… A common ancestor that didn’t need to produce vitamin C because its African environment had plenty of fruit. Odd how that works.
That is just the first definition: “of or based on a hypothesis.” The second captures the connotation that you’re giving it: “Imagined or suggested but not necessarily real or true.” (This is all just hypothetical.)
Basically, when you say that the paper’s “conclusions are hypothetical,” you are formally correct, since the conclusions are based on the hypothesis, but this tautology tells us nothing at all, and the same could be said of every scientific paper in every discipline. In fact, I was reading a paper the other day, “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” by James D. Watson and Francis Crick. You may have heard of it. In any case, I suddenly realized that the paper’s conclusions are hypothetical, and that the basis for concluding the double-helix is nothing but hypothesis. Sorry for the sarcasm (not really), but that is how meaningless your statement is. When you say that the conclusions are hypothetical, if you’re communicating anything at all, you’re communicating your sense that the conclusions aren’t necessarily “real or true,” which just happens to be untrue. The conclusions, based on the original hypothesis, are true, even if provisionally so, pending new information. Sorry. It seems that science just cannot arrive at absolute truth, either, no matter how hard it tries.
You constantly insert the condition that unless we have all possible knowledge of a process, then we effectively know nothing of it. That’s just wrong. Pascal had some good advice: “We must know where to doubt, where to feel certain, where to submit. He who does not do so, understands not the force of reason. There are some who offend against these three rules, either by affirming everything as demonstrative, from want of knowing what demonstration is; or by doubting everything, from want of knowing where to submit; or by submitting in everything, from want of knowing where they must judge.”