Science Section > Science General Discussion

The word ''theory'' in science

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Mike Cl and I were discussing this in another thread, but I thought this should be it's own thread.

The word theory in science means a fact, or facts, or is an explanation of facts? Mike said that, in the scientific sense, theory and fact are the same thing, but another contact of mine disagrees, and instead normally stresses that scientific theories are EXPLANATIONS of scientific FACTS.

How do folks here think we (and by ''we'' I mean all of us) can settle this matter?

Goggle: scientific theory. Simple

Gawdzilla Sama:
Conspiracy theories aren't theories. They're unsubstantiated claims. They're powered by anger, bias, hate, and confusion that causes distress.

Mike Cl:
What Is a Scientific Theory?

"The way that scientists use the word 'theory' is a little different than how it is commonly used in the lay public," said Jaime Tanner, a professor of biology at Marlboro College. "Most people use the word 'theory' to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the word 'theory' refers to the way that we interpret facts."

The process of becoming a scientific theory
Every scientific theory starts as a hypothesis. A scientific hypothesis is a suggested solution for an unexplained occurrence that doesn't fit into a currently accepted scientific theory. In other words, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a hypothesis is an idea that hasn't been proven yet. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step — known as a theory — in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon. "

Mike Cl:
Steps of the Scientific Method:
1. Ask a Question
The scientific method starts when you ask a question about something that you observe: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where?

2. Do Background Research
Rather than starting from scratch in putting together a plan for answering your question, you want to be a savvy scientist using library and Internet research to help you find the best way to do things and ensure that you don't repeat mistakes from the past.

3. Construct a Hypothesis
A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work. It is an attempt to answer your question with an explanation that can be tested. A good hypothesis allows you to then make a prediction:
"If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen."

State both your hypothesis and the resulting prediction you will be testing. Predictions must be easy to measure.

4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
Your experiment tests whether your prediction is accurate and thus your hypothesis is supported or not. It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change only one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same.
You should also repeat your experiments several times to make sure that the first results weren't just an accident.

5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Once your experiment is complete, you collect your measurements and analyze them to see if they support your hypothesis or not.

Scientists often find that their predictions were not accurate and their hypothesis was not supported, and in such cases they will communicate the results of their experiment and then go back and construct a new hypothesis and prediction based on the information they learned during their experiment. This starts much of the process of the scientific method over again. Even if they find that their hypothesis was supported, they may want to test it again in a new way.

6. Communicate Your Results
To complete your science fair project you will communicate your results to others in a final report and/or a display board. Professional scientists do almost exactly the same thing by publishing their final report in a scientific journal or by presenting their results on a poster or during a talk at a scientific meeting. In a science fair, judges are interested in your findings regardless of whether or not they support your original hypothesis.


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