Historian Jan Sapp has described the complex interplay between theory and observation that characterizes the operation of scientific judgment in the selection of research data during revolutionary periods of paradigmatic shift (Sapp, 1990, p.
113): What “liberties” scientists are allowed in selecting positive data and omitting conflicting or “messy” data from their reports is not defined by any timeless method. It is learned, acquired socially; scientists make judgments about what fellow scientists might expect in order to be convincing.
Examples of events changing scientific thought are legion.
Truly scientific understanding cannot be attained or even pursued effectively when explanations not derived from or tested by the scientific method are accepted.
But as theories survive more tests, they are regarded with higher levels of confidence.
In science, then, facts are determined by observation or measurement of natural or experimental phenomena.
In evaluating practices that guide research endeavors, it is important to consider the individual character of scientific fields.
Research fields that yield highly replicable results, such as ordinary organic chemical structures, are quite different from fields such as cellular immunology, which are in a much earlier stage of development and accumulate much erroneous or uninterpretable material before the pieces fit together coherently.
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation of those facts.
A theory is a hypothesis that has gained wide acceptance because it has survived rigorous investigation of its predictions. science accommodates, indeed welcomes, new discoveries: its theories change and its activities broaden as new facts come to light or new potentials are recognized.