Saturday, August 19, 2023

What is a scientific theory?


Theory might win the prize for the most commonly misunderstood word in science. In everyday usage, a theory is a hunch. A guess. Pure speculation. For example, I have a theory about why my cat yells (sings?) at night — he’s calling on the spirits of his ancestors to free him from the captivity of his luxurious life.

But in science speak, a theory is exactly the opposite — it’s a broad explanation for a wide range of phenomena that’s supported by a vast amount of evidence. As science progresses and evidence accumulates, related ideas are combined into a single, clear, and powerful explanation. Theories form the basis of our scientific knowledge and are used by scientists to make further predictions for testing. Examples include gravitational theory, plate tectonic theory, evolutionary theory, cell theory, germ theory, and atomic theory. 

Understanding the natural world is the ultimate goal of science, and theories are about as close to the “truth” as we may ever get. So don’t be fooled when someone doubts science because “it’s just a theory.”

Learn more: How to speak science:

No comments:

Post a Comment