should the scientific community change the word "theory"?

while i'm not a scientist, it seems to me that the word that scientists use to describe their ultimate accomplishment is inherintly flawed.  they must be as tired of the misinterpretation of "theory" by the uninformed or uneducated as we are.  given that they spend innordinate amounts of time correcting the layperson who equates scientific theory to guesswork, why don't they come up with a new word for theory? 


in Dawkins' the God Delusion, he added an intro to the paperback version that discussed this.  his minor modification was to call it a "theorum", much like the usage in mathematics.  i don't feel like that is good enough. 


at the same time, i don't have a better word.  i'm open to ideas though...

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It's not the word that has to change - it's the people who think they know what it means and how to use it. What too many of the believers' community think of as a theory is really a hypothesis, a proposal which may or may not have sufficient standing, based on fact, evidence, and analysis. They can just as easily say, "It's only a theorem" as anything else, because they want to be dismissive of anything that doesn't support their position.

My attitude remains: CALL THEM ON IT, whenever they attempt to push that brand of tripe. Remind them of relativity theory and gravitational theory and germ theory and how well they work. And if they want to listen, they'll listen and if they don't, they won't. A change in terminology is not going to solve this problem.

I don't see any reason to change a perfectly good term because a tribe of knuckle dragging friends of jeebus are to stupid to understand the term or,  to lazy or incurious to find out what it means.

I understand you guys, but that is just going to make it more difficult on everyone.

I for one, don't need to be repeating myself, specially for something that is obviously a clear issue of a word that has TWO meanings.

The easiest path to accomplishing something, should be the path taken.

Having the scientific community FIX this nomenclature, would go a long way in making people realize what a Tested and Proven Theory is.  It is VERY difficult for someone to understand that a theory which has past testing, is STILL refer to in the same manner as it was called BEFORE the testing.

If you ask me, they have a valid point.  It makes NO sense and puts us in a awkward position and damages our credibility.

Change the damn name and get it over with!

Dorian, I'm an engineer, and because of that, to a certain degree, I'm also a scientist.  I fully understand what a scientific theory is and how to use the term.  The term "theory" itself is well-defined and understood within the scientific community and expresses precisely what it is about.  Changing basic terminology because people who either don't understand or purposefully misunderstand the concept of "scientific theory" will not help matters in any substantial measure.  What it will amount to is changing one term to attempt to suit people who cannot or will not be placated, and who would likely CONTINUE to twist the terminology to suit themselves and their own delusion.

WE are not the ones who need to change - THEY ARE.  That they are not likely to change is not a problem which I intend to adopt for their sake.  End of story.

i'm not so sure Loren.  in physics, for example, they use theory in a different way.  String Theory comes to mind.  it's no where near a proven fact but there it is, a theory.  

some of this jargon is a bit confusing, and perhaps deserves some clarification.  it might also be big news, thus putting the spotlight on the scientific process and those too ignorant to understand it.  

EXACTLY!  It is CONFUSING!! 100000%

We need to change this thinking or we will NEVER get thru to this low IQ people!

They may be low IQ, but they have the numbers! and we need equality in this world, if we stay a minority, we won't make it!

Matt, when you boil it down, theories are explanations.  Some explanations are more complete than others, like it or not.  There are subtleties and gray area which are unavoidable and largely dependent on how well the theory encompasses what it attempts to describe.  This is part of the understood nature of a theory: that they are Works In Progress with varying degrees of completeness.

Is it sometimes confusing?  Of course, but if you understand that A Theory Is NOT Absolute Or Static, that it is not necessarily (and indeed rarely) a finished product, then the confusion can be at least mitigated if not eliminated.  Evolution theory is so well established (to us at least!) that some want to call it "fact" when the term "fact" is not properly applied there.  Even then, evolution theory is still being enhanced, still being added to.  One wonders if it will every truly be utterly finished.  String theory is far sketchier, never mind dealing with highly esoteric issues (and I should mention, gives me a headache even attempting to consider it!), yet string theory has its bases in previously established physical theory.  It will just take a while longer to become more thoroughly supported.

In talking about theory, we're talking about something dynamic and varied here, and that is likely why the term is problematic.  "Facts" sound far more absolute, and to a degree, perhaps they are, but facts are not theories.  They can and do contribute to theories, but (to make a poor analogy) a fact may be a single brick where the theory is a building, though a building which is constantly being modified.

Obviously, I'm okay with the concept of the word "theory" as it is.  Also, I have no desire to have people who either cannot or will not bother to culture such an understanding dictate terms to us, and that remains my position.

So the building itself is changing?  So one of these days we might come to realize that the earth is flat?

I mentioned that as long as the core doesn't change, we don't have an issue.

The analogy would be that of the building being the fact and the brick being the theory, as we can re-clad a building with whatever material we choose.

I for one, will push for a new "Common" name, and according to at least one of the video, Dawkins appears to be for it.

The core mostly doesn't change.  It's worth note that Newtonian kinematic physics works GREAT for the large part ... until you get to an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, whereupon you have to take relativity theory into account.  Relativity didn't refute classical kinematics; it ENHANCED them.  I could probably think of other examples, given some time.

Expecting the expansion of a theory to come up with a "flat earth" result would be a severe discontinuity, which would likely demonstrate that the entire theory was flawed.  This is tantamount to the "croco-duck" BS that some creationists propose (whether jokingly or not, I have no idea!) should be possible with evolution theory, an utterly improbable likelihood.

It's also worth considering that older theories, such as that of phlogiston chemistry or the ether theory of light HAVE been disproved and replaced with more workable and demonstrable theories.

Loren, that's what I'm saying, there is NO way that we are going to find something that will change the CORE of the theory of evolution.  

It's done.  It has missing pieces when it comes to the micro biology(correct me if I'm wrong), but the core of it, is done.

Those dinos are not going to walk away and the dna is not going to disappear....

Are we saying that the phlogiston chemistry was a proven theory?  

I gather that it was never a type of theory as the atom theory, or evolution.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  I'd like to know.


Phlogiston chemistry wasn't much of a theory.  It more resembled a variation on alchemy and was pretty easy to dismiss.  The ether theory of light, however, was quite another matter.  Experiments such as the Michelson-Morley experiment were critical in disproving the existence of the supposed "ether" transmission medium.

As for the dinosaurs, no, they're not going to walk away ... except maybe for Dino.  Seems to me the Fred Flintstone never WAS able to get that animal properly trained!


Agreed. As I see it...

Data is to facts


Theory is to reality

They're all dynamic models, subject to change.


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