What is the difference between a hypotheses and a theory?
In the media, Internet, and even in science these two terms are used as if they can be interchanged. Why is it that they should not be interchanged in everyday conversations. What can we teach the reader about how properly to use these two terms?
Hypothesis is a piece of conjecture, with no evidence whatsoever. A theory has some evidence suggesting a truth. For example, Darwin originally hypothesized that evolution is how a species adapts. Once he was able to make clear and scientific measures in the Glapagos Islands, he began to develop a stronger theory that eventually became accpeted as fact. See?
so then there can be weak theories or theories with flaws?
Hypotheses do have evidence if similar tests have been performed before. Only in uncharted research territory is a hypothesis pure conjecture, and then it usually exists as two opposing alternatives.
Hypothesis is an educated guess. When a hypothesis is proven scientifically, then it becomes a theory.
it seems like a read somewhere or maybe heard it some place... that in science there is nothing sadder than a theory ruined by a single awkward fact...
With the exception of a related mathematical proof, there is no such thing as "proven scientifically." A hypothesis is based on theory, not used to form one.
Everything begins with an idea, or a hypothesis, which may or may not be based on facts or observations. In time, if sufficient evidence emerges to support the hypothesis, it will then become accepted as a scientific theory. If more evidence emerges in support of the theory, and there is wide acceptance of the theory as fact, at some point, it will become accepted as a scientific fact.
Is scientific theory the same as a scientific fact... or does that cross a line into what is considered a law... i.e the law of gravity?
A theory is a fact wannabe - nearly a fact but not quite. A scientific fact is proven beyond any doubt while for a theory, some uncertainty still exists.
Theory still has 'holes' in it. Like the theory of dark matter or physics at the level of quarks.
Theory never becomes fact. It explains fact (i.e. natural law). Gravity is a fact. The theory is that the attraction is related to mass and all objects possess gravitational force.
Hypothesis is the question while theory is a belief that has proof but leaves room for error
Hypothesis is based in something(s) unknown. Theory is based on certain surmises, assumptions or definite unknowns.
Interchanging the two means that the circumstances are really unknown. it happens sometimes in ghost stories, it adds to the thrill.
Wow. I am amazed at how many do not understand the scientific method.
In statistics, the hypothesis is unknown and has a corresponding null hypothesis. Only the null can be accepted or rejected, not the hypothesis itself. In science, the word "proof" applies to absolute mathematical computation and therefore is never used in the field or laboratory.
The purpose of scientific research is to either explain a natural phenomenon (due to natural law). Unless you are on the cutting edge of scientific research and the experiment calls for the application of statistics, the scientific hypothesis is based on an existing theory. It does not become a theory. A hypothesis is simply a conjecture about what will happen and does not state cause but may be based on an assumption of cause.
If the null is rejected, you do nothing. The hypothesis may be correct, or it may be just as incorrect as the null (i.e. there is actually no correlation between factors). Only after repeated results by other researchers can a trend be established and a cause for the observation (theory) proposed. If the null is not rejected, then your hypothesis is likely incorrect. Further experiments may be performed for verification. The fact that the null is not rejected does not mean it is supported by default.
You should never hear these terms used interchangeably in science. It is likely you are not consulting a true research-based source, or else you do not actually understand the meanings of these terms. The reason they are used so interchangeably in other facets of society is that others like you do not know the difference, but some (as evidenced by the incorrect assertions among these comments) who do not know are convinced that they do.
@ Courtney Burke: awesome answer... Sadly, I have hear these terms interchanged in a science setting... It is usally a clear sign that whomever is talking may not be the expert that they claim to be. I also hear theory used extensively in politics.
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