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WesleyCramer

Question Scientific method

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Hello there,

First of all. I barely have any knowledge on science or philosophy. And Englisch is my 2nd language.
However, i do have a question regarding science.

Is it true that a scientific theory can only be overruled if someone points out the flaws in that scientific theory AND has a opposing hypothesis or theory him/her -self?
Or will a theory also be overruled if someone points out the flaws of that scientific theory without a opposing view (hypothesis or theory)?

Thank you!

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If flaws are pointed out in a theory, it can still be used within certain limits. An obvious example is Newton's law of gravity. It works in most cases, but not all. So, we can still use it, but we must only use it where it applies correctly. 

I wouldn't worry too much about it being "overruled." That's not a scientific term. It's great when a new hypothesis is better and offers a more clear description of how nature behaves, but it's not required.

All scientific theories are subject to change and replacement. We use them within specific constraints where it makes sense. My larger point, however, is that a new hypothesis is NOT required to show limitations of existing ones nor to adjust how we use it.

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It is sufficient to demonstrate that the theory fails, but as iNow points out, it may be that the theory only fails under certain circumstances, in which case it would still be useful where valid.

Ohm's law, for example, does not apply to all devices, but we still use it where it applies. Phlogiston, on the other hand, was completely discarded, as were many early models of the atom, even though there were no valid replacements until QM came along.

 

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16 minutes ago, WesleyCramer said:

Hello there,

First of all. I barely have any knowledge on science or philosophy. And Englisch is my 2nd language.
However, i do have a question regarding science.

Is it true that a scientific theory can only be overruled if someone points out the flaws in that scientific theory AND has a opposing hypothesis or theory him/her -self?
Or will a theory also be overruled if someone points out the flaws of that scientific theory without a opposing view (hypothesis or theory)?

Thank you!

You could disprove a theory or a hypothesis just by showing evidence that contradicted it. 

it isn't necessary to have an alternative theory. For example, back in the 19th century it was found that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury could not be explained by Newtonian gravity. So, at that point, it was known that Newtonian gravity was "wrong".

It took about another 50 years before a new theory of gravity was produced (General Relativity). So Newtonian gravity was still used. And, because it is still good enough for many purposes, it is still used today.

But often the evidence that shows one theory to be wrong, is also the key evidence that allows a new theory to be developed (for example, the transition from the phlogiston theory of combustion to the one based on oxygen).

 

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1 hour ago, WesleyCramer said:

Is it true that a scientific theory can only be overruled if someone points out the flaws in that scientific theory AND has a opposing hypothesis or theory him/her -self?

The best strategy for anyone with very little science knowledge is to ask questions rather than assume a perceived flaw makes a theory invalid. "Am I right in thinking this is flawed?" is going to be more appropriate than "This theory is FLAWED!" Science knowledge is so layered that it's easy to make bad assumptions based on all the things you don't know. For discussion purposes, the conversations are always more meaningful when questions are being answered as opposed to assertions being debunked.

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2 hours ago, Strange said:

You could disprove a theory or a hypothesis just by showing evidence that contradicted it. 

it isn't necessary to have an alternative theory. For example, back in the 19th century it was found that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury could not be explained by Newtonian gravity. So, at that point, it was known that Newtonian gravity was "wrong".

 

Not exactly.   For a good while, Mercury's abnormal precession was thought to be caused by a yet undiscovered body orbiting closer to the Sun.  This had precedent in the discovery of Neptune, which existence was first suspected due to unexpected changes in Uranus' orbit.

The hypothetical planet, dubbed "Vulcan", was searched for, and of course never found ( though there were some false alarms), but the search for this "missing planet"  did continue into the 20th century.   It really wasn't until the solar eclipse observations of 1919 provided empirical evidence for Einstein's theory that the search for Vulcan was generally abandoned by astronomers.

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2 minutes ago, Janus said:

Not exactly.   For a good while, Mercury's abnormal precession was thought to be caused by a yet undiscovered body orbiting closer to the Sun.  This had precedent in the discovery of Neptune, which existence was first suspected due to unexpected changes in Uranus' orbit.

The hypothetical planet, dubbed "Vulcan", was searched for, and of course never found ( though there were some false alarms), but the search for this "missing planet"  did continue into the 20th century.   It really wasn't until the solar eclipse observations of 1919 provided empirical evidence for Einstein's theory that the search for Vulcan was generally abandoned by astronomers.

Good point.

So this is an example of the observations not being (fully) explained by the current theory and so a new hypothesis (Vulcan) is suggested as a solution. This is similar to Neptune, as you say, but also the discovery of neutrinos (I read that one hypothesis at the time was that perhaps the law of conservation of energy was wrong; or, at least, only true on average), dark matter, dark energy and no doubt others.

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Theory can only be overruled or disproven by experiment.  There is always ample evidence against theory to question it but it requires experiment to show it is wrong.  For instance a stone rolling down a hill doesn't fall straight down as theory predicts.   An experiment showing something doesn't fall straight to the center of gravity without intervening forces or objects would disprove our theory of gravity.   

Of course such a thing has never been  never observed under controlled conditions.   

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47 minutes ago, Strange said:

Good point.

So this is an example of the observations not being (fully) explained by the current theory and so a new hypothesis (Vulcan) is suggested as a solution.

Yes, good example. And that was according to protocol — you have a successful theory, and the first option when you have a piece that doesn't fit is to see if there is something at work which fits within the theory. Which is why we are searching for dark matter.

 

47 minutes ago, Strange said:

This is similar to Neptune, as you say, but also the discovery of neutrinos (I read that one hypothesis at the time was that perhaps the law of conservation of energy was wrong; or, at least, only true on average), dark matter, dark energy and no doubt others.

I'm not sure how seriously a suggestion that energy conservation was violated was taken, but as we see today with alternative theories for dark matter, like MOND, you will find a wide spectrum of (sometimes fanciful) alternatives show up. We say it with the "superluminal" neutron issue from Gran Sasso a few years back. A lot of tachyon talk popped up.

The big picture, though, is that people invariably look at multiple solutions, even if some are somewhat outlandish and get debunked pretty strenuously. (Thinking of the "science is dogma" nonsense that popped up recently)

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