A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is based on empirical evidence. It is a logical and systematic explanation that can be tested through observation or experimentation. The question arises, does a scientific theory have to be true?

What is a scientific theory?

A scientific theory is not just an idea or a guess; it is based on factual data and has been repeatedly tested and confirmed through empirical evidence. A theory should have predictive power, meaning it should be able to make accurate predictions about future events or observations.

The nature of science

Science is not about finding the ultimate truth but rather about developing explanations that are consistent with all available evidence. Scientific theories are subject to revision or rejection based on new evidence. In other words, science is self-correcting.

What do we mean by “true”?

The term “true” can be problematic when discussing scientific theories because science does not deal in absolute truths but rather in probabilities and likelihoods. A scientific theory may be considered true if it has been rigorously tested and confirmed through empirical evidence, but this does not mean it cannot be revised or even rejected in the future.

The role of falsification

One of the key tenets of science is falsifiability. This means that a scientific theory must be able to make predictions that can be tested and potentially disproven through observation or experimentation. If a prediction fails, the theory must be revised or rejected.

The difference between a theory and a fact

It’s important to note that a scientific theory is not the same as a fact. A fact is an observation or measurement that has been repeatedly confirmed through empirical evidence, while a theory is an explanation for those observations.


In conclusion, while scientific theories are not absolute truths, they must be based on empirical evidence and have predictive power. They are subject to revision or rejection based on new evidence and are not the same as facts. The key to understanding scientific theories is recognizing that they are not set in stone but rather evolving explanations of the natural world.