fixing <<just a theory>>

I’m not sure which forum to put this in…GQ, GD, or IMHO.

It seems that the current scientific vernacular causes confusion among the teeming millions. We’ve all heard it too many times that Evolution (or whatever aspect of science that contradicts a religious belief) is “just a theory”. And then the argument spins into definitions of theory, etc.

My humble proposal to help clarify science for the public is to change the word “theory” to “explanation” (e.g., “the Explanation of Evolution” or “the Big Bang Explanation”). That way, it loses the negative connotation (i.e., that a theory is a wild guess) while keeping the correct definition and still implying that it’s not Absolute Truth.

It seems like the word ‘theory’ was poorly chosen. Or perhaps it was better suited many years ago when the connotations were different than nowadays. Or is there some other valid reason to keep it as ‘theory’ that I am missing?

So, maybe we Cecil-educated teeming millions can petition the National Academy of Sciences or something and get this fixed. Just think of all the posts we would save here in GD by not having to constantly re-explain what a scientific theory is.

I think scientists have always called things not entirely proven “theories”. We still have the “theory” of relativity even though a great majority of people believe it to be true. Changing the word to explanation will not stop people from attacking its validity.

On some level, changing the word now is lowering down to the lowest level, which I find personaly a rather unattractive option. Then again, for years people have been using the word Creationism to actively dismiss an opposing theory to evolution. Both these issues are fine examples of using semantics to one’s favour.


True, and I agree it’s semantics, but it seems like the connotation no longer fits the definition. Just trying to inject some clarity here. I think the public would be better served if scientists offered an “Explanation of X” rather than what is perceived by some people to be WAGs. Granted, some people reject all scientific evidence no matter what, or at least all scientific evidence that doesn’t suit their beliefs.

Of course, as you know, theories are never proven 100% true. They are refined (or replaced) to better fit the evidence as new and better data are obtained.

Anyone know if non-English languages have the same connotation problems with scientific “theories”?

Well, there’s the connotation problem again. Creationist don’t offer scientific theories. They offer faith-based dogma. As for evolution, there are several scientific variations to the theory (i.e., opposing theories are not automatically dismissed if they are presented scientifically).

Alessan - Interesting point. I had not considered the grrr factor.

I think that whatever word were selected to replace theory would soon gain the same connotation of being a wild guess: soon “it’s just an explanation” would be echoed through these hallowed cyber-halls.

The only solution is to ban the use of language by people too stupid to understand it.