A theory is a model for understanding how things work.

  • In science a scientific theory is a well tested model with many facts pointing at it.
  • In common language a “theory” can range from a guess to a philosophical concept.
    TIP: Philosophy is a proper field of academia and there is a big difference between Plato’s theories and some haphazard guess. Still, in the sciences specifically, the term theory takes on a very ridged meaning.

Typically theories are easier to disprove than prove, if a theory works it’s used until a better one comes along.

Well worn theories are rarely “completely wrong”, rather they are typically missing a few nuances (good examples being: Alchemy -> Mendeleev’s periodic table -> Current period table; or Newtonian gravity as a force -> Einstein’s gravity as a byproduct of spacetime curvature; or Thompson’s model of an atom -> Rutherford’s -> Bohr’s -> Schrödinger’s). None of the aforementioned theories were completely off base. We didn’t go back and prove the old one wrong, we just replaced it with the new one. A theory can ultimately be true without our ability to prove it true, or false even if it seems to work over and over (for proof see Gödel’s incompleteness theory).

Below is a collection facts and myths related to theories of all types.

What is the State of Nature?

The state of nature.

The state of nature is the state humans lived in before forming the first societies. By examining the state of nature we can better understand the implicit and explicit social contracts which govern societies.

The Paradox Principle

The Paradox Principle

In practice, human action often has paradoxical or unintended effects. Sometimes effects or side effects even have the exact opposite effect as intended.

Hume’s Fork Explained

“Hume’s fork” describes how we refer to Kant’s critique of Hume, who separated knowledge into two types: facts based on ideas and facts based on experience.