Is there a name for a theory that is not supported by any evidence?

Speculation, from Webster’s 3rd:

Etymology:Middle English, from Late Latin speculation-, speculatio act of spying out, exploration, contemplation, from Latin speculatus, past participle of speculari to spy out, examine

1 a archaic : studious or profound consideration of some object or topic b : the faculty, act, or process of intellectual examination or investigation: as(1) : reasoning taking the form of prolonged and systematic analysis**(2) : reasoning or theorizing about a matter that transcends experience and does not admit of demonstration :** reasoning a priori(3) Hegelianism : reasoning that apprehends the unity of opposing categories, synthesizes them in a broader comprehension, and constitutes the thinking which explains objects of experience by their relation to the absolute personal reason c : contemplation or the theoretical as opposed to action or the practical d : light, casual, or superficial mental examination or study : mere guesswork or surmise his answer was obviously a product of speculation and not of serious thought
2 archaic : capacity for or exercise of the power of seeing: as a : comprehending or mental vision thou hast no speculation in those eyes— Shakespeare b : physical vision : the act of viewing : OBSERVATION
3 : a product of speculation: as a : a view, conclusion, opinion, or decision based on thought or attained by reasoning b : GUESS, CONJECTURE
4 obsolete : OBSERVER
5 a : an act of speculating (as by engaging in business out of the ordinary, by dealing with a view to making a profit from conjectural fluctuations in the price rather than from earnings of the ordinary profit of trade, or by entering into a business venture involving unusual risks for a chance of an unusually large gain or profit) or the condition of being speculated in uncontrolled speculation is a danger to the national economy land speculation in the 19th century was as common as stock speculation today — contrasted with investment b : an individual transaction so entered into had a successful speculation in cotton futures
6 : a card game in which the players buy trumps from one another on a chance of getting the highest trump dealt and winning the pool

The problem arises when one side (of course, the Creationists) plays fast and loose with definition switching in an attempt to portray the opposing view as no better at base (“just a theory”) than the opposing view. It’s just another way to lie.

I always liked story.

String theory

Superstitions commonly accepted but not evidenced.

That and myth were my thoughts.

Wild Ass Guess

A thought on “conjecture”.

Whilst a good word, it has the disadvantage that, like theory, it has too many meanings. In mathematics a conjecture is not a wild ass guess. It is usually something that is quite possibly true, has not been proven, yet usually has a lot of supporting evidence supporting its validity. Indeed often there is general agreement that the famous conjectures are very likely true, and the lack of a successful proof (that would elevate them to theorems) a source of great interest. Either opening up new areas of mathematics, or the possibility that they are intrinsically unprovable truths. Fermat’s last theorem was a conjecture, except that he claimed to have proved it, so in deference it was tagged as a theorem, even though consensus is that his (famously too long and thus lost) proof was not likely to have been rigorous.

Quite true. Context matters, and surely most (if not all) of the alternatives in that synonymy I linked to have their strengths and weaknesses in expressing the notion the OP is looking for. As a fallback position, it’s hard to beat “bullshit” if the alleged evidence in support of the “theory” is either totally absent or highly suspect.

What one person is able to accept “on faith” may leave another person baffled. And even the most highly regarded and longest-lived theories are occasionally tweaked or modified when new evidence arrives. Some have even been rejected as wrong after centuries of being “the answer” to some noteworthy question.

It’s hard for many people to accept “we’re working on it” as a reasonable explanation for how things behave or how Nature reveals itself.

I read that as Hannity, which is also an appropriate term for statements made with utterly no evidence.

Often these “theories” fall under the category of “pseudoscience” - well, to be more specific, “creationism” is just religion, “Intelligent Design” is pseudoscience.

How about Hamnity and we split credit 50/50.



If you want a general term that encompasses the supported and unsupported ones alike, you could go with “idea”. Creationism and evolution are both ideas.

Some very respected areas of science involve unknowables with heavy conjecture - e.g. pre-biotic chemistry, trying to understand the chemical processes that led to life on earth.

People have thought deeply on how building blocks such as RNA nucleotides might have come into being, and constructed very elegant syntheses under conditions that might resemble the earth, 4 billion years ago. We have of course geology and earth sciences to assist with this conjecture, but it is still a very open-ended question. If you asserted that a key transformation, usually requiring a Lewis acid for activation, happened via pre-biotic rock minerals acting as catalysts, no one could really say you were wrong.
There are probably similar articles of faith in a lot of scientific areas, particularly those that try and study processes of the past.

I think we were separated at birth.

You could always go with “unsupported theory”.

I say “bullshit”. Someone beat me to it though.

“Wishful thinking”, “fanciful thinking” or “pulling shit out of one’s ass” are all possibilities as well.

Put it this way:

In the Scientific Method, we begin with empirical observation about the nature of things.

We then form an idea; conjecture; speculation, etc. that can lead us to a more formal hypothesis.

A good hypothesis will offer some way, usually by repeatable experimentation to collect data and evidence that will either support or falsify the hypothesis.

If everything begins to fall in line, then you can upgrade your hypothesis to a theory, but theories do not live in a bubble, and must play nice with more established, concrete theories (unless you’re onto something that might turn physics on its ear).

What we have with Creationism or Hollow Earth doesn’t even qualify for the empirical observation part.

So, the word you want there is made-up dogma and nonsensical bullshit (or pseudoscience if you feel like being overly polite) respectively.

Yep, Creationism and the like are careful to make no testable predictions at all, so are in the “not even wrong” category.

Actually I saw a movie once where the speaker claimed Creationism makes predictions, but all the propositions were things that were self-evidently true anyway. But a model needs to predict something we wouldn’t otherwise expect to be true to be capable of being verified in any sense (or be useful).