Monday, September 10, 2012

What's a theory?

Theory: The Layman’s Usage
The popular definition of a theory is that it is a guess, a speculation or a suggestion. “My theory is that he is German, but he could be Swiss.” This is not at all what is meant by a scientific theory

Theory: Scientific Usage
A scientific theory is a unifying and self-consistent explanation of fundamental processes or phenomena that is totally constructed of corroborated hypotheses. It is as far as you can get from a guess. It is built on reliable knowledge acquired through rigorous research.

The Centrality of Theory
Theory is central to science because theory unifies knowledge. Scientific theories explain by unifying many once-unrelated facts or corroborated hypotheses. Theories are the strongest and most powerful explanations of how the universe works. Theories can only be disproved. By definition, if we still consider it a theory, it hasn’t been disproved yet.

Source: M.E. Swisher, University of Florida IFAS

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