I think we should stop using the words: hypothesis, theory, law in regards to the nature of science.
How can we improve everyone’s ideas about the nature of science? I think there are three words that we shouldn’t use.Word 1: Hypothesis
In my opinion, this one is the worst. The worst science word ever! Well, not ever, but currently. Try this. Find some people and ask – what is a hypothesis? Just about everyone you ask will say:
“A hypothesis? That’s easy. A hypothesis is an educated guess. BOOM! Give me another easy question.”
This is exactly why we should abolish this word. It has been reduced to a word association game. What is an educated guess anyway? That doesn’t even make sense. But what about hypothesis testing? What about science fairs? How can we do these things without the word “hypothesis”? I would recommend not requiring science fair posters to use the word hypothesis. As for hypothesis testing – I will let that stay.
What does hypothesis really mean? Well, from the Middle French hypothese, it means the basis of an argument. This isn’t so bad, but it does NOT mean a guess. I think the best current use of the word hypothesis is the testable predictions from an idea. Let’s look at an example. Suppose I have this idea that a constant net force on an object will make it go at a constant speed. In that case, my hypothesis will be that if apply a constant force to an object, it will indeed go at a constant speed. This could be tested in actual and real life.Word 2: Theory
How about we continue to pretend to ask people what this word means. Here is my generic human answer. Yes, I am gearing this response towards the general population in a slightly negative way. I’m sorry about that. I don’t mean to say that humans are stupid but rather the use of this word has transformed into a negative use.
“A theory is a scientist’s crazy idea about how something works. Really, when something is a theory, it may or may not be true. You know, like evolution. It’s just a theory.”
What is a theory?A theory can replaced with another word – see below. But as it is, a theory is a scientific idea. It’s not just a crazy made-up idea or wild guess. No, it is an idea that is supported by evidence. Does that mean it’s true? Actually, science is not about THE TRUTH. I will talk more about this in a bit.