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Difference between Scientific laws and Scientific Theories

Scientific laws vs. scientific theories

It is not to be confused how scientific laws differ from scientific theories. Even the dullest minds should be able to comprehend the similarities and differences of the two. As the Earth continually revolves around the sun, the mind of the man has sought to eclipse all the wonders of the world. And that’s the birth of laws and theories. Man’s infinite mind has set a goal to conquer the world by unraveling the mystery of the universe.

Scientific laws and scientific theories are two different ideas that you need to understand. It’s not like it’s going to help you in a major way to do so, like help you pay for your food or your house bills perhaps; it’s more of like a trivia that you can share with your friends over a cup of tea or a bottle of beer.

Scientific laws, to begin with, are descriptions of why such phenomena occur or descriptions of the phenomena occurring itself. It does not explain the results or the reasons why such phenomena occurs. It merely makes things clearer by verbal or mathematical statement of a relation so that the ‘science’ of it is easy to understand. It is a description, a law, which is uncontestable because it is already proven and was already debated by the most brilliant minds. Scientific laws are proven observations. It is a result of scientific theories. Thus, when somebody would extrapolate a certain scientific law like Newton’s law of universal gravitation perhaps, it is already pointless because, as mentioned earlier, scientific laws are already proven facts. Not only that, these laws of natural science is only limited to what it was observed from. It cannot be extended to other situations assuming that it has the same nature. A certain law only becomes obsolete when a new data will contradict it.

Other examples of natural scientific laws are: Henry’s law in thermodynamics where it states the proportionality of gas in a liquid and the pressure of that gas above the liquid under a certain temperature; Newton’s law of motion that contains three physical laws; Hubble’s law that observes physical cosmology, and so many different natural scientific laws.

Scientific theories, on the other hand, refer to those that attempt to describe or explain why a phenomenon occurs. It is based on observation. It is still a learning or discovering process before arriving to the conclusion. It is a structure of concepts that explains existing facts and predicting new ones. However scientific theories do not belong to the level of the usual definition of the word ‘theory’. Scientific theories, according to scientists, could only be considered as scientific when it meets most of the criterion such as: empirical criteria, logical criteria, and even sociological and historical criterion. Scientific theories need facts in order for it to be interpreted and become a theory. It is yet to be proven so it would become a law.

Scientific theories are the prerequisite before arriving scientific laws.
Scientific theories are still to be proven whereas scientific laws are already proven.
Both scientific laws and theories were based on observations.

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  1. Actually, that’s entirely wrong.

    Scientific laws are a statement of fact meant to describe an action or set of actions. The law of gravity, the laws of motion, and Boyle’s laws of gasses are laws.

    Scientific theories incorporate facts, scientific laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses to explain some aspect of the world.

    The original poster mixed the two together. Their definition of scientific theory is more accurately a scientific hypothesis. Repeated acceptance of hypotheses can become scientific theory.

    A scientific theory can never become a law. A theory can be modified to reflect new data or when old data do not conform to expectation.

    An example is the Law of Gravity and the various Theories of Gravity. The law of gravity states that objects with mass will attract each other. This is assumed, like all laws, to be true through space and time. The various theories of gravity, Newton’s and General Relativity are based on the law of gravity, as well as other equally important hypotheses and facts.

    Science can never prove anything with absolute certainty. It can only disprove. Newton’s Theory of Gravity was less wrong than the ancient Greek’s theory. Einstein’s General Relativity is less wrong than Newton’s theory. And we know today that Einstein’s theory is incomplete. When the next breakthrough comes, that theory will be less wrong than Einstein’s theory.

    • I agree completely, Chris. This article makes the common assumption that there’s a hierarchy in science, with the Law as the pinnacle, and the Theory trying to achieve the status of law, which is completely wrong.

    • I really hope people read past the initial post and get to yours Chris. It’s depressing enough that I live in a country (USA) where the majority of the populace are absolutely oblivious to the actual definitions to both a scientific theory and law. Its even more depressing when I continually tell people to just get online and type in the both those terms so they may better understand the actual meanings and differences, only to find this site is at the top of a Yahoo search. And the very first description of the terms are totally wrong! WTH!

    • Hi, Chris.
      It’s not entirely wrong.
      Scientific theory is never a proven fact. It is in process. It can be flat wrong altogether.
      Scientific law is a proven fact. It’s can be less wrong, however, never wrong.

  2. This article is terrible and whoever wrote it has no idea what they’re talking about. The only thing he’s explained is how NOT to describe or understand these concepts.

  3. To see that their are people who truly understand basic science, and then provide a free service for students and adults alike is amazing! Thanks for the great definition and information. This really helped me in class!

  4. Chris is correct. The person writing this article must not have a scientific background. Many lay people think a scientific theory is like a mystery theory in a who-done-it novel or a guess. Google defines a scientific theory as: A scientific theory is a well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.

  5. Actually:
    Scientific Theory: is a scientific explanation of an observed phenomenon unlike laws, theory actually explain why things are based on empirical evidence.

    Scientific Law: Is a description of an observed phenomenon.The law describes the motions of planets,but do not explain WHY they are that way.

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