Facts: Things that just are; examples are bones, DNA, rDNA, RNA, black holes, neutron stars, mitochondria, basalt, marble, leaves, stuff found in rocks that are not rocks. The universe is filled with facts.
hypotheses - a method to tentatively organize facts into patterns that can be understood; and, this is one of the important parts, the hypothesis must predict something that is not known yet; another important part is that it must be reproducible; and it must be falsifiable.
Theory - Once a hypotheses has been tested by many different, qualified scientists; papers have been written, submitted to journals of some repute to be juried, nits are picked, edits made, and the paper is published.
There is no higher calling in science than theory; the idea of 'LAWS OF NATURE' is outdated, no longer used. When someone starts an argument with the phrase, 'Only a theory', this shows a pretty basic lack of understanding of what science is and what science does and how science works.
What Darwin did with his "On the Origin of Species" was to detail the plant and animal life on the Galapagos Islands. What he noticed was that the same birds on one island were adapted to conditions on that island; nearly identical birds on another island right next door had differences in beak shape, wing shape, and physiology that allowed them to survive in a slightly different environment. Without going into detail about the differences between the islands that induced differences in the birds.
The scary and controversial aspect of his discovery was that species were not immutable; up until the Voyage of the Beagle, it was believed that god created everything as it is right now and nothing changes over time. Darwin sat on his book for 20 years and only published it after he realized that another person was going to publish a similar book. It caused a sensation and lead to many misleading metaphors like Survival of the Fittest, which is not scientific; it is just a popular way to express Natural Selection.
Geology was a science coming into its own;
It is 2:00am - I will have to continue the story tomorrow. But the basics are here. Evolution has been tested, it has allowed predictions to be made and it has a falsifiable component. One of the points I want to get to is Punctuated Equilibrium and, of course, catastrophism.
Good night - please comment!