University of Bristol
Institute of Physics logo
Why not try our other site: BEEP Biology & Ethics

Scientific Theories


According to the philosopher Karl Popper, if a theory isn't exposed to being proved wrong by observations, then it is a not a scientific theory. Showing a theory to be wrong by new observation is called falsification.

The results of scientific investigations are published, so that others can review them. In effect, ideas are put on a public pedestal with an invitation to knock them down through further research. Those ideas that survive this process of testing by observations and experiments are treated as the best currently available. Only the very best ideas can survive such onslaughts.

Thus scientific theory sets itself up to be constantly updated by new observations, and tested through falsification. This is what makes scientific knowledge different from other forms of knowledge . It is something that makes science different from religion.

Scientific knowledge is:

  • often uncertain,
  • open to constant revision,
  • based on observation and evidence
  • never fixed

Religious knowledge is:

  • based upon the interpretation of writings that have been found valuable by large numbers of people over many centuries
  • often considered certain and unchanging
  • looking for permanent ‘truths’

But science and religion do not necessarily have to disagree. Science provides rigorous, tested knowledge about observable nature. It does not deal with questions about what may exist but is not in any way observable. Many scientists are Christians, Muslims and other faiths. Some are atheists, and don't believe that there is any kind of God outside of the Nature that we can observe. Others are agnostic, and say that they do not know whether or not there is a God.

Deep Thoughts

What's your opinion?

Average rating

Not yet rated

Read comments

speech bubble  No comments yet. Why not be the first person to add one?

Bookmark this pagefacebook myspace bebo delicious diigo stumbleupon twitter reddit yahoo google


Activity These are some 'theories':

• Babies are found under gooseberry bushes.
• All matter is made of atoms.
• Elephants are beautiful.
• God made the world.

Which of them are:
- capable of being proved wrong by observation?
- easy to prove wrong by observation?
- hard to be proved wrong by observation?
- impossible to be proved wrong by observation?