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Hypothesis and mere speculation

  1. Apr 20, 2012 #1


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    Hi all,
    I have a bit out of track question and may be this shall go to philosophy section.

    On one hand, I often see posts where some amateur/non physicist posts some speculative idea or hypothesis. Others go onto argue or suggest not to merely speculate and argue like I read somewhere speculating is a game in mind. Not factual or necessarily real. So dont go for it.

    On the other hand, I read essays/journals where professionals hypothesize. They reason what if? Why not this? In fact are not all philosophical texts by leibiz, russel, kant not mere speculations?
    What emperical basis are there in Kant's Critique of pure reason book or some other?

    So what demarcates philosophy/hypothesis from mere speculation?:confused:

    Thank You.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2012 #2


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    Gold Member

    Speculation means:

    a. Contemplation or consideration of a subject; meditation.
    b. A conclusion, opinion, or theory reached by conjecture.
    c. Reasoning based on inconclusive evidence; conjecture or supposition.

    The use of hypotheses in science is typically done when using the scientific method, which is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. The steps of the scientific method are to:
    Ask a Question
    Do Background Research
    Construct a Hypothesis
    Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    Communicate Your Results

  4. Apr 20, 2012 #3


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    The term hypothesis is more likely to be used when a means for testing the hypothesis is available and/or proposed in the hypothesis. A speculative theory is somewhat more difficult to test; we don't have any way of confirming it in the near future.
  5. Apr 20, 2012 #4
    But what if the way it could be tested exists but cannot be tested simply for a lack of capital? Should that exclude someone from drawing conclusions based on existing data? For that matter the scientific method could be said to be out-dated with the introduction of the internet(access to confirmed scientific data that is acreditted). I guess what Im asking is if an experiment has been repeated many times (sometimes becoming a process that we use everyday) then must you replicate the experiment simply to make obeservations that will not change but could be used to support a hypothesis? I also have to ask about phenomen that have yet to be "fully" explained. I know most of my scientific heroes have been subjected to disdain for not thinking main stream but ended up becoming the forefathers of modern science. Would it not be more productive to have open speculation on subjects that have reached a stop? Wouldnt bouncing ideas off of several minds in a more casual manner be more productive when a "hive" mind is now becoming possible? Speculative theory...Isnt speculation what bridges scientific gaps and moves science forward without having all the answers (as DPA said). sometimes a hypothesis exists as speculative theory for many years as inconclusive data that later becomes conclusive once understood. Could it be that its the questions we need to be looking for that fit the data?(in opposition of scientific method)
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012
  6. Apr 20, 2012 #5


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    Gold Member

    Speculative theories are useful to science for just the reasons you mentioned. Speculating in “public” is how new and novel ideas can be reinforced and advanced or shot down because others contribute pro or con. No doubt there have been really great discoveries made by folks who started out with a speculative idea…that is, one without any empirical evidence at the time.

    One reason our forum, Physics Forums, demands discussion of scientific phenomena to be backed up by “peer reviewed” scientific journals and sources is to draw a clear distinction between speculation and “mainstream” science. There is a place here for “reasonable speculation”: it’s called:

    “Skepticism & Debunking Forum”
    “The purpose of the Skepticism and Debunking forum is to consider possible explanations for unexplained phenomena and discuss advertised product claims. Reasonable speculation and hypotheses based on established science are welcome however overly-speculative and illogical proposals are against the rules. Assuming an unproven premise is therefore not allowed, for example: when discussing UFOs it is reasonable to discuss known phenomenon such as lightening, airplanes etc but propositions of unevidenced phenomenon such as aliens, ghosts etc are not acceptable.”
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