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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

I Have a Theory About That


I recently listened to episode #296 of Michael Malice’s Your Welcome podcast in which Malice interviewed Bret Weinstein, and Weinstein corrected the podcaster regarding the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. I find that when people say something like, “I have a theory about that,” they’re mistaken about this distinction.


In common parlance, a hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation, made on the basis of limited evidence, as a starting point for further investigation. Think of it as impromptu commentary meant to explain something. It’s like a hunch or guess without supporting evidence.


Confusingly, in common parlance, a theory is a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained. To me, this sounds a lot like a hypothesis. I can understand confusion in this regard.


However, from a scientific perspective, a theory is not as simple as a mere hunch or guess pertaining to an observed event. According to one source:


A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world and universe that can be (or a fortiori, that has been) repeatedly tested and corroborated in accordance with the scientific method, using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results. Where possible, some theories are tested under controlled conditions in an experiment. In circumstances not amenable to experimental testing, theories are evaluated through principles of abductive reasoning. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge.


Given this distinction, I suspect that the overwhelming majority of people who have ever existed—let alone those in present times—have ever form a theory about anything…ever. Therefore, rather than having a pet theory about a topic, the average person can put forth a hypothesis.


During the discussion between Malice and Weinstein, the former erred in this regard by stating:


I’m really excited to ask you this, because I had a pet theory and this is the kind of…this could be like a bong hit in a frat house, you know, kind of idea. Or it might have some weight to it, so you’re actually in a position to address it from an informed place. So, I’m excited to ask you. Here’s my pet theory.


One of, or perhaps the central insights of the paleo dire lifestyle is the idea that our environment has evolved faster than our biology, and that often there is this disconnect between the two. It could be as simple as we should eat better foods, or more natural food, so on and so forth. Great!


My pet theory is, and I don’t…I haven’t thought this through and I really want to hear your thoughts…that a free enterprise system is so good at providing for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, no one is starving in America. People who are homeless are often, you know, mentally ill. It’s not if they needed over their heads, they could have one. You don’t have to worry about being eaten by a sabretooth tiger—which aren’t tigers—and so on and so forth. Right?


However, the brain or the mind is going to look for problems, because for a long time—for all of evolution—you gotta be worried about what problems are coming down the pike. And as we’ve gotten more affluent…this is why so much of politics is based on neurosis, because the human minds are looking for problems where there aren’t any. What do you think about that? Am I talking out of my ass completely?


Personally, I find Malice’s proposition to be of interest. I, too, have a hunch about observations he outlined. However not a single “theory” was outlined in his monologue. This was made apparent in Weinstein’s response:


No, no, not at all. There’s a bunch of stuff in there that’s really, that’s really good. I am stuck a little bit, because you’ve described it as a “pet theory.” And while this is going to make me sound like a pedant, I swear to you the world will be a better place if we start paying attention to the distinction between a hypothesis and a theory.


Nobody does this well. Incidentally, physicists are the worst. But what you’ve got is a hypothesis, which is great. It becomes a theory at the point that all the other hypotheses have fallen away. They’ve been falsified and it is the one remaining explanation.


At the risk of also sounding like a pedagogue, I maintain that the distinction between hypothesis and theory is significant. When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I remind myself of this difference, because I use a scientific approach when working with clients.


Regarding this matter, page 67 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to develop hypotheses concerning client problems and to rigorously test these hunches or guesses. Still, clinicians are encouraged not to strongly cling to hypotheses, as though these assumptions must be accurate.


Just as Malice formed a plausible hypothesis about his observations, I use hypotheses about client issues. I understand that in order to become a theory, I would need to employ the use of testing, measurement, evaluation, and experimentation across a range of other people who work on a particular matter in other settings.


Therefore, I haven’t formed a theory about a single individual with whom I’ve ever worked in the capacity of a life coach (since the ‘90s), counselor (since 2011), or social worker (since 2014)…not one! Nevertheless, I’ve used many hypotheses and have adjusted my assumptions appropriately.


Having outlined the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, it’s my hope that the reader will be able to differentiate between these terms. Moreover, just as I shift my hunches or guesses when additional evidence is acquired, I hope the reader will also remain open to changing one’s mind in a scientific manner.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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Drobotdean. (n.d.). Happy brunette woman in shirt sitting on the floor with laptop computer while having idea and looking at the camera over […] [Image]. Freepik. Retrieved from

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, January 4). Rigid vs. rigorous. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, August 6). The science. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Malice, M. (2024, January 31). “Your welcome” with Michael Malice #296: Bret Weinstein [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from

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