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Provide a scientific hypothesis and explain how one might go about testing it, either...

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gracedaymon | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM via web

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Provide a scientific hypothesis and explain how one might go about testing it, either by confirming the hypothesis or using Karl Popper's strategy of disconfirmation.

Discuss which of these two strategies is better and why?

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boblawrence | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 19, 2011 at 8:39 AM (Answer #1)

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Karl Popper published in the mid-20th century on the subject of science versus non-science (today called pseudoscience).  He coined the term “falsifiability” to mean that a result (of a study) could be disproved, and therefore was not scientific.

Science requires the application of the scientific method to reach results (conclusions) that can be reliably tested, have supporting evidence in nature and can be reproduced by others.

Pseudoscience is a claim or belief that is presented as scientific, but does not meet the tests of the scientific method.

Here is an example of a hypothesis and how to test it.

Hypothesis:  cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.  First, you should create a test group of smokers and a control group of non-smokers who, other than smoking, are similar to the test group (matched for age, sex, demographics, occupation and so forth).  Next you would observe over time the number of cases of lung cancer in the two groups.  Assuming the result would be higher cancer incidence in smokers, your hypothesis would be proven. Since the result was not shown to be false (the result was not “falsifiable”) then it is proven by the scientific method, and not disproven or falsified according to Karl Popper’s theory.

As to which method is better, it depends on the desired goal.  If the goal is to scientifically prove a hypothesis, then science is the choice.  If, on the other hand, one wants to propose as scientific fact something that is not, then pseudoscience is the choice.  In the case of pseudoscience, the proposal would turn out to be falsifiable.  So both methods in a way lead to correct interpretations of reality.  Science proves a valid result and Popper’s strategy reveals a false result.

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