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  1. #1

    Hypothesis vs Theory vs Fact

    I have recently been accused of confusing them so I guess I need clarification on Hypothesis vs Theory vs Fact, so I am hoping y'all can help. My thinking is that a hypothesis is an educated guess, a theory is a repeatable and predictable hypothesis that is peer reviewed and tested (basically) and a fact is a proven theory (I am sure it was only a theory that fire was hot until someone touched it). Educate me.

  2. #2
    Dreadlord Rakeer's Avatar
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    Hypothesis: I think this is happening.
    Theory: This is my explanation for why it is happening, and here is my argument.
    Fact: This is true and founded.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Rakeer View Post
    Hypothesis: I think this is happening.
    Theory: This is my explanation for why it is happening, and here is my argument.
    Fact: This is true and founded.
    Theories are the strongest hypotheses that have withstood the test of time and rigor.

    A scientific theory never becomes a scientific fact because there's always something that could disprove a theory.

  4. #4
    Bloodsail Admiral Rickmagnus's Avatar
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    No facts in science, only what you can prove, and what others cannot disprove. They call it the Theory of Gravity, yet I don't see anyone jumping out of windows claiming they don't believe.
    "I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse."
    “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” - Issac Asimov

  5. #5
    Hypothesis: This is basically like having an idea, usually based on observable evidence but has not been tested or confirmed. It's pretty much an "educated guess".

    Theory: This is something that can be tested, demonstrated and measured. *Essentially* the same as fact but is not set in stone. Therories are often confused with hypotheses or "guesses".

    Fact: Known to be true and accurate.


    It's a fact that the earth orbits the sun.
    It's a theory that the universe is expanding.
    It's a hypothesis that there is life on other planets.

    Evolution is a theory.
    Creationism (intelligent design) is not a theory, not even a hypothesis.
    Last edited by Netherspark; 2012-11-19 at 04:41 AM.

  6. #6
    So then, there are no facts because science states there are only things you cannot disprove....interesting.

  7. #7
    Moderator Kasierith's Avatar
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    A hypothesis is an educated guess based on observations.
    A theory is a belief that has been well supported and reinforced, and has not been disproved.
    A fact is a qualified and objective observation, used to develop hypotheses and theories/laws.
    “…the whole trouble lies here. In words, words. Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.”

  8. #8
    Fact is an observation, a measurement, or a direct deduction from either.
    For example, fact is that the moon exists, that it orbits around the earth with period X, etc. Fact is the fossil registry. Fact is that some substances rust.

    Hypothesis is an explanation you give to an observation or to experimental data. This explanation, to be remotely useful has to enable you to do predictions beyond your initial observation, or under different circumstances. You test these predictions through experiments.
    Hypotheses are that the moon formed together with the earth, that animals along the Earth history evolved from one species to other, and that there is a substance called flogiston that is lost then substances become oxidized.

    Theory is the extension of a hypothesis after its predictions have matched accurately the results of the experiment. This extension encompasses all the tested hypotheses regarding the same kind of behaviour or the same kind of system, to form a coherent, interrelated whole.
    Theories are the theory of planetary formation, the theory of Evolution through random mutations and natural selection, and the theory of the red-ox chemical reactions.

  9. #9
    Over 9000! Gheld's Avatar
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    Hypothesis is a supposition based on a logical or mathematical argument, usually drawing upon and logically supported by existing empirical knowledge.

    Thesis is an outline of the process by which you intend to test for supporting evidence of a particular hypothesis.

    Fact is that which logic or empirical observation suggests one can expect to be true.

    So "I think the moon is a giant potato" is not a valid hypothesis.
    "Shoot the moon with a potato detector" is not a valid thesis.
    and "The moon is a potato" is not a valid fact.

    EDIT: Oops, how did I get thesis out of theory?

    Ohwell.

    Theory, in science at least is the sum of Hypothesis and Thesis.

    "Particles of mass have mass due to their interaction with the Higgs particle field. Build LHC and dink around with it, mathematics suggest it should appear at 125GeV. "= Theory of Higgs.

    If you don't have a valid approach to test it, you don't have a scientifically valid theory.

    So "I theorize that ghosts exist because of insert reason here" is not a scientifically valid theory.

