Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Questioning the hypothesis

First published on the Iridescent blog on 4/9/12.

This is cross-posted on Sciencefare.

In my recent NSTA talk, I advocated a view of the scientific method that did not include the hypothesis. What blasphemy! I felt like Galileo speaking out against the Church or something. But let's face it, hypotheses are stupid and irrelevant for science in our modern age. At best, they are an artifact from the past that has long, long lost its purpose.

Now, I may have ruffled some feathers but I want to point out I'm not the only one - Douglas Llewellyn's session at NSTA 2012, "The Role of Argumentation in Inquiry" session also threw hypotheses in the trash. Additionally this excellent compilation of quotes just published on brainpickings (many from actually scientists!) makes many of the same points I make here. My favorite view of the scientific method, over at Understandingscience.org, doesn't emphasize hypotheses either.

So what is my point? To summarize, I argue that there are three main reasons why hypotheses should not be a part of science education:
  • They aren't used in all scientific disciplines equally, or at all.
  • When used, they aren't a necessary part of the process or the focus (questions are the focus).
  • Educationally, teaching hypotheses makes an otherwise intuitive process more formal and unfriendly.