Thursday 4 April 2013

Just a theory - misused words in science

Scientific American discusses 7 words used by scientists that are often misused or misunderstood by lay-people.
From "Hypothesis"
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for something that can actually be tested. But "if you just ask anyone what a hypothesis is, they just immediately say 'educated guess,'" Allain said.
The key difference seems to be a hypothesis is not merely "an educated guess" (three words) but "an educated guess that can be tested." (four more words).

Richard Hoppe, at Panda's Thumb, gives an example that explains the difference.  First, he quotes Professor Behe that an experiment testing an Intelligent Design claim could be tested- sounds like a hypothesis, right?  But then Hoppe notes that Behe states we can know nothing about the Designer and Its abilities.  He then imagines the experiment runs its course and bacteria flagellum appear...
. Does that mean that evolution works and ID is “disproven”? Not at all. After all, since we know nothing about the skill set and intentions of the putative designer(s), it’s possible that the designer(s) somehow ‘watched’ our culture, and sometime during the course of the generations ‘reached’ in and poofed a flagellum into existence on one of the bacteria.

  We can see that Behe claim is more of an "educated guess" than a hypothesis as it is not testable  - the results would always be inconclusive.

I honestly do feel that it was an educated guess rather than a wish, hope or dream, which terms my cynical side wanted me to use.

Anyway, the other terms and their misuses interested me as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment