Quotations about   hypothesis

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So we have to make guesses in order to give any utility at all to science. In order to avoid simply describing experiments that have been done, we have to propose laws beyond their observed range. There is nothing wrong with that, despite the fact that it makes science uncertain. If you thought before that science was certain — well, that is just an error on your part.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Character of Physical Law, ch. 3 “The Great Conservation Principles” (1965)
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Added on 10-Jan-20 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) Austrian zoologist, ethologist, ornithologist
On Aggression, ch. 2 (1966)
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Added on 9-May-17 | Last updated 9-May-17
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When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
(Attributed)

Reply to a criticism of having changed his position on monetary policy. Quoted in Paul Samuelson, "The Keynes Centenary" The Economist, Vol. 287 (1983), but possibly apocryphal (see here).

Variants:
  • "When events change, I change my mind. What do you do?"
  • "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
  • "When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?"
Added on 21-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth, ch. 7 “A Woman’s Courage” (1864) [tr. Malleson]
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Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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Theories are only verified hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine [Introduction à l’Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale] (1865)
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 23-Jan-15
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I like the scientific spirit — the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine — it always keeps the way beyond open.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Remark to the author (4 May 1888), Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations [ed. W. Teller (1973)]
Added on 12-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-14
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The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge” (1870)
Added on 18-Dec-13 | Last updated 18-Dec-13
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I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. … I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that’s true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it’s possible or not, but whether it’s going on or not. Whether it’s probably occurring or not, not whether it could occur.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Meaning of It All (1998)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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The inexperienced, and crackpots, and people like that, make guesses that are simple, but you can immediately see that they are wrong, so that does not count. Others, the inexperienced students, make guesses that are very complicated, and it sort of looks as if it is all right, but I know it is not true because the truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Character of Physical Law, ch 7 “Seeking New Laws” (1965)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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