Date: Mon May 03 1993 17:26:14 UFO - [This text originally used in discussion of definitio

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Mon May 03 1993 17:26:14 From: David Bloomberg UFO ------------------------------- [This text originally used in discussion of definition of "hypothesis" vs. "theory". -- D.B. ] From _College Chemistry_, 8th Edition, by Henry F. Holtzclaw, Jr. and William R. Robinson (U of Nebraska and Purdue U, respectively), D.C. Heath and Company, p. 10 (anything in all caps was boldfaced or italicized in original): "The Scientific Method Your study of chemistry will be concerned with the observations, theories, and laws that give this science its foundation and that form a framework into which information fits to make an integrated area of knowledge. This framework develops from the pursuit of answers to many questions, each of which can be subjected to experimental investigation by an approach often called the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Scientists identify problems or questions through their own observations and experiments or from the observations, experiments, and conclusions of others. (Problems are often identified when experiments do not go as expected.) The first step in applying the scientific method to a problem involves carefully planning experiments to gather facts and obtain information about all phases of the problem. The results are examined for general relationships that will unify the observations. Sometimes a wide variety of observations can be summarized in a general verbal statement or mathematical equation know as a LAW. One example is the law of conservation of matter (Section 1.3), which summarizes the results of thousands of experimental observations. More often, however, a tentative explanation is suggested. Such a proposal is called a HYPOTHESIS. For instance, Dalton attempted to explain why mass is conserved in a chemical reaction when he first presented his ideas, which were really hypotheses, of the atomic number of matter. A hypothesis is tested by further experiments, and, if it is capable of explaining the large body of experimental data, it is dignified by the name THEORY. Dalton's ideas have been so extensively tested that we now refer to the atomic theory. Theories themselves can prompt new questions or suggest new directions in which additional information can be sought." From _Outlines of Physical Chemistry_, by Farrington Daniels (U of Wisconsin), John Wiley & Sons, Inc. P. 4: "SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Chemistry and all other sciences are based on experimentally established facts. When a number of facts have been collected and classified, we may draw inferences as to the probably behavior of systems under conditions which have not been investigated. When a number of phenomena have been observed and studiedd with exact measurements, we can often develop a LAW which will predict the behavior of similar systems under different conditions. The law is not necessarily an expression of infallible truth but is rather a condensed statement of facts which have been discovered by experiment. It enables us to obtain facts which are needed without continued recourse to experiment. Natural laws may be discovered either by the correlation of experimentally determined facts, as we have just shown, or by means of a speculation as to the probable cause of the phenomenon in question. Such a speculation regarding the cause of a phenomenon is called an HYPOTHESIS. After an hypothesis has been subjected to the test of experiment and has been shown to apply to a large number of phenomena it is termed a THEORY." The Third College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of American English, gave the following under SYN for theory: "SYN.--THEORY, as compared here, implies considerable evidence in support of a formulated general principle explaining the operation of certain phenomena (the THEORY of evolution); HYPOTHESIS implies an inadequacy of evidence in support of an explanation that is tentatively inferred, often as a basis for further experimentation (the nebular HYPOTHESIS); LAW implies an exact formulation of the principle operating in a sequence of events in nature, observed to occur with unvarying uniformity under the same conditions (the LAW of conservation of energy)" The following has been added as an update, to further bolster the above: "`Theory' -- to a scientist -- is a concept firmly grounded in and based on facts, contrary to the popular conception that it is a hazy notion or undocumented hypothesis." -- New Orleans Geological Society, 1985


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank