Jul 23, 2014

Understanding Hypothesis, Theory and Law


The terms hypothesis, theory and law have precise meanings when used in science. Generally speaking, these terms all try to provide reasonable descriptive statements about specific phenomena. The big difference, however, is the levels of confidence attributed to these terms.

The levels of scientific confidence are based on the reliability of predicted result as verified by independent experiments. Hypotheses typically have the lowest scientific confidence while theories and laws have the highest levels of scientific confidence because they are well-tested and peer-reviewed by scientists.

Contrary to common understanding, hypothesis, theory and law do not necessarily imply a continuum. A hypothesis does not always graduate into theory or law. Similarly, a law is not necessarily more well-established than a theory.


A scientific hypothesis is a tentative explanation about a particular phenomenon, set of observable facts or implications that remains to be tested. It could be derived either through deductive or inductive reasoning based on previous observations and established scientific theories or laws. Multiple hypotheses can also be proposed, refined and combined to provide a more coherent and comprehensive explanation. This typically becomes a working hypothesis, which is a provisionally accepted hypothesis that is subject to further research.

According to Schick and Vaughn, scientists who are evaluating and comparing various hypotheses should take into consideration the following criteria:

Testability or falsifiability
Parsimony or the application of “Occam's razor”
Scope – the apparent application of the hypothesis to multiple cases of phenomena
Fruitfulness – the prospect that a hypothesis may explain further phenomena in the future
Conservatism – the degree of "fit" with existing recognized knowledge-systems

Scientific hypotheses typically have high mortality when they are subjected to a barrage of tests. Very few hypotheses survive to be accepted as factual. Most hypotheses do not lead to breakthroughs even if they become a well-established fact. A hypothesis could be as mundane and narrow as explaining why there is a mold growth in a supposedly sterilized agar medium in a Petri dish or it could be a grand and complex as explaining how it is possible for biological life to arise from simple organic molecules.


Contrary to common notion, a scientific theory is not a merely speculative explanation. A scientific theory is rigorously tested to the point that it becomes a very reliable and comprehensive explanation about some aspects of nature. A theory is well-supported by a vast body of evidence that typically comes from multidisciplinary approach. The tests for the validity of a scientific theory are independently done by various experts in a particular field of inquiry, complying with the strictest scientific protocols and other criteria of modern science. A theory is proposed in a way that it can either be empirically verified or contradicted (falsified).

Scientific theories have the characteristics of being capable of providing accurate predictions. In contrast to hypotheses, which are empirically testable conjectures, theories have already undergone and survived several empirical tests done by independent scientists.

Theories may either be modified in the light of additional evidence or they may be integrated with other theories to form a synthesis such as such as in the case of the modern synthesis of genetics with the Darwinian Theory of evolution through natural selection. Very few theories well-established theories are completely overthrown.

Historically speaking, few paradigms shifts or scientific revolutions had completely overthrown well-established theories. Some common examples include the following: geocentric theory overthrown by heliocentric theory, absolute space-time theory overthrown by relativity theory, and steady state theory overthrown by the big bang theory.


A scientific law is similar to a scientific theory in terms of empirical support and wide acceptability among the experts in a particular field. However, the main differences of a scientific law with a theory include comprehensiveness, predictive capability and explanatory ability. Laws and theories are interrelated and do not have degrees of superiority compared to each other. It is a misconception to assume that a law is more established than a theory.

A law is a descriptive statement about a specific phenomenon while a theory is the explanation behind that phenomenon. In most cases scientific laws are contained within theories. For example, the three Mendelian laws of inheritance are contained within the theory of genetics. The Medelian laws describe the phenomenon of inheritance while the genetic theory explains the cause and mechanism of inheritance.

For example, the first law of inheritance (Law of Segregation) states that every individual contains a pair of alleles for each particular trait which segregate or separate before cross breeding for any particular trait and that each parent passes a randomly selected copy (allele) to its offspring. This is well-established fact that is observable when breeding diploid organisms. However, this law does not explain why it happens or how it happens.

Scientific laws are narrower in scope while theories are much broader and comprehensive. For example, the Newtonian law on universal gravitation does not apply in very strong gravitational fields such as in the case of black holes. This law may describe planetary motions and projectile trajectories but does not provide an explanation. By comparison, Einstein’s special theory of relativity does not only account for the planetary motions and projectile trajectories but explains gravity as the curvature of space-time, thereby providing explanation as to how and why the paths of motions are curved. More precise calculations can also be made using Einstein’s theory.

Philosophical Views

Scientific hypotheses, theories and laws are all based on empiricism or the idea that a valid test for truth must be based on sensory experience and evidence. As a branch of epistemology, science is primarily concerned with verifiable and provable knowledge. Hence, scientific knowledge is a posteriori knowledge.

On a stricter sense, scientific hypotheses, theories and laws are limited to methodological naturalism. This means that science is limited by facts and ideas that can be experimentally tested or empirically observed. It is based on the assumption that nature is coherent, consistent and self-explanatory.

On one hand, the logical positivists assume that scientific concepts in the forms of hypotheses, theories and laws can be deduced based on the axioms of nature. On the other hand, the semantic view assumes that scientific concepts are both inductive and deductive in nature but only provides models or approximation of reality rather than revealing the fundamental and consequential state of nature.


1. http://austringer.net/wp/index.php/2009/07/03/another-look-at-law-and-theory/
2. http://www.livescience.com/21457-what-is-a-law-in-science-definition-of-scientific-law.html
3. http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-theory-and-law/
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_law
5. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theory
6. Schick, Theodore; Vaughn, Lewis (2002). How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a New Age. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN 0-7674-2048-9.

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May 16, 2012

Religious Conservatism and Homophobia


A brief review of history will easily reveal that religious conservatism has always been anti-progress, anti-justice, anti-equality and anti-rational thought -- from the issue of slavery to racial segregation, from women’s suffrage to women’s reproductive health. Although morality and traditional values might be invoked, religious conservatism was never about morality but mainly about bigotry and backward mindset invoking the ‘god-said-it-so’ argument and the so-called appeal to absolute truth.

Same thing can be said about the current opposition of the religious conservatives against same-sex marriage. It is as if God will again bring down his capricious wrath upon the earth much in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah were allegedly consumed by fire from the sky -- well, assuming that the story was not a mere myth.

Conflicting views

It should be pointed out that not all religious people are religiously conservatives. Some are actually liberal-minded and emphasize compassion rather than condemnation. Some Christian sects such as the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland and the Metropolitan Community Church of Metro Baguio (Philippines) conduct special blessings of homosexual unions.

However, majority of these church-sanctioned wedding ceremonies and blessings for homosexual partners are still not legally binding in many countries and considered as taboo. This is especially true here in the Philippines where the mere suggestion of possible legislation in favor of LGBT rights to marry is preemptively rejected by the righteous and respectable lawmakers.


It can be argued that religious conservatism is closely related and corollary to fundamentalism. This brand of conservatism is particularly common in the three major categories of monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, namely, Judaism, Christianity (with its several thousands of sects and cults), and Islam.

Religious conservatives, in their self-righteous splendor, will unapologetically and pontifically declare that homosexuality is an abomination and a great sin. Of course, the rants of homophobic religiots (i.e., religious idiots) will not be complete without quoting some scriptural passages.

Some of the favorite biblical passages that are fondly quoted by Christian fundamentalists include Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27. Islamic fundamentalists, on the other hand, are fond of quoting Qur’an 029.028-29 and some specific hadiths or sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad.

One hadith impliedly prohibits homosexuality or at least the temptation towards homosexuality:

“Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri: The Prophet said: A man should not look at the private parts of another man, and a woman should not look at the private parts of another woman. A man should not lie with another man without wearing lower garment under one cover; and a woman should not lie with another woman without wearing lower garment under one cover.” -- Book 31, Number 4007, Sunan Abu Dawood

Spirit of the law

One should not be surprised why some Islamic teachings on homosexuality seem to correspond with the teachings of the Torah of Judaism and the Apostolic Epistles of Christianity. The historical and theological origins of Islam can be traced back to Judaism and Christianity. In fact, some passages in the Qur’an are either paraphrased or quoted from the Old Testament.

