Hypothesis

Although theory is a narrower concept than philosophy, it is a broader term than hypothesis. A good theory is capable of generating many hypotheses. A hypothesis is an educated guess or prediction specific enough for its validity to be tested through the use of the scientific method. A theory is too general to lend itself to direct verification, but a single comprehensive theory is capable of generating thousands of hypotheses. Hypotheses, then, are more specific than the theories that give them birth. The offspring, however, should not be confused with the parent.

Of course, a close relationship exists between a theory and a hypothesis. Using deductive reasoning (going from the general to the specific), a scientific investigator can derive testable hypotheses from a useful theory and then test these hypotheses. The results of these tests—whether they support or contradict the hypotheses—feed back into the theory. Using inductive reasoning (going from the specific to the general), the investigator then alters the theory to reflect these results. As the theory grows and changes, other hypotheses can be drawn from it, and when tested they in turn reshape the theory.

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