    If you found a way to develop a "Ghost-o-meter" then you could include that as part of the thesis, and thus have a scientifically valid theory about ghosts. however no such thing as a "Ghost-o-meter" seems possible at this point.

    So at this point in time you can't have a scientifically valid theory about ghosts.
    Last edited by Gheld; 2012-11-19 at 04:42 AM.

  10. #10
    So...?
    Fact: The apple fell from the tree.
    Hypothesis: There is a force that makes the apple fall down from the tree rather than floating away.
    Theory: Gravity, proven by experiment and reviewed by peers and generally accepted.
    Laws: The apple will fall down given the absence of any external force.

  11. #11
    That is correct.

  12. #12
    Hypothesis: Ignored by religion
    Theory: Ignored by religion
    Fact: Claimed by religion with no proof

    Received Infraction.
    Last edited by Badpaladin; 2012-11-19 at 04:50 AM.

  13. #13
    High Overlord Zhaveros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeardedOne View Post
    Hypothesis: Ignored by religion
    Theory: Ignored by religion
    Fact: Claimed by religion with no proof

    Received Infraction.
    Funny, but a little hostile?

  14. #14
    Thanks everyone, I think I have a better understanding but it is only my hypothesis. I will have to test it and hopefully it will be a theory before too long and people will eventually report the fact that I do actually know the difference.

    ---------- Post added 2012-11-19 at 04:53 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeardedOne View Post
    Hypothesis: Ignored by religion
    Theory: Ignored by religion
    Fact: Claimed by religion with no proof

    Received Infraction.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zhaveros View Post
    Funny, but a little hostile?
    I had to chuckle too.

  15. #15
    Over 9000! Gheld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by girgamer View Post
    So...?
    Fact: The apple fell from the tree.
    Hypothesis: There is a force that makes the apple fall down from the tree rather than floating away.
    Theory: Gravity, proven by experiment and reviewed by peers and generally accepted.
    Laws: The apple will fall down given the absence of any external force.
    Close, but down doesn't exist. Newton disproved the existence of up and down with his theory of gravitation.

  16. #16
    If you're talking layman's terms then hypothesis and theory are used interchangeably as guesses or opinions or what one thinks might be true. A scientific hypothesis is a proposed explanation formulated in response to an observed phenomena. It must be formed in such a way as to be falsifiable according to the Scientific Method. A scientific theory is a hypothesis that repeatedly tested has overwhelming evidence to support it and so is considered scientific fact. Like the theory of gravity, the germ theory, cell theory, theory of evolution, etc.

    The word theory has very different meanings to science and the general public which is why you hear "Oh its just a theory" with regards to some scientific fact. Its a basic misunderstanding of the scientific application of the word. In the English language a single word can have very different meanings depending on context. This is one of them.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Gheld View Post
    Close, but down doesn't exist. Newton disproved the existence of up and down with his theory of gravitation.
    Are you sure of what you are saying? Precisely gravitation around very large bodies gives us a privileged direction along which we can define inequivocally up and down. Of course, those labels only work on a certain range, but they keep their utility.

    So, i see your relativity and raise a polar coordinate system.

  18. #18
    Over 9000! Gheld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jotabe View Post
    Are you sure of what you are saying? Precisely gravitation around very large bodies gives us a privileged direction along which we can define inequivocally up and down. Of course, those labels only work on a certain range, but they keep their utility.

    So, i see your relativity and raise a polar coordinate system.
    People on the opposite side of the earth would disagree with your perception of up and down; so up and down are not absolute.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Gheld View Post
    Close, but down doesn't exist. Newton disproved the existence of up and down with his theory of gravitation.
    I will amend my statement as such:

    Law: the apple will fall towards the object with the largest mass given the absence of any external force.
    Last edited by girgamer; 2012-11-19 at 05:13 AM.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Gheld View Post
    People on the opposite side of the earth would disagree with your perception of up and down; so up and down are not absolute.
    Set your reference frame on the center of the Earth and consider a polar spherical coordinate system instead of the traditional cartesian. Up is the direction to higher value of rho, and down to lower value of rho, with rho=[0,infinity).
    People in the opposite side of earth agree with my perception of up and down.

    In fact, up and down, considering them cartesian and absolute, were not a thing much earlier than Newton... since it was known that the Earth was spherical, it was pretty much clear that the up and down axes could not be parallel on different points of the Earth.

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