Here is a simple recipe on how to bake a theory (we're not interested in half-baked theories--they cause stomach aches): It is called the Scientific Method-and anyone can do it! It's fun!
Ingredients: [and explanations]
- 350 mL Curiosity [you have to want to know - fortunately humans have this in abundance]
- 2.5 kg Imagination [let it run wild - try to come up with as many explanations possible--called hypotheses]
- 2.5 kg Skepticism [don't confuse this with cynicism, which is the act of denying everything. Skepticism is very different indeed: it is the act of stepping back and trying to prove your hypothesis wrong, just to make sure]
- Many tons Empirical Data [the more, the better]
- Other people to bake the same cake [peer-reviewers - if everyone around you bakes the same cake following your recipe, then you're a good cook]
- Green olives [optional]
- A lot of hard work [not optional]
1. Be hungry. Ask lots of questions: "Why is the sky blue?", "What is an atom?", "Why do some animals resemble these animals, but not others?", "When's supper?"
2. Gather many tons of Empirical Data. Have other people do likewise to ensure you've got the right stuff.
3. Add 1.5 kg of imagination. What causes your observations?
4. Gently blend in 2.0 kg of skepticism. Discard hypostheses that just don't mesh with reality. Use a fine mesh for your sieve.
5. Use up the rest of your imagination, and throw in the remaining skepticism. Stir. When this is complete, you should have at least one working hypothesis. If not, return to step two (don't worry about extra ingredients--they grow back.)
6. (This step requires a lot of hard work; if this is not done, then your souffle will invariably collapse. Pseudoscience skips this step.) Test your hypothesis. Try to prove it wrong using reasoned and solid arguments. Try to prove it right conducting controlled experiments and matching your results against reality. If your explanation of a natural phenomenon stands up to this, get your friends (and enemies!) to go through step 6 behind your back. If your hypothesis passes these tests, you may then call it a theory.
7. Garnish with olives. You now have a theory, which means "reliable knowledge", as opposed to "imperfect fact", as some might put it.
If you want to get cooking further, please see Stephen Jay Gould's "Darwinism Defined: The Difference Between Fact and Theory" Discover Magazine, January 1987, p. 64-70 for
an excellent essay on this subject.