Adding Ad-hoc Hypothesis = Stirring Hornet’s nest

Adding Ad hoc Hypothesis

Typically, an ad hoc hypothesis is introduced to save a theory/proposal from falsification.

Wikipedia has this to say on ‘addition/introduction of an ad hoc hypothesis’:

“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.”

How ad hoc hypothesis is viewed by Scientific community

Again… Wikipedia has this to say…

“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.”

Is it wrong/incorrect to introduce ad hoc hypothesis?

Again…. Wikipedia has this to say…

“Note that an ad hoc hypothesis is not necessarily incorrect; in some cases, a minor change to a theory was all that was necessary. For example, Albert Einstein’s addition of the cosmological constant to general relativity in order to allow a static universe was ad hoc. Although he later referred to it as his “greatest blunder”, it may correspond to theories of dark energy.”

How to critique an ad hoc hypothesis?

The ad hoc hypothesis can be tested in various ways…

(1) What was the purpose behind  introduction of a specific ad hoc hypothesis? In other words, what specific problem the proposed ad hoc hypothesis claims to (is expected to) solve.

(2) Each new ad hoc hypothesis may place newer and additional constraints on what is allowed by the proposed theory.  Thus while an ad hoc hypothesis may be invoked either to solve a problem that could not be solved by originally proposed theory or to save the theory from being falsified, these additional constraints may raise new issues of consistency and testability.  Introduction of ad hoc hypothesis may raise numerous issues of consistency, logic, contradictions, lack of corroboration, irrefutability, testability, falsifications and such.  Thus, no one should consider introducing ad hoc hypothesis casually.

(3) Proposed ad hoc hypothesis will invariably lead to new predictions and thus new and/or additional evidence which must be tested.  This raises the possibilities that the modified theory (by addition of ad hoc hypothesis) may be falsified, rather easily.

Thus, anyone proposing an ad hoc hypothesis either to solve a problem not solved by proposed theory or to test additional evidence for the heck of it, is stirring hornet’s nest for his own theory.

Mahabharata research is full of such ad hoc hypotheses and resultant disaster, to their theories/proposals, that has ensued.


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