Word Disagrrement

I ran across an article [Link] entitled “The Difference Between a Fact, Hypothesis, Theory, and Law In Science” that illustrates that there are differences in science. It presents the definitions:

  • Fact: Observations about the world around us. Example: “It’s bright outside.”
  • Hypothesis: A proposed explanation for a phenomenon made as a starting point for further investigation. Example: “It’s bright outside because the sun is probably out.”
  • Theory: A well-substantiated explanation acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation. Example: “When the sun is out, it tends to make it bright outside.”
  • Law: A statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some phenomenon of nature. Proof that something happens and how it happens, but not why it happens. Example: Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.

It’s quite close but it rather widely misses the mark. The problem seems to be that it ignores testability. Until something has been tested it is untrustworthy, and the degree of trustability and accuracy is a matter of how much it can be trusted.

For example, consider fact. In particular consider Boyle’s “matter of fact” which IMHO is a more useful approach. Something is a matter of fact if it has been tested/verified/validated under several conditions. This speaks primarily to the inherent untrustworthiness of the individual human. It speaks to why articles are refereed. In Boyle’s case the way he established a matter of fact was to have a group of people watch his experiments and independently tell what they observed.

Now let’s consider conjecture. This is a term unconsidered by the article author. What he calls a hypothesis is actually a conjecture. A hypothesis is an explanation of some phenomena that has been tested a significant number of times but not to the point of being a theory.

Now it’s someone else’s turn to add on.

Advertisements