A Critique of the Hypothesis, and a Defense of the Question, as a Framework for Experimentation

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Clinical Chemistry (Impact Factor: 7.91). 07/2010; 56(7):1080-5. DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2010.144477
Source: PubMed


Scientists are often steered by common convention, funding agencies, and journal guidelines into a hypothesis-driven experimental framework, despite Isaac Newton's dictum that hypotheses have no place in experimental science. Some may think that Newton's cautionary note, which was in keeping with an experimental approach espoused by Francis Bacon, is inapplicable to current experimental method since, in accord with the philosopher Karl Popper, modern-day hypotheses are framed to serve as instruments of falsification, as opposed to verification. But Popper's "critical rationalist" framework too is problematic. It has been accused of being: inconsistent on philosophical grounds; unworkable for modern "large science," such as systems biology; inconsistent with the actual goals of experimental science, which is verification and not falsification; and harmful to the process of discovery as a practical matter. A criticism of the hypothesis as a framework for experimentation is offered. Presented is an alternative framework-the query/model approach-which many scientists may discover is the framework they are actually using, despite being required to give lip service to the hypothesis.

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    • "First, hypothesis-driven research makes the researcher prone to subjectivity and even bias, because he enthusiastically wants to confirm his own ideas (Greenwald et al. 1986; Glass 2010; Jewett 2005; Firestein 2012). Second, although empirical studies are usually presented in a confirmatory or test-based fashion, they are in fact often question-driven, iterative and exploratory in nature (Feelders 2002; Glass 2010; Henseler et al. 2014; Rigdon 2012; Sarstedt et al. 2014). In that sense, our study is thus not so fundamentally different from mainstream research, except for the fact that we openly acknowledge its iterative nature. "
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