With regard to chemistry: Identify and discuss the differences between the terms ‘theories,’ ‘laws,’ and ‘hypotheses', and describe ‘controlled conditions.’

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's start with hypotheses and theories since one flows into the other.  A hypothesis is a general scientific statement meant to describe a particular circumstance or answer a scientific question.  A hypothesis is an initial idea that must be evaluated through experimentation and observation.  If a hypothesis holds up as true to repeated testing by a variety of different scientists in different circumstances over a long period of time, the hypothesis eventually becomes accepted as a theory.  A theory is a scientific idea or concept that has held up to repeated testing over time and is generally accepted by a majority of scientists as reliable.  Notice that I did not use the word "true" since a theory can never be truly proven as true, it can only be repeatedly proven for a particular set of circumstances.

A scientific law is more of a special case.  Like a theory it has been proven to be true by a variety of scientists over a long period of time but unlike a theory a law merely states the results of repeated observations.  It does not attempt to explain why or how the results were obtained.

Controlled conditions are experimentation conditions that can be completely controlled and altered according to the desires of the scientist.  Basically, laboratory conditions are controlled conditions where the scientist can control and change various factors such as temperature, humidity, light, etc.  Basically, nature could be considered the ultimate uncontrolled conditions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team