Science extends and enriches our lives, expands our imagination and liberates us from the bonds of ignorance and superstition. The endorsing societies wish to affirm the precepts of modern science that are responsible for its success:
Science is the systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories.
The success and credibility of science is anchored in the willingness of scientists to:
1) Expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by other scientists. This requires the complete and open exchange of data, procedures and materials.
2) Abandon or modify accepted conclusions when confronted with more complete or reliable experimental evidence.
Adherence to these principles provides a mechanism for self-correction that is the foundation of the credibility of science.
Accepted as a proposal by the Council of the American Physical Society 11/15/98.
Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as "true." Truth in science, however, is never final, what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.
Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.
Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.
Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. The contention that evolution should be taught as a "theory, not as a fact" confuses the common use of these words with the scientific use. In science, theories do not turn into facts through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences.
*Adapted from Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science by the National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998).
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