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Q: Facts in science that have been proven wrong ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   10 Comments )
Subject: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
Category: Science
Asked by: conshyboy-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 31 Oct 2002 03:26 PST
Expires: 30 Nov 2002 03:26 PST
Question ID: 94046
Could you please find five scientific theories that were considered
absolutly true and were taught in schools in the last decade that have
now been falsified? Am example is that we were told that antibiotic
soap helps prevent us from getting colds and staff infections. That
was proven wrong because we found out that when we us antibiotic soap
we just grow stronger bacteria. The only reason that that example
would not be acceptable is that antibiotic soap is not a common thing
that was taught in science class.

Happy Halloween!!!
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 31 Oct 2002 09:54 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi conshyboy, 

I’ll go for your question even though, as the commenters point out,
there is a problem with how you have asked it.  To reiterate what they
have said, scientific theories are always considered to be “works in
progress.”  No scientist worth his/her salt is ever going to say,
“This is a FACT” to be carved in stone forever.

Next, your phrase “proven wrong” creates a difficulty. As works in
progress, many scientific theories just keep getting revised. For
example, we base our current evolutionary theory of when humans
diverged from apes on the fossil record. But every time a new fossil
is found, the date gets pushed back.

In any case, this means is that any information given in student text
books is considered to be “true” only at the time the book is
published. (Now you see why you always have to buy the newest editions
of those expensive college texts?)

Finally, I’m not sure what level text book you are referring to. What
is commonly taught in a high school text will be different from what
it taught in either elementary school texts or in university level

But, all that said, I’ll try to hand you a list of well-known or
commonly taught “facts” that have been revised or refuted in the last
10 years.

1 – There are 9 planets in our solar system

New information: We have at least 10 planets

Far out! Astronomers discover 10th planet 
2000 EB173 orbits sun between Neptune, Pluto

Or maybe, we have only 8 ---

“ Planetary scientists at Caltech have discovered a spherical body in
the outskirts of the solar system. The object circles the sun every
288 years, is half the size of Pluto, and is larger than all of the
objects in the asteroid belt combined.

"Quaoar definitely hurts the case for Pluto being a planet," says
Caltech planetary science associate professor Mike Brown. "If Pluto
were discovered today, no one would even consider calling it a planet
because it's clearly a Kuiper belt object."”

Caltech Astronomers Discover Quaoar, a Planet-Sized Object in the
Solar System

2 – There are 30 orders of insects 

New fact: Now there are 31

“For the first time in 87 years, researchers have discovered an insect
that constitutes a new order of insects. Dubbed "the gladiator" (for
the recent movie), it lives in the Brandberg Mountains of Namibia, on
the west coast of Southern Africa.”

New Insect Order Found in Southern Africa
Bijal P. Trivedi
National Geographic Today
March 28, 2002

3 – Ice Age clothing was made of crudely formed animal hides

New Information: 

“… the warm weather clothing of at least some of our ancestors
included caps or snoods, belts, skirts, bandeaux (banding over the
breasts), bracelets, and necklaces—all constructed of plant fibers in
a great variety of woven textiles…”

Ice Age Haute Couture

4 – Humans evolved directly from tree dwelling apes

New information – more likely from ground dwelling apes

"Our study demonstrates that our earliest ancestors did not simply
come down from the trees. Rather, they evolved from an ape already
adapted to life on the ground."


5 – There are 109 Elements in the Period Table

New information: Since 1994, six new elements have been discovered

Periodic Table of the Elements
A Resource for Elementary, Middle School, and High School Students

6 – The first mammals evolved about 155 million years ago. 

New information – 

“The shrew-like animal would have run under the feet of dinosaurs at
the start of the Jurassic period, nearly 195 million years ago … 
Hadrocodium wui pushes back by another 40 million years its first
appearance in the fossil record.”

Fossil hints at mammal evolution

So, that should answer your question!


Search terms:

I used many search terms based on what I already knew. For example, I
remembered reading about the first mammal discovery, so searched:
“first mammal” fossil evolution. I also knew that new elements had
been added to the periodic table, so searched for “periodic table” and
found one with dates.  I just read about the new insect order last
night in Scientific American, so looked for an online article using
the scientific name of the order.

Other terms included –

Science discoveries recent
New discoveries science
Science milestones
conshyboy-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.00
This is exactly what I needed. Also, thanks to everyone who left
comments. This is one of my first questions and I appreciate your tips
on asking questions.

Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: iang-ga on 31 Oct 2002 06:44 PST
There's a problem with the question - no scientific theory is
considered "absolutely true". The best you can say is that it's
supported by objective evidence. The example given isn't a theory
either, it's just marketing hype. The problem of producing antibiotic
resistant bacteria was known long before these soaps etc. hit the
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: kriswrite-ga on 31 Oct 2002 06:50 PST
May I assume that you also mean "theories" that are taught as "fact?"
One good example is the idea that trees are vital to making our air
breatheable. Recent studies have proven otherwise.
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: kriswrite-ga on 31 Oct 2002 06:52 PST
Actually, perhaps "proven" should be in quotes, since what is proven
one day will often be "disproven" another.

