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What are the characteristics of a scientific theory?

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Quick Answer

A valid scientific theory must summarize a hypothesis, be supported with a body of evidence taken from further testing and be submitted for peer review. In science, a theory is used to describe how something works, not why a scientist thinks something may work. For example, gravitational theory describes how the fact of gravity works, and evolutionary theory describes how the fact of evolution works.

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What are the characteristics of a scientific theory?
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Many people make the mistake of equating a vague plan or idea with a scientific theory. A proper scientific theory is first known as a hypothesis. Only after a hypothesis has been properly tested with further experimentation and then evaluated by other scientists can it be called a scientific theory.

This misunderstanding of the term often leads some to claim that solid scientific principles, such as evolutionary biology, are incorrectly dismissed as "only a theory."

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