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Unread 02-16-2010, 09:11 PM
 
Location: Richland, Washington
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Default The difference between a theory in science and a theory in layman's terms

Anti evolutionists constantly claim that evolution is 'just a theory.'

Here's the definition of a layman's theory:

1. a. Systematically organized knowledge applicable in a relatively wide variety of circumstances, esp. a system of assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze, predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena. b. Such knowledge or such a system distinguished from experiment or practice. 2. Abstract reasoning: speculation. 3. An assumption or guess based on limited knowledge or information: hypothesis.

Here's the definition of a scientific theory:

A scientific theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

There's a qualitive difference between the two. Evolution is considered to be a scientific theory. When scientists call evolution a theory, they are referring to the latter definition.
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Unread 02-16-2010, 09:28 PM
 
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philosophers debate whether scientific theories can ever be "proven" so in some way the "its just a theory" thing has a point.
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Unread 02-16-2010, 09:38 PM
 
Location: Richland, Washington
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Quote:
Originally Posted by expect View Post
philosophers debate whether scientific theories can ever be "proven" so in some way the "its just a theory" thing has a point.
Philosophers also aren't scientists. While they may have opinions about issues, they aren't credible experts in scientific fields.
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Unread 02-16-2010, 09:44 PM
 
Location: Victoria, BC.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by expect View Post
philosophers debate whether scientific theories can ever be "proven" so in some way the "its just a theory" thing has a point.
In science a theory is simply an explanation or model of the world that makes testable predictions.
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Unread 02-16-2010, 09:53 PM
 
Location: NC, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agnostic soldier View Post
Anti evolutionists constantly claim that evolution is 'just a theory.'

Here's the definition of a layman's theory:

1. a. Systematically organized knowledge applicable in a relatively wide variety of circumstances, esp. a system of assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze, predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena. b. Such knowledge or such a system distinguished from experiment or practice. 2. Abstract reasoning: speculation. 3. An assumption or guess based on limited knowledge or information: hypothesis.

Here's the definition of a scientific theory:

A scientific theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

There's a qualitive difference between the two. Evolution is considered to be a scientific theory. When scientists call evolution a theory, they are referring to the latter definition.
Yup, In scientific circles being a theory is a big deal, after all it is still Einsteins' "Theory" of relativity", and, it is also Newtons' "Theory of gravitation" Darwin and his "Theory of Evolution" are in very good company.
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Unread 02-16-2010, 11:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agnostic soldier View Post
Philosophers also aren't scientists. While they may have opinions about issues, they aren't credible experts in scientific fields.
that still doesn't dispute the fact that theories can never be proven, which is why they debate about it and why people hold fast to the "its just a theory" responses to a or b theory.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sanspeur View Post
In science a theory is simply an explanation or model of the world that makes testable predictions.
agreed
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Unread 02-17-2010, 12:26 AM
 
Location: China
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Quote:
A scientific theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.
The problem is that there are some things that are assumed (such as Mars WAS a red dry lifeless planet - haha - until they discovered water, and methane).

Some proof is based on a load of twaddle (such as NASA photographs of Moon/Mars). Just because it is a scientific theory does not mean that it cannot be changed or dismissed on a whim if it is found to be wrong. (like the Mars example above)

What you fail to point out is that 'researchers' have to be credible scientists and NOT lay-people (however 'expert' they are.)

'Proven hypotheses' - Proof, just like belief, is a matter of scientist's opinion sometimes. Some things cannot be proved therefore they dont exist or you cannot create hypotheses about them I suppose.

It seems to me like there is one 'rule' for scientists and one rule for all the non-scientists.
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Unread 02-17-2010, 12:35 AM
 
1,745 posts, read 896,906 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by expect View Post
that still doesn't dispute the fact that theories can never be proven, which is why they debate about it and why people hold fast to the "its just a theory" responses to a or b theory.
Evolution IS a fact regardless to whether the theory of evolution (i.e. the scientific explanation as to how evolution works) is ever "proven" - though a theory with 99.99999% of the evidence supporting it is pretty much a given..
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Unread 02-17-2010, 02:16 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
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Default Badly presented argument, I'm afraid. But predictable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ocpaul20 View Post
The problem is that there are some things that are assumed (such as Mars WAS a red dry lifeless planet - haha - until they discovered water, and methane).

Significant correction: Mars was thought by the evidence of the day to probably be a dry, lifeless planet based on long-distance telescopic observations and spectral analyses. Then, the available tools expanded by several orders of magnitude.

Just who do you think created the entire design concept and construction of the Mars Rovers? A bunch of your supposedly disinterested, assumptive scientists, or the involved, curious knowledge-expanding scientists at NASA/JPL? I can assure you it wasn't a team of curious Church administrators who proposed or funded the Mars projects, now was it?


Let's be rational adults here and give credit where it's due. To "science".

Some proof is based on a load of twaddle (such as NASA photographs of Moon/Mars). Just because it is a scientific theory does not mean that it cannot be changed or dismissed on a whim if it is found to be wrong. (like the Mars example above).

