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                Scientific theories cannot be proven. However a hypothesis or a theory is accepted as truth, when it produces the best explanation of what we can observe. We can never prove a research hypothesis true, but by using parsimonious theories in our research we can certainly approach the truth.

According to Karl Popper, falsifiable theory is scientific, and a theory that cannot be falsified is not scientific (1). The principle of Falsifiability was not to determine the true or false, or the acceptability of a theory. Simply saying that something is falsifiable doesn’t mean that it is false. Karl Popper believed that “no theory is completely correct, but if not falsified, it can be accepted as truth.”

Theories are very often strongly backed up with experiments. But no matter how much evidence in form of experiments we have about certain theory we can never prove it. Let’s consider the famous example of black swan problem. One could be reporting white swans for ten years, yet still cannot claim that all swans are white. This is simply because single black or even pink swan will disprove the theory. 

As we carry out new experiments, we gather more information about certain field. In some cases we can prove a hypothesis or a theory false. If this happens the entire field might all of a sudden change direction, very often by 180o. This is what Thomas Kuhn named paradigm shift (2). One of the examples of this is that cancer was first thought to arise from ‘germ cells’(3)(Wicha M.S., 2005), now we know that cancer arises from cell mutation.

So to conclude it is not possible to prove are research hypothesis. Even If a theory is backed up with enormous amount of evidence in form of experiments. That’s because one single experiment can change the entire view on the subject.




(1)                 http://www.experiment-resources.com/falsifiability.html

(2)                Thomas Kuhn, 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

(3)                http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/4/1883.short

(4)           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_DjHkn0Kp8



Comments on: "Is it possible to prove research hypothesis?" (6)

  1. Jessicaaro said:

    In psychology it is true that we cannot prove theories, but I just wanted to point out in other subjects such as chemestry you are able to “prove” a theory, it either work or it doesn’t in a chemical reaction for example. I’m sure you know that though.
    It is a good thing in psychology that we can’t prove something totally because it encourages further research into a field of study. Hopefully this helps to stop complacency and keep us up to date with the times, as we know very well in psychology the time period a study or therapy took place is a very important factor in a study credibility. In the medi-eval period the practiced method to prevent the plague was to smoke tobacco or burn brimstone because of “miasma” aka bad smells. Now of course we know better but it is a good example of the benefits of continuing to research a topic, even if it is widely believed to work.

    Cures for the plague – http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/cures_plague_1665.htm
    Medical literature: how to keep up and why – http://www.annals.org/content/105/1/149.short

  2. Jessicaaro said:

    You need to turn moderation off

    • (Not a comment)
      I am sorry about your comment. I did my best to turn off approval (and it worked in all cases exept for yours). and i was away so could’nt approve it. Sorry about it again.

  3. proof is providing evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth. Using this definition then it is possible to prove theories, but when it comes to the statistical analysis regardless of the significance level there is always the possibility that something has occurred through chance.

    • “There’s no proof on Gods existence, but many evidence says He does.”

      The Earth and the Universe are full of very complex things that might be evidence that God created them, and it is hard to believe that they are simply the outcome of the Evolution.
      Here are some examples:

      1) The complexity of the Earth suggests a deliberate Designer who created our lives and the Universe.
      2) The Universe had a start, what was the cause?
      3) Why does the Universe operate by the laws of nature.
      4) The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.
      5) “We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him”.
      6) “Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us”.

      Have I just proven God’s existence?


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