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A scientific theory is a logically confirmed explanation of a phenomena or a set of data.
There are two simple questions one can ask to check if a given explanation of phenomena can be called scientific.
- Is the explanation logically consistent?
- Is it testable ?
- Is it falsifiable?
A negative answer to any one of the above question is sufficient to discard the explanation as non-scientific. A testable theory is in particular "falsifiable", which means it can be discarded if evidence contradicts it.
A scientific theory is considered as a reliable explanation of a phenomena if
- It is tested and supported by evidence, which may consist of experimental verification of its predictions and/or empircal observations supporting it.
- It is consistent with other known observations/data.
Scientific procedure to explain a particular phenomena may be described in the following steps.
- Make observations, record data related to the phenomena under consideration.
- Come up with a logically consistent explanation based on the observations.
- Spot new predictions implied by this explanation. (if the explanation does not make any new predictions then it is not testable).
- Test these new predictions. If a test contradicts the explanation, then include the results of these new tests in your original set of observations/data. Go to Step 2.
- Check if the explanation is consistent with other known observations / data (i.e. observations /data which which is not necessarily being modelled). If not then go to Step 2.
Examples of Scientific Theories
- Newton's laws of motion.
- Newton's Gravitational Theory.
- The theory of General Relativity.
- The Big Bang Theory.
- Quantum Field Theory.
- Theory of Evolution.
- Please add more examples.
Examples of Non-Scientific Theories
- Young Earth Creationism (a particular example of creationism)
- Flying Spaghetti Monster (a parody of creationism)
- Wolpert, Lewis, 1992. The Unnatural Nature of Science: Why science does not make (common) sense. London: Faber & Faber.