Teaching Disciplined Hypothesis-Formation
In the Hypothesizing Exercises to follow we will be dealing with potential scientific hypotheses. These are based, ultimately, on evidence rooted in common experience and investigative procedure enjoying rather broad consensus.
A. Let's begin with some special preliminary definitions:
Note 1: In the sciences, a theory is a form of knowledge, unlike in non-scientific discourse which tends to confuse the terms theory and hypothesis and treat theory as weaker than knowledge. In science, unlike in everyday language, nothing is just "mere theory."
Note 2: Disconfirmable hypotheses achieve the status of theory not so much by being confirmed by fact, as by avoiding disconfirmation by contrary evidence. That is, by withstanding critical experiments. (See Knowledge: the Residues of Practical Caution.)
A critical experiment is an investigation undertaken to disconfirm a given hypothesis. B. The nature of hypothesizing has been a item of dispute among scientists and philosophers for a long time. Nonetheless, there are some general "rules of thumb" which are generally agreed to so long as one does not apply them uncritically.
The first rule, Disconfirmability, is this:
The second rule, Relative Simplicity, (also called Ockham's Razor) is this:
The third rule, Groundedness, is this: ... (continued on complete pdf document)
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