Despite of the apparent homophobic teachings of the three great Abrahamic religions, the interpretations and applications of these teachings are still dependent on the mindset of the adherents. Unfortunately, religious conservatives and fundamentalists emphasize hatred instead of compassion. They are keen on blindly following the letters of the law rather than trying to understand the spirit of the law. In their dirty minds, they confuse love from mere carnal lust. They arrogantly assume that heterosexual domestic partnership is the only valid and natural form of love that deserves to be legally protected under a supposedly secular government.

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Apr 3, 2012

Some Tell-tale Signs that You Might be a Katoliban or a Katoliban Sympathizer


1.) You completely agree that teenage girls in bikinis who post their photos on Facebook should be expelled from school and not be allowed to attend graduation, thereby ruining their future.

2.) You think that celibacy and pedophilia are compatible or at least the latter is forgivable if committed by a ‘man of the cloth’.

3.) You believe that the opinions of ‘virgins’ are authoritative when it comes to sexuality and family planning.

4.) You believe that old men wearing pointy hats have far greater wisdom when it comes to running a secular government. Hence, they should rule.

5.) You are absolutely convinced that there is a special ‘warm’ but utterly uncomfortable place for all those who do not agree with your beliefs.

6.) You have special fetish for pain and suffering.

7.) You are incapable of distinguishing dogmas from reality.

8.) You are offended by this post.


KATOLIBAN – This is a derogatory term that originated from social networking sites and online forums referring to Catholics who are religious fanatics and behaving/thinking like Islamic Talibans in terms of narrow-mindedness and backwardness. Hence, the term is derived from two words, namely, Katoliko (Filipino spelling) and Taliban. Katolibans are always trying to bring civilizations back to the glorious days of the Dark Ages.


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Mar 23, 2012



An hour for Gaia may not matter much
After all, continental drift is just a few minutes in her watch

If you think that sunrise takes too long
You have not yet tried waiting for mountains to form
Only to be eroded by wind and storm

An hour for Gaia may seem irrelevant

To her who has gathered
the oceans from millennia of rainfall
To her who has watched
the rearrangement of constellations
To her who has written
her records in sediments and stones
And waited for radioactive isotopes to decay in eons

To Gaia, the ancient one
You gave birth to life from primordial ponds
In the recesses of volcanic vents
Where organic molecules abound

From the first self-replicating microbes
To the self-conscious beings pondering the divine
Gaia, you sustain both the lowly and the sublime

An hour for you Gaia may not matter much
Merely symbolic and ritualistic it may seem
But we offer you this homage with our hopes and dreams
Please forgive us for our excesses and extremes


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Sep 5, 2011

Brute-Force Logic


I find it odd when theistic philosophers try to prove the existence of God using logic and mathematics. It seems to me that these philosophers treat God as some sort of mere abstract concept that can be manipulated by human thought and can be reduced into logical semantics, syntax, symbols and equations. In my opinion, the purported grandeur and inscrutable mystery of the Supreme Being as seen in the eyes of faith are somewhat diminished in this manner.

Just examine this symbolic ontological argument formulated by the German mathematician Kurt Friedrich Gödel to appreciate what I mean:

Tadah! God’s existence was proven as a logical theorem!

This is actually just one of the many versions of the ontological argument for the existence of God. One of the earliest and most famous formulations of this argument was posited by St. Anselm of Canterbury. The argument attempts in establishing a priori proof by using reason and intuition. It is more akin to argument by definition. St. Anselm’s formulation of the argument can be paraphrased in this manner:

“A being that than which nothing greater can be conceived cannot possibly exist only in the mind. If it exists only in the mind, then it is not really a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived because perfection implies existence. A being that exists both in the mind and in reality is a far more perfect being than a merely imagined one. Hence, God exists in reality because he is the being that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”

At first glance, Anselm’s ontological argument seems irrefutable and self-evident. It is like a tautology or stating the obvious. It would be like saying that a triangle has three sides that intersect on a plane, forming three angles and vertices. In terms of Euclidian geometry, a triangle is basically described as such. All seems to be airtight and reasonable that even simple-minded people could intuitively understand what St. Anselm meant.