Another example: Eating eggs significantly raise cholesterol. Today
they say that eggs do not significantly effect a person's cholesterol
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: calebu2-ga on 31 Oct 2002 07:17 PST
My science teacher told me that you could tell the difference between
plants and animals because plants were green.

To this day I am still confused as to how I classify roses, tree bark,
frogs, caterpillars and cows that are painted green.

Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: fstokens-ga on 31 Oct 2002 10:52 PST
I think this may be a bit older than your "last decade" criteria, but
I'm mention it anyway.  It used to be that biology textbook would
state that "all living organism derive their energy from the sun
(either directly or indirectly)."  Recently, a number of living things
(mainly bacteria) have been found that derive their energy from
sources unrelated to the sun, for example by oxidizing hydrogen
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: outis-ga on 01 Nov 2002 02:59 PST
This is my first ever posting on GA, so bear with me :o)

I think it is constructive to add that there is a huge difference
between mathematical proof and other (lesser) forms of scientific

As alluded to in the answers/comments above, the method of scientific
proof is based on "disproving" some of the competing "theories"
(explanations) of a particular phenomenon after an empirical
observation (this is known as the "Critical Test"). In this way, only
the theory (or theories) which continue to predict the phenomenon are
considered to still be in competition to be "true" theories of the
phenomenon. "Theories" which explain a broader or deeper range of
phenomena are preferred over those which are highly specialised.

This model is very similar to evolution by natural selection, in that
only the "fittest" solutions survive to replicate. In other words, the
most accurate models are taught to students, some of whom will one day
base their own scientific enquiries along the same lines. From time to
time, someone has a startlingly new and original idea (e.g.
Relativity) that has no precedent in scientific thought. This is what
scientists mean when they talk about a "Paradigm Shift".

In contrast to scientific "proof", we have Mathematical Proof.
Mathematics produces Theories (no quotes) which are absolute and
irrefutable for all time. They do not depend on the physical
conditions or "laws" of the universe (which, for all we know, could
change at any moment). Mathematical peer review weeds out the cranks
and the genuinly mistaken, and it is rare that any "commonly held"
mathematical theory is "disproven". Things in Maths which are not yet
proven are named as such (eg Riemann Hypothesis, Goldbach Conjecture).

I hope that my waffling has been of some use. You may like to type
"Karl Popper" into a search engine for more detail about the
epistemology of science.
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: neilzero-ga on 01 Nov 2002 09:14 PST
All that has been said is good science. Some are of the opinion that
you can't prove a negative. In any case most replaced theories don't
die and occasionly they get dusted off and reconcidered. We thought
eather was long dead, but increasingly we are talking about the energy
in vaccuum, and zero point energy and some of it sounds a lot like 18
th century science.   Neil
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: cephalic-ga on 06 Nov 2002 17:48 PST
All very interesting, but I do not think that the addition of a new
"order" of insect constitutes any real revision of how we think about
insect diversity.  Linnean ranks are simply artificial constructs that
are not comparable in size, phylogenetic diversity (how many
ancestor/descendent lineages belong to them), age, etc.  For example,
no two orders of insects can be predicted to be the same age or have
the same number of species.  So, if somebody decides that a newly
discovered lineage (or species) is SO different as to deserve the name
"order", it is really meaningless - because "order" cannot be defined,
but rather is subject to investigator interpretation which is
inescapably biased and laden with ad-hoc assumptions.

So, I would remove that as a "fact that has been 'proven' wrong".

My two cents :)
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: filian-ga on 08 Nov 2002 11:50 PST
With all of the talk and speculation regarding evolution here, I
wanted to present a site which looks at evolution from a scientific
perspective and has given evidence as to why certain evolution
theories do not make sense. The site provides documentation and
footnotes as well for anyone wishing to research their findings.

I much enjoyed learning about Chad Man and the mistakes that some
evolutionists and major media outlets with an evolution slant have
been passing as "fact". In some cases the uncovered information that
proves an evolutionist theory wrong has been omitted or hidden in
mainstream media.
Subject: Re: Facts in science that have been proven wrong
From: delaned-ga on 18 Dec 2002 12:20 PST
How hard is this?
Facts are the worlds data. Theories are developed thoughts that
attempt to explain our worlds facts.  Facts don't disappear when
researchers argue rival theories to explain them. Last Century
Einsteins theory on Gravity replaced that of Newton.  Apple's still
fell from the trees during that period.
Evolution is a Fact, evolution has different theories falling under it
but all researchers strive for better understanding, and go where the
facts and theories lead.
Creationists are just trying to justify an end.
Who was the philosopher that tried to prove the existence of God, but
started out with the premise that there Was a God.

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