Defining "Science"

Reminding students of what science is and what science is not is important to establish before introducing the concepts of evolution. Science and all of our technological advances are based upon hypothesesHypothesis:
An “educated guess,” based on evidence, concerning how or why a phenomenon occurs; see also theory, law.
that are developed, repeatedly tested, and refined (or refuted) through the scientific methodScientific Method:
The process of scientific inquiry for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, and correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be called scientific, a method must be based on observable, measurable evidence collected by observation and/or experimentation.
. The scientific method provides observable and measurable evidenceEvidence:
Information accumulated through observations of phenomena that occur in the natural world, or which are created as experiments in a laboratory. Scientific evidence usually goes toward supporting or rejecting a hypothesis.
collected through observation and/or experimentation. Nothing outside the observable or measurable can be called scientific. Therefore science cannot inform public law, morals, ethics, or religion. For example, science can estimate the depth of the ocean; this is both observable and measurable. Science cannot answer the meaning of life; this is neither observable nor measurable.

The scientific definitions and uses of the words hypothesis, fact, evidence, theory, and law often cause confusion because they have different meanings when used outside of the field of science. A hypothesisHypothesis:
An “educated guess,” based on evidence, concerning how or why a phenomenon occurs; see also theory, law.
is an educated guess, based on factsFact:
An objective and verifiable observation; in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which are intended to explain or interpret facts.
(observations or data), which can be experimentally tested. If a hypothesis is experimentally shown to be incorrect, it is refuted and either rejected or refined. If a hypothesis is repeatedly tested and always shown to be correct, the hypothesis is supported and accepted. A large number of highly tested, never refuted, hypotheses form the basis of evidence that supports a theoryTheory:
A hypothesis that has become “widely accepted” after rigorous testing; see also hypothesis, law.
. A scientific theory is the synthesis of a large number of accepted hypotheses. Scientists continue to test, refine, and add additional accepted hypotheses to make a theory more concise, but an entire theory is rarely ever completely discarded or replaced. A scientific lawLaw:
An established principle thought to be universal and invariable; see also hypothesis, theory.
expresses a theory as a less complex summary statement, often as a mathematical equation, such as E = mc2.

Note that the scientific use of the word “theory” is fundamentally different from its common usage. In everyday English, a theory is a mere guess or speculation. However, scientific theories are the highest order of scientific explanation and are generally accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Evolution is a scientific theory based upon evidence provided by all fields of biological science. In physics, a similarly supported theory is gravity; in chemistry, a good example is the atomic theory.