Be able to explain the difference between a scientist’s use of the words theory, hypothesis, and significant and the general public's use of these words. Be able to explain why the phrase "I...

Be able to explain the difference between a scientist’s use of the words theory, hypothesis, and significant and the general public's use of these words.

Be able to explain why the phrase "I can't explain this observation" is sometimes required of good scientists.

Be able to explain the relationship between generally accepted beliefs and the rigor with which conflicting claims must be tested.

Be able to describe and contrast science with pseudo-science and scientific misconduct.

Asked on by hamidu1

1 Answer | Add Yours

gsenviro's profile pic

gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

1. A hypothesis is a testable, falsifiable, parsimonious, fruitful and specific idea or suggestion to explain an observed phenomena or instance. Theory, on the other hand, is a well-substantiated explanation for verified hypothesis. In simple terms, once a hypothesis is tested and verified based on scientific methods, it becomes a theory. A phenomena or observation or result is significant if difference can not be due to random chance, i.e. there has to be a reason for deviation from the theory or model.

When general public uses these words, their meaning may be different. For example, hypothesis is generally thought to be "educated guess", theory is "a thought in someone's head" or just a thought someone had. Similarly, significant may mean important to laymen.

2. "I can't explain this observation" is many a times used by the scientists when they are unable to explain something. Contrary to popular opinion, scientists don't know everything and even they can fail to explain something sometimes. It is a mark of a good scientist to accept that they are unable to explain something rather than provide wrong theory or conclusion for something. 

3. Beliefs are what gives ideas to scientists (by acting as hypothesis) and science evolves as people try to explain commonly held beliefs. Beliefs should, ideally, evolve as science proves them right or wrong. Beliefs should not come in the way of science and hypothesis testing. The more generally a belief is held, the more rigor is required to test it. For example, think of the time when everyone believed that Earth was the center of universe and everything revolved around it. It would take the genius of Galileo (among others) and his careful and rigorous observations of the heavenly objects to disprove it. If the belief was held by only a few, it wouldn't have required so much rigor. Similarly, think about Darwin and theory of Natural Selection. 

4. Science is characterized by testable hypothesis, verified theories and organized information. Scientists follow scientific methods. Pseudoscience, on the other hand, is only portrayed as scientific, but lacks scientific methods and cannot be tested. Some examples of pseudoscience are astrology, crystal therapy, hypnosis, etc. We can call astronomy as science because we can make observations and test hypothesis, while astrology (or idea that position of heavenly bodies affect someone) cannot be tested over a large population set. Scientific misconduct is violation of scientific methods and accepted practices. Examples of misconduct include, falsifying the data, manipulating images, fabrication of data, plagiarism, etc.

Hope this helps.

We’ve answered 318,926 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question