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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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29 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?

    • a que lucio tan pendejo! evolution is not a scientific fact

    • So, let me say this….
      At one time, the world was flat. Everyone new it was flat earth floating on water.
      Over time the greeks postulated that the earth was a sphere, starting around 600BC…. over time time they used this theory to explain things such as the shape of the shadow during a lunar eclipse and sailing vessels far off in the distance sinking below the horizon. Each observation gave more weight to the theory that the earth was a sphere, without actually proving it.

      Finally, Magellan (although he didn’t finish it himself) took men on a voyage circumnavigating the earth by ship and successfully proved that the earth was a sphere.

      Today, we don’t call the earth being a sphere a “theory” we call it a “fact”… (unless you are a flat earther, but I digress) so I’d have to say that once a theory is proven to be truth, conclusively, then a theory can be promoted to truth.

  4. I’m sorry, above I said evolution is correct, I meant evolution is fact (yes, I’m aware it is also a theory).

  5. This is a terrible explanation and it is inaccurate, and it’s a shame because people read things like this on the internet and take them to be true.

    The idea that theories are vague truths or unclear facts is based on a common layman’s misuse of the term. People with limited education levels will often confuse the terms “theory” with “hypothesis” or “guess”. That appears to be the mistake made here. That’s not at all what a scientific theory is. A scientific theory is an explanation for some natural phenomenon that has been verified (key word = verified), through extensive testing, and theories hold more weight than any single fact because they are supported by thousands of facts.

    Here are some scientific theories- the theory of light, atomic theory, the theory of gravitation, cell theory, germ theory, the theory of friction, the theory of evolution. All have been confirmed and none of them are vague truths or unclear facts, though we continue to gather information on each of them as we do with all theories.

    If you publish information the deals with science, it’s important for you to get writers who have some education and/or background in the field so that you don’t spread misinformation like this.

  6. Theory: Correct spelling is not an issue with either the author, or the replies.

    Fact: Correct spelling is not an issue with either the author, or the replies.

    Hypothesis: Some folks here don’t know how to spell…

    • Terrible examples…All of those are facts. None of your examples attempt to explain WHY people here don’t know how to spell properly.

  7. I have to comment on this because a friend ‘unfriended’ me because I said that a theory is different from a fact (just let us leave hypothesis out of this as that is altogether a different thing from a theory). My point was that a fact is an observable phenomenon. A theory may well explain the phenomenon. But going back to the evolution example.. we know life has evolved. That is a fact. But the theory of evolution keeps changing too, even as of today, as newer facts keep surfacing. So clearly facts are indisputable, while theories can be disputed and need to be modified along with newer factual discoveries. Which does not undermine importance of the scientific pursuit of framing theories… just to say that there is a difference between fact and theory. Theories are (and should be) in constant pursuit of facts…

  8. Hypothesis is a guess (a question)
    Theory is discovery
    Fact is believed until
    Questioned…….
    History repeats itself…
    as the world turns.

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