Theory and fact
A theory is an explanation of something, and a scientific theory is a special kind of explanation that is designed to account for all observations related to a particular phenomenon or phenomena. For example:
- Gregor Mendel's observations of how particular traits such as color were expressed through succeeding generations when he crossed pea plants led to his theory of genetic inheritance.
A fact is a particular observation or set of observations. For example:
- this specimen is light blue and weights 2.4 pounds
- the specific gravity of cooking oil is 0.925
Confusion of terms
In some discussions about science, advocates have occasionally indicated that a certain theory "is a fact".
For example, global warming could either refer to the fact that weather stations have reported a one degree average rise in air temperature since 1850 or the theory that this rise is caused by excess emissions of carbon dioxide and the like (see Greenhouse Theory). Another good example is that of gravity. The observation that objects fall to the ground is a fact. The model that explains this is the Theory of Gravity. This is also true for biological evolution. Fossil specimens and gene sequences are facts. Natural selection, the modern evolutionary synthesis (also known as neo-darwinism), and the idea that all life on Earth descended from a single common ancestor are scientific theories. In science, "facts" are the world's data and are observed empirically. A theory is then formulated to explain this data.
For example, Wikipedia has an article entitled Evolution as theory and fact, in which wikipedians argue that evolution is a scientific theory and a scientific fact.