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What's Wrong With Single Hypotheses

The classic description of the scientific method begins with devising a hypothesis.

Don Jewett(djewett@itsa.ucsf.edu)
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The classic description of the scientific method begins with devising a hypothesis. The problem with starting with a hypothesis, however, is that bias and self-delusion can arise owing to an emotional attachment to the hypothesis, as Chamberlin honestly described in 1897:

The moment one has offered an original explanation for a phenomenon which seems satisfactory, that moment affection for [one's] intellectual child springs into existence, and as the explanation grows into a definite theory [one's] parental affections cluster about [the] offspring and it grows more and more dear ... There springs up also unwittingly a pressing of the theory to make it fit the facts and a pressing of the facts to make them fit the theory ...1

The temptation to misinterpret results that contradict the desired hypothesis is probably irresistible. This mistake occurs repeatedly in the history of science. Some examples were collected by Langmuir,2 who correctly...

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