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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Matthew, I wish it were a different word.  The church has been very successful in using this misunderstanding to it's gain.  But, I sure don't think theorum is any improvement.  Let's all try to think up a way to express the FACT of evolution.  We can't leave these things up to Dawkins anymore.

Ultimately it's probably not so much the words we are arguing over but the deeper ideas underneath the word. So i don't think any [appropriate] name would make a big political impact.

By calling our working models "theories" we're really focusing attention on the strengths of science: that there is always room to challenge, debate, test, and refine our ideas. Ideally, we take nothing for granted and etch nothing in stone. 

That's in direct conflict with most conservative religious philosophy, that feels life in a world without absolute, unambiguous Truths is dangerous and ineffective. And anything short of a Truth is not worthy of challenging their Biblical Truth. I'd feel uncomfortable calling our scientific discoveries Scientific Truth because we don't fully know all the ins-and-outs of what's going on, even with those models that we are VERY confident in like gravity and evolution and so on.  With such direct conflict in the values placed on our models, i doubt we'd ever be able to describe our ideas in a way that will impress conservative religions enough to respectfully coexist with our ideas!

That said, if there is a commonly understood english word that describes something people are extremely confident in but still not a total given, i would certainly be open to using it :-D

I think you nailed it there (mostly). This is more about generating controversy and confusion than honesty. What better way to undermine the opposition than to use their own humility and committment to honesty against them.

Good science is about openness, peer review and self correction. If you do not value honesty, or commit yourself to the idea of truth, you lack the essential tools to do good science. Of course, plenty of scientists have been caught in a lie and several have been misguided. That does not change what science is about, it just shows that we're well equipped to apply it poorly. In the long run it is self correcting.

I am not a scientist so correct me if I'm wrong but in the beginning we had complete ignorance of gravity, then the god holding down force, then Newton, followed by Einstein and now quantum theories. Each was an improvement on the old model but always, always there was humility that those theories might one day be improved upon. That does not mean they were incorrect. That means they were a work in progress. Just yesterday someone posted a quote by Asimov in which he said "when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together".

While I agree with most of what you said, I think you became timid in the end. It makes no difference if we call it theory or something else. As long as uncertainty is admitted, the dishonest, or those who have ulterior motives, will see opportunity. Disagreement with theories is to be encouraged, as long as the alternative can be demonstrated to be a better model. We just have to tough it out, commit ourselves to following the truth no matter where it takes us, and accept that we're on the right path.

I understand that, but when something is proven beyond the doubt of it ever changing, like our planet being "round" and the earth revolving around the sun and evolution, then what is the point of still calling it a "theory"?  Maybe a "Proven Theory" would be more appropriate, if the word fact is to much.

We can't have obstacles with believers, they already have enough walls up as it is.

an ironic twist would be to call it "Scientific Gospel", haha!

Gospelus Scientifucus

But just like Asimov pointed out, the earth isn't really round. We refine and leave room for the possibility of refinement. This just seems like good prudent science to me. If we start calling things "fact", then as soon as we find out otherwise, we've got egg all over our face and no credibility. If you try to bump this up one level to something between theory and Law, you face the same issue, you've just performed title inflation.

We can make adjustments to parts of the theory of evolution, but not to evolution itself.  We might change the dates or what animal came from what, etc., but they still evolved.

Either evolution is proven or it's not.  If it is, change it.  If it's not then no.

But it's is obviously confusion to many.

It should be changed to FACT.  There is NO need to be repeating things to anyone.

It is not an efficient way to communicate an idea.

Dawkins has admitted this and is PRO changing it to FACT.

The scientific community has placed itself into corner by not being PRO active.

This must change IMMEDIATELY if it is to SURVIVE.

Christianity is growing in China at an insane pace and muslim, well you know that story.

Knowledge needs to be past and we need the tools to do that, we can't be hampered with tricky descriptions when talking to people who are either at the fence or close to it.

The minute they sense that you are saying one thing, but meaning something else, you have a problem.

Change the damn thing to FACT!

My father is a doctor and he knows what a scientific theory is, now go ask my sister.  She DOEN'T!

this is topical.  check out what a state supreme court justice had to say:

Justice Paul Pfeifer was incredulous when Smith argued that Freshwater's evolution class wouldn't have been covered under the school district's controversial-issues policy.

"So there's nothing controversial about evolution," he said. "It is a theory, isn't it?"

yup, just a theory.  (facepalm)

don't let one idiot state supreme court justice bother you.  it is truly amazing though, that a person who reaches that level can be so scientifically illiterate.  you expect it from the mouth breathers but a justice? 

we need more evolution education in this country, not less.  from talking to teachers and some high school students evolution gets about a week's worth of lessons.  one could learn more about evolution by watching one episode of Mutant Planet than in all of high school Biology. 

But this makes my point!  Even educated people have an issue with the word "Theory"!

We can't keep banging out heads against the wall, when there is an EASIER way!

Just come up with something!!




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