We use lots of scientific words and phrases in everyday language. Often their use changes, until their meanings have become completely muddled and are very different to their scientific definition. Here is the second post in a series explaining commonly misunderstood terms. You can find the first article on PROOF here.
When someone says “I have a theory”, you know that they have an idea that needs to be examined and tested before it can be proved right (there’s that word “proof” again!).
But that’s not how it works in science. A scientific theory is a system of ideas that work together and can be tested, but it’s much more than just a suggestion. It’s a whole way of thinking. Unlike theories in everyday language, scientific theories can be shown to be wrong or incomplete without damaging their basic assumptions.
The theory of evolution is a good example of this. It has been around for over 100 years and has changed and adapted as new evidence has come to light, but it is still recognisable.
Evolution is widely accepted to be fact as there is a large amount of evidence to support it and no evidence to support any other theories about the development of life. But what most people call a scientific fact is actually a scientific theory.