Some people use the informal definition of "theory" to mean a supposition or a guess. ("I have a theory about why so many men like football.") A scientific theory is much more. It has a specific meaning.
A scientific theory is a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or natural phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. Theories are the highest level of science.
Note that scientific theories are used to make predictions and to explain things about the natural world. By definition, then, scientific theories cannot be used to prove or disprove anything that is supernatural.
Other Theories: Quantum Theory, Relativity Theory, Atomic Theory, Genetic Theory. Nobody has ever seen an atom, so does that mean that the atomic theory is a religion?
Development of a Simple Theory by the Scientific Method:
- Observation: Every swan I've ever seen is white.
- Hypothesis: All swans must be white.
- Test: A random sampling of swans from each continent where swans are indigenous produces only white swans.
- Verification: Every swan anybody else has ever seen is white.
- Theory: All swans are white.
Prediction: The next swan I see will be white.
Note, however, that although the prediction is useful, the theory does not absolutely prove that the next swan I see will be white. Therefore, is this Swan Theory actually a religion?
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