Theory vs. Hypothesis
I have a theory … or do I?
Perhaps what I have is an idea, a hypothesis or a conjecture. In science, a theory is a set of related hypotheses that serve to explain or provide rules for certain phenomena. If these hypotheses can be linked together to predict behavior or events, then they form a theory, such as the theory of evolution.
A hypothesis is a proposition which needs to be evaluated. In other words, it’s something that makes sense based on the knowledge you have but you still need to prove that it works. A conjecture is an idea which has no basis in fact (often called a theory in the vernacular).
Here are some quotations from newspapers:
… these theories are promulgated there,” said Mr. Nunberg, who disputed that “Spygate” qualified as a conspiracy theory. Mr. Trump’s talk of conspiracies has also gained currency within a Republic … (www.nytimes.com)
… idea, referred to in the jargon of economics as the efficient market hypothesis (technically, the strong efficient market hypothesis), implicitly underl … (www.nytimes.com)
… million dollar problems. If they are right – still a big if – and somebody really has cracked the so-called Riemann hypothesis, financial disaster might follow. Suddenly all cryptic codes could be breakable. No internet transaction woul … (www.theguardian.com)
… germs and dirt finding their way into a child’s mouth. But many have also heard in recent years of the “hygiene hypothesis,” which holds that some exposure to germs and microorganisms in early childhood is actually good for us … (www.nytimes.com)