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Author Topic: When does a theory become a fact?  (Read 7316 times)

rafeeq jhetam

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When does a theory become a fact?
« on: 17/05/2010 11:30:03 »
rafeeq jhetam  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Dear Chris
 
I am based in South Africa and can't tell you how much I enjoy and look forward to your weekly segment on the Redi Direko Show every Friday morning.
 
At what point does a theory become a fact? I am thinking specifically of the Theory of Evolution. Is there now sufficient evidence to call this a fact or is it still very much a theory?
 
Thank you.
 
Rafeeq Mahomed

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 17/05/2010 11:30:03 by _system »


 

Offline BenV

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When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #1 on: 17/05/2010 11:42:57 »
Well, technically never - a theory is something that explains a set of facts.  So it's a fact that objects with mass will fall to earth, explained by the theory of gravitation.  Likewise, the theory of evolution explains the fact that all species are decended from common ancestors.
 

Offline defkhan1

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When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #2 on: 23/08/2010 16:08:53 »
As I see it, there are no facts.  A fact to me is just absolute ignorance of the scenario that makes the assumption untrue.
 

Offline peppercorn

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When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #3 on: 23/08/2010 17:24:51 »
The process of scientific enquiry is (when done properly) best thought of as a set of ever improving models evolved by the scientific community to describe repeatable observations (as reported and then reproduced beyond any doubt of deception).
I would say 'fact' has no real meaning in science, except what is loosely used to describe accepted wisdom - the beliefs that the vast majority of scientists in a field adhere to.

The most powerful thing about this approach is that if the day comes when, say, a set of repeatable conditions are found where the apple does not fall from the tree, all scientists have to do is rework their model.  Unlike religion, for example, no absolute truth has been broken.
 

Offline peppercorn

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When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #4 on: 23/08/2010 17:27:19 »
A fact to me is just absolute ignorance of the scenario that makes the assumption untrue.

I don't follow you here. Maybe you could explain your view a bit clearer.
 

Offline defkhan1

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When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #5 on: 26/08/2010 04:11:13 »
I don't follow you here. Maybe you could explain your view a bit clearer.

For me to consider something a fact, we must know that in all scenarios what we have deemed a fact must be true.  Since we very likely cannot have knowledge of all scenarios, rather than thinking of something as a fact, I like to think of it as "works pretty much always" :)
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

When does a theory become a fact?
« Reply #5 on: 26/08/2010 04:11:13 »

 

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