warming

What is a Hypothesis?

Posted by greg2213 on February 14, 2010

Here’s an interesting article which nicely hits two points. The first, of course, is What is a Hypothesis/Theory? Also discussed is the topic of proving a theory/hypothesis.

The second point is discussing a soft science, such as fisheries, and noting that it’s very hard to study that topic in the lab. Also discussed is why it’s hard and what is done instead.

But to just look at the part which answers the above question:

…previous information is synthesized into a theory, the theory is stated explicitly in the form of hypotheses, predictions are deduced from these hypotheses, the predictions are tested through experimentation or observations, the theory is modified or expanded on the basis of results of these tests, and the process starts again.

Hypotheses are rejected or fail to be rejected depending on study results. When data support a hypothesis, it cannot be concluded that the hypothesis is true, only that it has not been rejected. In addition, a hypothesis is only rejected or not rejected at some statistical level. The scientific method cannot “prove” that a hypothesis or theory is correct, only that alternative hypotheses or theories are rejected.

For example, the Theory of Evolution (just to pick a topic that’s a hot button for some) can never be proven, but the research into developing said theory might disprove other ideas.

Now, if Idea B comes along and attempts to disprove idea A it needs to gather supportive data, wrap it all up, pass tests, and do a better job of explaining/predicting things than A does.

If hard data is found that contradicts A then A can be proven wrong, but B will never be proven right. It will always be merely the best theory available at this time, even though it may make correct predictions. Quantum mechanics lets us make lasers that read our BluRay disks, but it’s still a theory.

To read the rest of this paper, go here: Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and the Scientific Method


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