Words matter. Truth matters. Definitions count. I remember a brief conversation with someone I had counted as a friend who told me that all reporting was lies.
I pointed out that my husband — among many other friends — was a reporter and never did I know him to haul himself out of bed in the middle of the night to cover a breaking story and then lie to the public — or anyone.
She paused and then she said: “Does it matter?”
If truth does not matter, what DOES matter? In the end, if truth doesn’t matter, then everything we know, learn, might learn — means nothing.
It really chaps my ass when people argue that evolution is “just a theory” in order to attack its credibility.
In everyday vernacular, the term “theory” is often used to describe a guess or a hunch. In science, though, a theory is not a “good guess.” It’s something that has been proven to have considerable merit based upon substantial amounts of evidence. It’s based upon facts and observations, not on beliefs.
Let’s clarify a few terms and how they’re defined from the scientific perspective.
Hypothesis: In science, a hypothesis is an educated guess based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.
Fact: In science, a fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and, for all practical purposes, is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow based upon further examination and new discoveries.
Theory: In science, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
So, a scientific theory, such as evolution, is a highly substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something and provides an explanation that fits all the observations. In science, a theory is an ultimate goal and the explanation. It’s as close to proven as anything in science can be.
In other words, a hypothesis is an educated guess. A fact is a “what.” A theory is a how and/or a why. A theory in science is an explanation, not just a hunch or a good guess.
What a theory is not is a belief or an opinion unsubstantiated by observable, tested evidence.
So to those of you who claim that evolution is “just a theory,” you’re right, it is a theory. A well-founded scientific theory.
Written for these daily prompts: Word of the Day Challenge (itching), Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (theory), Ragtag Daily Prompt (air), and Your Daily Word Prompt (rapscallion).