# When If Ever Can a Scientific Theory Become a Scientific Law

Video (PageIndex{1}): What is the difference between a scientific law and a theory? Many scientific laws can be reduced to a mathematical equation. For example, Newton`s law of universal gravity says: “Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to change them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language, a theory means intuition or speculation. This is not the case in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important characteristic of nature supported by facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about phenomena not yet observed. A common misconception is that scientific theories are rudimentary ideas that eventually move into scientific laws when enough data and evidence has been collected. A theory does not turn into a scientific law with the accumulation of new or better evidence. Remember, theories are explanations and laws are patterns that we see in large amounts of data that are often written as equations. A theory will always remain a theory; A law will always remain a law.

Another example of the influence of mathematics on scientific law is that of probability. “My favorite scientific law is that we live in a probabilistic, not deterministic, world. For large numbers, probability always works. The house always wins,” said Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “We can calculate the probability of an event and determine our confidence from our estimate, but there is always a trade-off between accuracy and safety. This is called the confidence interval. For example, we can be 95% sure that what we`re trying to estimate is within a certain range, or we can be more sure, let`s say 99% sure, that it`s within a wider range. Just like in life in general, we have to accept that there is a compromise. The difference between a hypothesis, a theory and a law is explained in this article. The process and order of these concepts is also explained, and rightly so, as there seems to be an m.

Sometimes discoveries are made that are so profound that they force us to reject the old theory. Then we start from scratch to develop a new theory that matches both the new and old evidence. Then the tests begin, with everyone looking for evidence that the new theory is wrong. False? Isn`t it mean to prove it`s wrong? No. This is the way of science. In the words of a famous scientist: Many people think that when scientists find evidence that supports a hypothesis, the hypothesis is upgraded in theory, and when the theory, when it turns out to be correct, it is upgraded to a law. But that`s not how it works at all. In fact, facts, theories and laws – as well as hypotheses – are separate parts of the scientific method. While they may evolve, they are not updated for anything else. Because the words theory and law have such different meanings in the language of science, this is often a difficult question to answer, so I`ll start by answering a few similar questions.

Well, the definition of a law is simple. It is a description – usually mathematical – of an aspect of the natural world – such as gravity. The law of gravity describes and quantifies the attraction between two objects. But the law of gravity doesn`t explain what gravity is or why it might work the way it does. This is because this kind of explanation is in the realm of theory. Theories are a set of ideas that help explain how or why natural phenomena occur. Laws are usually mathematical relationships that describe what is happening. Video (PageIndex{1}): What is the difference between a scientific law and a theory? Based on this definition, theories never become laws, no matter how much evidence they support. The formulation of theories is, in fact, the ultimate goal of science. To say that evolution is only a theory is actually an argument for it, not against it. There`s nothing you can do better in science than being a theory.

Perhaps a few examples will help illustrate the points. Gas laws are mathematical formulas that describe what happens in the natural world. For example, the laws of gases predict with great accuracy that if I double the temperature of a sealed gas (at constant volume), the pressure will double. The answer is no. Robertson shamefully explains the difference between scientific laws (a law only says what scientists find, whenever they test it); a theory (a theory is a mechanism that explains laws – NOT the same use as in everyday life); and assumptions (one of the normal steps in developing an understanding of a problem). This article will help you improve your scientific training before abusing terms – just in case you can. The article concludes with a discussion of calling evolution “just a theory.” This relationship is mathematical and tells me what will happen; Therefore, this idea is a law. However, to explain why gases behave this way, we must use molecular kinetic theory. Particles in a gas bounce off each other in elastic collisions (think 3D billiard balls). If we double the temperature, the tiny beads move twice as fast and collide with the container with twice the force. This double force exerted on the container results in double the pressure.

Einstein`s idea of relativity might be called a theory, but that doesn`t mean it`s not true. (Wikimedia Commons) Because the words theory and law have such different meanings in the language of science, this is often a difficult question to answer, so I`ll start by giving you some similar questions that you need to answer. A common misconception is that scientific theories are rudimentary ideas that eventually pass into scientific laws once enough data and evidence has accumulated. A theory does not become a scientific law with the accumulation of new or better evidence. Remember, theories are explanations and laws are patterns that we see in large amounts of data, often written as equations. A theory will always remain a theory; A law will always remain a law. The difference between a hypothesis, a theory and a law is explained in this article. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language, a theory means an idea or speculation.

This is not the case in science. In science, the word theory refers to a complete explanation of an important characteristic of nature supported by facts accumulated over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about unobserved phenomena. “If you think these questions don`t make a lot of sense, then you feel a lot like a scientist who has been asked, `How much evidence does it take for a theory to become law? A house is made of many bricks, boards, nails, windows, doors, concrete, etc. A dictionary consists of thousands of different words, and a symphony can easily have thousands of notes, which fit together perfectly to create enjoyable music. In the same way, theories are based on a variety of scientific laws, facts, tests, and other evidence, all of which fit together in a way that provides an explanation for how part of the universe works. The answer is that this is not the case. Darwin provided a mechanism, a “how” for evolution. Darwin`s theory of natural selection is not a theory because it does not have enough evidence, it is a theory because it explains how species evolve. Evolution by natural selection is therefore not “just a theory,” but the most empirical and scientifically accepted way to explain the evolution of species. A scientific theory is a solid explanation of an aspect of the natural world, based on a set of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed by observation and experimentation. Such factual theories are not “assumptions,” but reliable accounts of the real world.

The theory of biological evolution is more than just a “theory.” This is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter (which says that everything is made of atoms) or the germline theory of disease (which states that many diseases are caused by germs). Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact. In this Moment of Science, we clarify the difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law. A belief is a statement that is not scientifically provable. Beliefs may or may not be wrong; They are just outside the realm of science to explore them. Robertson explains in a chatty way the difference between scientific laws (a law only says what scientists find each time they test it); a theory (a theory is a mechanism that explains laws – NOT the same use as in everyday life); and assumptions (one of the normal steps in developing an understanding of a problem). This article will help you strengthen your scientific background before abusing terms – just in case you can. The article concludes with a discussion of calling evolution “just a theory.” “Assumptions, theories and laws are more like apples, oranges and kumquats: they cannot become anyone else, no matter how much fertilizer and water are offered,” according to the University of California. A hypothesis is a limited explanation of a phenomenon; A scientific theory is a thorough explanation of the observed phenomenon. A law is a statement about an observed phenomenon or unifying concept, according to Kennesaw State University.

Many people think that when scientists find evidence that supports a hypothesis, the hypothesis is upgraded in theory, and if the theory turns out to be correct, it is upgraded to a law. But that`s not how it works at all. In fact, facts, theories and laws – as well as hypotheses – are separate parts of the scientific method. Although they can be scaled, they are not upgraded to anything else. Theories cannot become laws because each serves a different purpose. Let me explain (and yes, it`s a simplified explanation). The U.S. National Academy of Sciences describes a theory as follows: Just as houses don`t become bricks, theories don`t become laws.