When Newton was asked "Why?" in relation to his theories, the replied that he made no "hypotheses".  The universe is as it is. A scientific theory is a tool for making predictions. It makes no attempt to explain why the universe is as it is but strives to create theories whereby one can make predictions about the results of experiments. The question "Why?" is pertinent to religion and metaphysics not science.

A modern translation of Newton's Latin text is

I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013 2:57:42 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I'm cutting this off from either agreement or disagreement with any earlier
posts; perhaps also it is irrelevant. Others can decide.

"Science" and "Theory" are hotly debated terms; also, of course, the
activities in the world which those terms do or don't refer.

Since the late 19th- or early 20th-c (especially in the anglo-phone world)
"science" (or theories of science) tends to be positivist. The German word,
at least in the  mid-19th-c was (usefully) vaguer than  it became in English
after the work of Russell, et al. The result of all this (I'm familiar with
only a few 'positions' in a complex field) is that the word "scientific" (as
in the subject line) can't help but smack of the white-coated pitchman on
the TV screen telling you what tooth paste to use. "Science tells us" and
similar phrases should, I think, be avoided.

"Theory" can carry an authoritarian flavor (as well as the opposite: a
flavor of mere nonsense). I prefer to confine its unapologetic use to the
hard sciences. We can't avoid a wider (and sloppier) use of it, but care (a
sort of apologetic tone) is, I think, appropriate to its uses in such
phrases as "literary theory" or "theory of the state."  In all cases, I
would think, it the sense of _explanation_ of given data, not an assertion
of fact. "Theory of Evolution," for example does not refer to the fact of
evolution'; that fact is a given: the various theories of evolution are
attempts to explain it. Cf. "theory of gravity": it is not an assertion of
the fact that the moon circles the earth; it is an attempt to _explain_ WHY
the moon follows the orbit it does.


P.S. I can't remember the author, the title, or even the date (decade) of an
interesting article in Critical Inquiry on "objective correlative" (and
similar phrases) in early 20th-c modernism. It's on a shelf a few feet away
but my eyes don't allow me to scan the tables of contents.