Why Science Is NOT ‘Just A Theory’

Have you ever heard ‘evolution’ dismissed as ‘just a theory’? Is a scientific theory no different to the theory that Elvis is still alive? Jim Al-Khalili puts the record straight.

There’s an important difference between a scientific theory and the fanciful theories of an imaginative raconteur, and this quirk of semantics can lead to an all-too-common misconception. In general conversation, a ‘theory’ might simply mean a guess. But a scientific theory respects a somewhat stricter set of requirements. When scientists discuss theories, they are designed as comprehensive explanations for things we observe in nature. They’re founded on strong evidence and provide ways to make real-world predictions that can be tested.

While scientific theories aren’t necessarily all accurate or true, they shouldn’t be belittled by their name alone. The theory of natural selection, quantum theory, the theory of general relativity and the germ theory of disease aren’t ‘just theories’. They’re structured explanations of the world around us, and the very foundation of science itself.” (YouTube)

This is a great video explanation of the difference between a theory (usually meaning an opinion) and a scientific theory (structured explanations of natural phenomena). Many people don’t understand the difference, but the two are very different indeed, and it’s worth learning and understanding why. More detail about what is discussed in the video can be found over at The Royal Institution blog.

If only those people who didn’t believe in scientific theories were told about the theory of gravity, maybe they would just float away. Onwards!

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