Activity 1: Facts, Theories, and Beliefs
Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Leader Resource 2, Fact, Theory, or Belief?
Preparation for Activity
- Write each statement from the left-hand column of Leader Resource 2 on newsprint. Leave enough space next to each statement to write "fact," "theory," or "belief." If you like, add your own fact, theory, or belief statements. Post the newsprint.
Description of Activity
This activity engages participants to analyze how they know what they know about the world around us.
Say, in your own words:
Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution shocked some people in the 19th century. Many people believed God made the first human beings. They believed this because the Bible said so, and they believed in the Bible. When Darwin wanted to find out where human beings came from, he brought in more than beliefs. He brought in science, to find out facts, and reason, to understand what those facts might mean.
A "fact" is a piece of information we can test or prove to show it is true.
A "theory" is an explanation of facts, based on careful reasoning. It might, or might not, be true.
A "belief" is a statement of faith about what is true, even though you cannot prove it.
Explain, in your own words:
The word "theory" usually refers to science, while the word "belief" often refers to religion. A scientist is convinced a theory is correct because their reasoning tells them that theory is the best way to explain known facts. A religious person holds a belief because they have faith it is true.
A religious belief can never be proved-or disproved. Even a theory can only be confirmed, that is, people can agree that it might be true. A theory cannot be proved. Only a fact can be proved.
Indicate the statements you have posted on newsprint. Read each statement aloud and lead the group to decide if it is a fact, a theory, or a belief.
When the list is finished, process with these questions:
- Why are facts important? (Point out that when we know it is a fact that germs cause colds, we can wash our hands and cover our sneezes to prevent germs from spreading.)
- Why are theories important, even if we cannot prove them?
- Why are beliefs important, even if we cannot prove them?
Say, in your own words:
As Unitarian Universalists, we learn from reason and science. Science helps us know facts. We use reason to make theories about what those facts mean. Reason and science help us find out more about our world. Unitarian Universalists believe that the more we understand about our world, the better we know how to use our love. Our beliefs also help us: We cannot prove that love will guide us, but, we have faith it is so.