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Difference Between Fact and Theory

fact_bookFact vs Theory

The terms fact and theory are words with different meanings. Although both are used in many different fields of studies, they still manage to have their own distinct definitions that separate one from the other. One particular field, wherein both terms are commonly used is in Science.

In the scientific world, facts (or scientific facts) are what one can readily observe. It can pertain to any objective and real phenomenon may it be the falling of the ball after being thrown upwards or other simple observable occurrences. In this regard, the fact is that the ball will fall. More so, if this test is being done repeatedly under a controlled environment that cancels all unnecessary variables the phenomenon would have become a very obvious and undeniable fact. It is considered a fact because it will remain as true even after several centuries unless there is a more rigid and precise way of measuring a certain phenomenon.

On the contrary, theories in science are likened to the explanations to what has been observed. It is relatively greater in weight to what a hypothesis is. If a hypothesis (an intelligent guess) is the first base of formulating a scientific law then theories are placed at the second base. These are the statements that are assumed to be true (because they seem so) even if there are no hundred percent concrete evidences. Nevertheless, theories are always presented to be true even if the claims in the said theories are mere speculations or a general agreement between a significant numbers of experts. Moreover, theories are the statements that often undergo a series of tests to nullify the claims maid by those who propose them.

To display the difference between fact and theory, a good example is when a report will state that a certain hurricane killed thousands in a particular state in America yesterday because of the reckless mass evacuation spearheaded by the local officials. In this aspect, the fact is that many were killed by the hurricane while the theory is the reason behind the death of these people. Was it only because of the haphazard evacuation plan or was it also because of the intensity of the hurricane among many other reasons? Hence, facts are really the real deal while theories are still unclear although presumed to be true.

1. Facts are observations whereas theories are the explanations to those observations.

2. Theories are vague truths or unclear facts whereas facts are really facts.


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12 Comments

  1. This is a very good answere to my question thanks

  2. I would like to point out that your baseball analogy falls short in explaining just how important theories are to science. If a hypothesis is first base, the theory should be home base as a theory is the highest honor an idea in science can have. Theories never become facts or laws because theories explain those facts and laws.

    • A theory can’t be home base. Only a fact can be. Facts are by definition absolute. It’s like an educated guess. It may be based on other facts but its still a guess. What do you think doctors base their diagnosis on? Other facts. Then they make an educated guess. And they can be wrong sometimes.
      Every definition of the word “Theory” comes so close to saying fact but still falls short. Theories are just good guesses (very good guesses) that haven’t touched home base.

      • I humbly disagree. An educated guess is a hypothesis, which starts off a whole chain of events to include observation, testing, experimentation and finally peer review, on it’s way to becoming a theory…hopefully. Facts are things we can observe, but just observing something doesn’t tell us how it works…theories do that. Take evolution for example. Evolution is the fact and natural selection is the theory that explains how it works. I’d also like to point out that the only science that uses absolute terms and can 100 percent prove something is mathematics. The other sciences don’t work in terms of absolutes with the thought that future evidence could change the way we think about a particular thing…case in point…2000 years ago, it was a fact that the Earth was flat…and it was insofar as most people could observe.

  3. Who wrote this?
    Theories in science are NOT “vague truths or unclear facts whereas facts are really facts”. They’re different things, not different levels of veracity. A theory is an explanation of something (you got that right) that is heavily tested and repeatedly observed. You can compare it to a hypothesis, which is just an “educated guess”, not heavily tested and repeatedly observed, but you can’t compare it to a fact, which is not an explanation whatsoever.
    Example: it’s a fact that species have evolved, and we explain it by means of the theory of evolution.
    See how easy?

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