Archive for November, 2011
“What role does the null hypothesis REALLY play in the scientific process?
A hypothesis is a statement that you think is true, but you haven’t got the evidence to support it yet, it must always be testable, the null hypothesis is a hypothesis, which the researcher tries to disprove, reject or nullify however when first learning about scientific processes back in high school, the null hypothesis was never mentioned, we got taught about the hypothesis (H1) and then told in our experimental write up to signify whether or not this had been supported. It was only when starting university that the null hypothesis was ever brought into discussion, and at first, was a topic I found hard to grasp. Explained simply, it is a complete opposition to the hypothesis. The hypothesis states that there will be a reaction between A and B, whereas the null hypothesis simply states that there will be no reaction at all. The concept of making a null hypothesis always seemed pointless to me until I started researching into it, and asking questions about the true reasons behind it.
After viewing a PowerPoint in which it was argued that the null hypothesis was simply an out for scientists whose research experiments failed, I realised that there could be a point behind this theory. If a scientist spends years of his life researching into a certain field and then it becomes apparent that there is no relation between his research, he may feel that the whole of his research and the processes behind it have been wasted, therefore by having the ability to say that he has matched the null hypothesis, will provide some stability to his research.
However, research has shown that accepting the null hypothesis is actually a positive result, and that seeing the null hypothesis as a failure of an experiment is bad science, even if the hypothesis is refuted, the scientific world has still benefited from learning something new. For example, the null hypothesis ‘the world is flat’ had to be rejected when it was proven otherwise, thus, the scientific world has learnt that the world is not indeed flat.
Finally, Karl Popper (1959) stated that ‘we cannot conclusively affirm a hypothesis, but we can conclusively negate it. The validity of knowledge is tied to the probability of falsification.