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Why a Theory is not “Just a Theory”

Updated on March 19, 2012

oo often people will dismiss things under the assumption that they are “just a theory” and therefor are untrue or unreliable. This is because many of us aren’t quite sure what a theory is and believe it’s only an idea or belief held by some. A prime example of this is the theory of evolution. A common argument against evolution is “oh, it’s just a theory” and therefor it couldn’t be true or scientifically proven.

What is a Theory?

In order to understand that it is imposable of a theory to be “just” anything is imposable, and sort of offensive to the people who have spent their lives working on and developing the theory, you must understand what a theory is.

A theory begins as a little idea or question in the mind of a person. For example the theory of relativity was once just a passing thought of Einstein’s except it didn’t keep passing through his mind. It stuck around and from that moment the scientific method begun.

The Scientific Method

1. Question

A question is asked such as how dose time work or where did humans come from.

2. Background Research

By looking into the question maybe the answer can be found of maybe the answer is no one knows. If there isn’t an answer already available then the scientist will form some of their own ideas and move on to the next step.

3. Hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess, what the scientist thinks will be the out come of any tests they run based on their question. It’s not a shot in the dark but based off of the prior research they have done. A hypothesis is often confused with a theory.

4. Test

The scientist then tests their hypothesis over and over gathering the data that will either prove or disprove their initial thoughts.

5. Results

After many tests, sometimes taking years. A scientist has either proven or disproven their hypothesis. If they were wrong they return to step three and begin again if they have proven themselves it it on to number six.

6. Share

After the scientist has done all they they can they share their results with their peers and the scientific community. It is during this step that the tests are run and the hypothesis is tested again by other people, over and over for years.

7. A Theory

If and when the hypothesis has been proven so many times by a multitude of the best in the field and the majority of the scientific community accepts it as a fact the hypothesis becomes a theory. This process can take decades.

8. Law

Sometimes, as with Newton and gravity after so much time and the world agreeing on it as a fact a theory can become a law.

It’s a long had road with many hills to climb for a belief or idea to reach the place of being a theory so when you hear of one don’t be too quick to dismiss it.


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    • Capedium profile image

      Capedium 5 years ago from Texas.

      Very constructive!

    • inevitablesecrets profile image

      inevitablesecrets 5 years ago from California

      Good point I used the word true when I should have saied that they are accepted as true by most people.

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      A quibble: You cannot prove a theory true, you can only prove it to be false. It sounds like I'm talking semantics here, but actually that is the way science works. Every theory is open to being proven false, even the most thoroughly tested theory in modern science, Einstein's General Relativity, is still open to be proven false and is NOT considered to have been proven true.