Understanding Scientific Theories

Contributor: A. Castle. Lesson ID: 14074

Science is like a big buffet of ideas. Each of us gets to explore different theories — like evolution or a young earth — and decide what tastes right for us! So jump in and start exploring.


Life Skills, Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

By now, you have spent a lot of time studying science.

  • Have you ever thought about what science really is?

Watch the video below for answers.

Image - Video

Wow. That certainly makes science an interactive study.

  • What is the difference between fact and theory?

Dive into this lesson to find out!

There is a big difference between science and fact, and a true scientist approaches science with curiosity and a desire to dig deeper into theories and experiments to expand on them or learn more.

  • So what is the difference between fact and theory?

Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds! Knowing the vocabulary is important, so look at these two words.

A fact is proven and undeniable, like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. No debating that!

A theory is a well-educated guess or explanation built on evidence and observations. Think of it as saying, "This might be how it works, and here's my proof." But remember, theories aren't unshakeable. New discoveries can always shake things up.

the word theory in typewriter keys

Several scientific theories are often mistaken as scientific facts. One example is the theory of evolution, which is often portrayed as a fact when it is actually a theory that is widely accepted by the scientific community but is still subject to testing and refinement.

Another example is the theory of gravity, which is often treated as a fact even though it is still a theory that is subject to ongoing research and experimentation.

Additionally, some people may mistake the concept of consensus in science as a fact when it is actually a way for scientists to reach an agreement about a particular phenomenon or idea, but it is not necessarily a fact.

Dive into a few theory examples where people have different views.

Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

abstract drawing of DNA strand with small animal shadows along it

The theory of creation states all living things, like people and animals, were created by a powerful Creator exactly as they are. Creationism suggests that the diversity of life, from the tiniest to the grandest creatures, was all planned and designed by this Creator in a magnificent display of creativity and imagination.

On the other hand, the theory of evolution states all living things have evolved, changing and developing over a really long time. Evolutionists believe that certain species have common ancestors with others. Think of it as a family tree with many branches connecting all creatures.

The idea of natural selection is also a fundamental part of this theory. It posits that all the earth's creatures have changed and adapted over time. Those who survived had the most offspring, who, in turn, gradually inherited the traits that helped their parents survive.

Finally, the intelligent design theory contains aspects of creation and evolution. It maintains that certain natural world features are best explained by an intelligent creator rather than through natural processes like evolution. However, it also does not deny evolution or the role of natural forces.

wooden spheres balancing on seesaws

Large groups believe in all three of these theories, and some may believe in more than one simultaneously. These are complex ideas, and it is okay that not everyone agrees. That is the whole concept of a theory and a consensus!

Age of the Earth

Just like people have different views about how the earth was formed and has changed, there are different views of when the earth was formed. The two main views are that the earth is ancient and comparatively young.

Some people who believe in each of the theories detailed above also believe that the earth is old. Some people who believe in creationism and intelligent design believe that the earth is young.

the earth as a clock

A large consensus of scientists estimates the planet has been around for an amazing 4.5 billion years! They reached this determination by studying rocks, fossils, and other clues. They think the earth took its sweet time to form, like a masterpiece slowly coming together.

However, some people have different beliefs about the earth's age, thinking the planet has only been around for a few thousand years. These scientists use the same data from rocks but interpret it differently.

It's like a friendly family debate about how old our home sweet home is. 

Scientific Studies

Scientists do a lot of experiments and research to understand things better. Sometimes, they develop new theories based on the evidence they find.

  • But guess what?

Other scientists might review their work and find flaws or suggest different explanations. That's how science grows and improves!

In addition to the examples noted above, there is also scientific debate about the big bang theory, the theory of human-induced climate change, and the theory of plate tectonics to name just a few.

It is essential to remember that the scientific method encourages open inquiry, discussion, and critical evaluation of ideas. As scientific knowledge evolves, ongoing debates and research help improve our understanding of the world around us.

young female scientist holding books and asking: Which of these theories have you heard before and Which do you find the most fascinating

Head over to the Got It? section for some help exploring deeper and deciding what you believe!

Image - Button Next