Can You Prove a Theory?

E = m c 2

My son told me this morning that he has proved a theory. Want to hear it? Are you sure, because he’s only ten. Well, here goes, his theory is this: if you were born in the morning, then you will be a morning person, and if you were born in the afternoon or evening, then you will sleep in as long as you can every day. He bases his theory on the fact that it holds for myself, my two daughters (we were all born in the afternoon/evening) and himself (who was born in the morning). Dad wasn’t included because he doesn’t know what time he was born (we should probably call grandma and ask).

Not bad science thinking for a ten year old, but I had to point out that there isn’t a way to actually prove a theory. The nature of a theory is that it is falsifiable, but not provable. A theory can be confirmed, over and over again by many experiments, and if we don’t ever see any deviation from the theory, then it becomes a law. But even a law is not in itself provable. A law is just a theory for which we have never seen contradictory evidence.

My son didn’t believe me and quite frankly I didn’t believe him—you can’t base a theory on a sample size of four, but I love his little scientific mind. Basically, scientists spend all day trying to disprove their theories, so they can come close to believing in them. Hence there is no absolute proof in science. The goal of science is to question everything.

Does that mean there’s no absolute truth? Some would say there isn’t. I believe there is. Absolute truth is defined by God who made our universe, is outside our universe, and therefore is the only entity capable of a truly objective look at our universe. And He shared His view of the universe with us and put it in a book. It’s called the Bible.

What do you think? Does absolute truth exist? Is the Bible really the Creator’s book?

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2 thoughts on “Can You Prove a Theory?

  1. Yes, absolute truth exists… even if no one knows what the truth is. For example, no matter how the universe came to be or whether anyone will ever know for certain, there is an answer. Just because no one knows the answer, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

    I would agree with you that you cannot prove a theory, as a theory summarizes a hypothesis or groups of hypotheses. Hypotheses can absolutely be proven true or false. For example, if I form a hypothesis that if I throw a baseball at my flat screen TV, the screen will shatter… and then I actually throw the baseball and my screen shatters, I effectively proved my hypothesis to be true.

    I would have to disagree with you regarding theories becoming laws. Theories do not get promoted to laws. They are very distinct in that theories describe, and laws explain. Many people (particularly creationists) believe that laws are higher than theories… and often cite the 2nd law of thermodynamics as contradicting the theory of evolution. What they fail to realize is that a law is law because there has never been any exceptions to the law. In the case of evolution, if it were true that the 2nd law of thermodynamics and the theory evolution were at odds, the theory of evolution would win. The 2nd law thermodynamics would have a huge problem on its hands because evolution would be the exception to the law… and something cannot be a law if there is an exception. But thankfully, the 2nd law thermodynamics can rest easy, because evolution does not present any conflict.

    I guess a very simple way think about it is to just understand that laws cannot be used to disprove experimental and/or natural observations. Observations hold laws to the fire, not the other way around.

    • Thanks again for commenting! Great example of proving your hypothesis and of explaining how a hypothesis is different from a theory. I also agree that absolute truth exists, although my point was that science cannot prove things absolutely. You’re right that observations hold laws to the fire, although evolution is not an observation, it’s a theory. Can you tell me a little bit more about why you believe evolution doesn’t present a conflict to the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

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