Can a theory ever be truly proven?

6 Oct

A theory can only be proven by evidence and research that has happened in the past. But what is there to say that something new and different, which has never happened before, will happen in the future? Does this mean that no theories can ever be 100% proven? For example, how do we know that the sun is going to rise tomorrow for certain, apart from the fact that is has risen every morning for as long as can be recorded. Does this mean that all theories are, are educated guesses and not ever facts? Can data ever be truly reliable?

Where can we, as Psychologists, decide when a theory has been proven? Prove in the Collins English dictionary is defined as; “establish the validity of”. But to what extent can validity be established? In Psychology particularly, every single person in different, so results from experiments might indicate one thing but different people/ cases may be completely different. To make an experiment fair, the researcher would surely have to find a group of participants with identical characteristics, backgrounds and personalities; this would be impossible. Even if it were possible, the outcome of the research would only be specific to this group of people, and may not apply to anyone else.

So this has led me to wonder if, in any sciences, the word proven can ever be used truthfully. I don’t think it is ever possible for enough research to be done to ensure that results are 100% valid, especially in Psychology because every persons mind is so different and complex. I believe that if enough research is done to get repetitive matching results, it can be relied upon, but it will never be truly proven. I think we have to use our own initiative and judgement when coming to decide whether a theory is correct in Psychology, but even then, we never know what is round the corner!


6 Responses to “Can a theory ever be truly proven?”

  1. racewinner October 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    I feel that it is true a theory can never really truly be proven. However, I believe that this will not stop us from trying our best to prove that our theories can be proven. Based on what you mentioned, everyone is unique and as such, the possibilities that the theories will hold true for everyone is difficult. As such, I feel that this can be best done with generalization where a random sample of the population is taken and made to undergo the research/experiments to prove the theory as this ensures that the general population sample will be taken, proving as a base to prove a theory. Moreover, I feel that if a theory – majority of the boys like football – is tested by more than one experiment (through questionnaires, interview, and experiments) and manages to provide very similar results such as 90% and 87%…, will prove that the theory is highly likeable to be true. As such, I feel that we should certainly strive towards proving theories to ensure that we manage to get the most accurate results that are able to help majority of the population to a great extent especially as if we truly believe that a theory cannot be truly proven, the question should be how do we ensure that the theory mentioned is as close to proven as it can get.

    Tracy Yang

  2. ihmsl October 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Oooo Interesting one Miss Bibby! In my opinion no, I think that the best science can aim for is the claim of significant levels of reliability to allow for generalisations to be made. In my opinion it comes down to two simple factors. Firstly how can we ever truly replicate a real life situation in an artificial setting and claim 100% accuracy in our findings. Secondly is the issue of induction, induction is the suggestion of a universal rule based upon certain observations. Popper claims that no amount of induction can support the claim of 100% scientific proof. There is no better example, than the british believing all swans were white until they left the country and observed a black swan. The only thing that science can truly prove is when a theory is unreliable.

  3. csw92 October 11, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    heyhey, I would say that the aim of Science is similar to what Karl Popper believe as in Its goal isnt even absolute certainty, and even Paul lutus said that” To Science, evidence is gathered and evaluated (and sometimes discarded) according to some rigid rules meant to assume that a scientific theory reflects reality to the best of our ability.” Therefore I think Psychology completes the aim of describing behaviour and the causes behind it to this criteria. But as you have said it is also always true that theories can never be properly proven only falsified, the most a theory can gain is a corroboration between Scientists that it is the best description we currently have.

  4. ppp0001 October 12, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Very good points raised here Jess. This is what makes the subject of psychology so interesting as no-one can ever truly be an expert as people and research is changing all the time. To investigate an area of research thoroughly a large sample frame would have to be conducted so as to ensure a wide variety of participants from all walks of life. However even then there will always be an element of doubt.

  5. Yaron Rosenstein September 18, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    There is no proof in natural sciences.
    A theory can be validated or falsified based on experimental results. . PROOF exists only in mathematics.
    Psychology by the way is not a science.

    • Satyricon July 28, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

      Oh, shut up for fuck sake, Rosenstein. You are calling bullshits in any place.

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