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A scientific theory, as defined by Kevin Padian in his testimony in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, is

"A theory, in science, [...] means a very large body of information that's withstood a lot of testing. It probably consists of a number of different hypotheses, many different lines of evidence. And it's something that is very difficult to slay with an ugly fact, as Huxley once put it, because it's just a complex body of work that's been worked on through time."

Kitzmiller v. Dover trial transcript, day 9, a.m. session

In common parlance, "theory" is roughly equivalent to "hunch" or "guess". But in science, a theory is a well-supported explanation. The common usage of the word "theory" is closer in meaning to the scientific use of the word "hypothesis". In science, a hypothesis is an idea about something that seems probable, while a theory has been tested and is supported by evidence.

See also

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