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In science and philosophy, an ad hoc hypothesis is a hypothesis added to a theory in order to save it from being falsified. Ad hoc hypothesizing is compensating for anomalies not anticipated by the theory in its unmodified form.

In the scientific communityEdit

Scientists are often skeptical of theories that rely on frequent, unsupported adjustments to sustain them. This is because, if a theorist so chooses, there is no limit to the number of ad hoc hypotheses that they could add. Thus the theory becomes more and more complex, but is never falsified. This is often at a cost to the theory's predictive power, however.[1] Ad hoc hypotheses are often characteristic of pseudoscientific subjects.[2]

Note that an ad hoc hypothesis is not necessarily incorrect; in some cases, a minor change to a theory was all that was necessary.

Naturally, some gaps in knowledge, and even falsifying observations must be temporarily tolerated while research continues. To temper ad hoc hypothesizing in science, common practice includes falsificationism (somewhat in the philosophy of Occam's razor). Falsificationism means scientists become more likely to reject a theory as it becomes increasingly burdened by ignored falsifying observations and ad hoc hypotheses.

See also Edit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Stanovich, Keith E. (2007). How to Think Straight About Psychology. Boston: Pearson Education. Pages 19-33
  2. Carroll, Robert T. "Ad hoc hypothesis." The Skeptic's Dictionary. 22 Jun. 2008 <http://skepdic.com/adhoc.html>.


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