However, if the ontological argument is closely examined, the fallacy could be revealed. One does not need to be an atheist or an analytic philosopher to realize the errors of Anselm’s argument. In fact, the very first critic of this argument was not an atheist but a Benedictine monk by the name of Gaunilo. To demonstrate his point, Gaunilo used the analogy of a lost island applying the same line of Anselm’s reasoning. His counter-argument can be summarized thus:

1. The Lost Island is that than which no greater can be conceived.
2. It is greater to exist in reality than merely as an idea.
3. If the Lost Island does not exist, one can conceive of an even greater island, i.e., one that does exist.
4. Therefore, the Lost Island exists in reality.

The objection of Gaunilo was not really a direct refutation of Anselm’s argument but a mere demonstration of absurdity if the same line of reasoning would be applied to other concepts or things. This is called the “overload objection.” It is called as such because if the argument is correct, then the world would be overloaded with all perfect things or beings that we could conceive, such as perfect islands, perfect circles, perfect humans, etc.

Other scholastic and theistic philosophers criticized Anselm’s argument by pointing out the fundamental flaws. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that God’s existence is his essence and the ontological argument can only be meaningful to God himself because he is the only one who completely knows his ‘ontology’ or essence of being.

On the other hand, Immanuel Kant refuted the argument by stating that existence is not a predicate. He distinguished between the analytic and synthetic forms of judgments. In the first type of judgment, the ‘predicate’ merely states something that is already implied or associated with a particular concept. Hence, it would only be a repetition like saying “God exists, therefore he exists.” There is nothing new that can be concluded from the statement. On the other hand, synthetic judgment involves deriving new knowledge or conclusion from the premises or assumptions. Anselm’s argument merely relies on tautology. It could also be considered as a ‘bare assertion fallacy’ because the conclusion is already contained in the premise.

St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument was a failed attempt in providing a ‘proof’ simply because it was unable to conclusively establish the actual existence of God as necessary being beyond conceptual definition. Simply put, one cannot prove something to exist by defining that it exists.



Godel's Notations Translated:
Definition 1:  x is God-like if and only if x has as essential properties those and only those properties which are positive
Definition 2:  A is an essence of x if and only if for every property B, x has B necessarily if and only if A entails B
Definition 3:  x necessarily exists if and only if every essence of x is necessarily exemplified
Axiom 1:  If a property is positive, then its negation is not positive.
Axiom 2:  Any property entailed by—i.e., strictly implied by—a positive property is positive
Axiom 3:  The property of being God-like is positive
Axiom 4:  If a property is positive, then it is necessarily positive
Axiom 5:  Necessary existence is positive
Axiom 6:  For any property P, if P is positive, then being necessarily P is positive.
Theorem 1:  If a property is positive, then it is consistent, i.e., possibly exemplified.
Corollary 1:  The property of being God-like is consistent.
Theorem 2:  If something is God-like, then the property of being God-like is an essence of that thing.
Theorem 3:  Necessarily, the property of being God-like is exemplified.

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Jun 4, 2011

Atheism offers nothing


These anonymous verses were shared by a fellow atheist on Facebook. I am reposting it here:

Atheism offers nothing to me
It never has and it never will
It doesn’t make me feel good or comforts me
It’s not there for me when I’m sick or ill
It can’t intervene in my times of need
It won’t protect me from hate and lies
It doesn’t care if I fail or succeed
And it won’t wipe the tears from my eyes
It does nothing when I’ve got nowhere to run
It won’t give me wise words or advise
It has no teachings for me to learn
It can’t show me what’s bad or nice
It has never inspired or incited anyone
It won’t help me fulfill all my goals
It won’t tell me to stop when I’m having fun
It has never saved one single soul
It doesn’t take credit for everything I achieved
It won’t make me get down on bended knee
It doesn’t demand that I have to believe
It won’t torture me for eternity
It won’t teach me to hate or despise others
It can’t tell me what’s right or wrong
It won’t tell anybody that they can’t be lovers
It has told nobody that they don’t belong
It won’t make you think that life is worth living
It has nothing to offer me
That is true

But the reason that atheism offers me nothing is because I’ve never asked It to
Atheism offers nothing because it doesn’t need to
Religion promises everything because you want It to
You don’t NEED a religion or to have faith
You just WANT it because you need to feel safe
I want to feel REALITY and nothing more
So atheism offers me everything
That religion has stolen from me before


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