Exactly right. but scientists are notoriously capable and able to revise, reject or enhance their theories. Also you err in your comparisons: with Evolution, we're not talking about a distant, hard to access study being done for the first time with robots reporting back via very tenuous radio signals here.

We're talking about literally millions of reproduceable studies now completed, with many more en-route through the "miracle" of DNA genome lineage tracking and the like that have and will confirm the obvious. That Evolution is not, as you so casually dismiss,"a load of twaddle".

The only reason you hate it so much is that it flies right up the nostrils of a fundamentalist viewpoint, one based on orchestrated and biased information, and supported only by an ancient non-scientific book of fable and spiritual guidance. It's hardly a credible source of scientific information. In fact, the bible is almost a textbook case study in biases and personal opinions.

Your illogical efforts to conflate a state-of-the-art 21st century trial experiment where everything is new (the Mars Rover project and it's eventual offspring) with 150 years of careful observation by literally tens of millions of educated and thoughtful and introspective individuals fails on it's own face. Many of those scientists have questioned the status-quo of Evolutionary thinking, to it's eventual improvement.

I remind you, and all the others who try to throw information back in the face of it's origins, that it is ALWAYS us who announce our failures, our significant changes and our advances. Just because you can't stand the advances, but love to gloat over the setbacks or revisions, is no basis for a mature and intellectually honest individual to toss it all out in an infantile foot-stamping huff session.


What you fail to point out is that 'researchers' have to be credible scientists and NOT lay-people (however 'expert' they are.)

Actually, any rational and thoughtful person can design and complete research. Many "lay people" with an insightful idea have produced significant conclusions in medicine, engineering and biology. Darwin is a prime example. Of course, I'm betting you predictably hate him, or more correctly what he stands for.

Of course it helps to understand the basics of the topic, so you have a better idea what's already been looked at, or to give you an idea what areas need additional clarification. I'd caution you against tinkering with nuclear power plant design and construction in your back yard before you undertake the basics of nuclear physics and engineering. But please: do go ahead if you must: no-one's stopping you from thinking about anything. Well, except the Church; that's long been their purvue.

Proof, just like belief, is a matter of scientist's opinion sometimes.

Sometimes, yes, but not generally, and not for long. Substantial claims generally require substantial evidence, and there's a lot of scientists out there who are more than willing to take on controversial topics. You'd just prefer to mis-characterize them all. How generous of you.

Some things cannot be proved therefore they don't exist or you cannot create hypotheses about them I suppose.

No. It just creates reasonable doubt, and when the "unprovable" is held to be conveniently and directly responsible for literally everything, but yet new convincing evidence comes along almost daily that shows how at least some or most of it works in a completely different manner, what are we to then conclude? The growing conclusive evidence for Evolution has pretty much discounted, for the rational in any case, the literalist and magical biblical versions.

It seems to me like there is one 'rule' for scientists and one rule for all the non-scientists.
Well, too bad you see it that way. I suspect your personal perspectives are seriously coloring your opinions here, versus good old fashioned common sense.

Enjoy your evening!
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Unread 02-17-2010, 04:02 AM
 
97 posts, read 61,462 times
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One of the best lay-person's explanation I have ever found:

Quote:

Here is what each of these terms means to a scientist:
Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to describe, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and universal, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don’t really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.
Specifically, scientific laws must be simple, true, universal, and absolute. They represent the cornerstone of scientific, because if a law ever did not apply, then all science based upon that law would collapse. Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, Newton's laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, Boyle's law of gases, the law of conservation of mass and energy, and Hook’s law of elasticity.

Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.
Theory: A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.
In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events.
In fact, some laws, such as the law of gravity, can also be theories when taken more generally. The law of gravity is expressed as a single mathematical expression and is presumed to be true all over the universe and all through time. Without such an assumption, we can do no science based on gravity's effects. But from the law, we derived the theory of gravity which describes how gravity works,what causes it, and how it behaves. We also use that to develop another theory, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, in which gravity plays a crucial role. The basic law is intact, but the theory expands it to include various and complex situations involving space and time.
The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law describes a single action, whereas a theory explains an entire group of related phenomena.
An analogy can be made using a slingshot and an automobile.
A scientific law is like a slingshot. A slingshot has but one moving part--the rubber band. If you put a rock in it and draw it back, the rock will fly out at a predictable speed, depending upon the distance the band is drawn back.
An automobile has many moving parts, all working in unison to perform the chore of transporting someone from one point to another point. An automobile is a complex piece of machinery. Sometimes, improvements are made to one or more component parts. A new set of spark plugs that are composed of a better alloy that can withstand heat better, for example, might replace the existing set. But the function of the automobile as a whole remains unchanged.
A theory is like the automobile. Components of it can be changed or improved upon, without changing the overall truth of the theory as a whole.
Some scientific theories include the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, the atomic theory, and the quantum theory. All of these theories are well documented and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet scientists continue to tinker with the component hypotheses of each theory in an attempt to make them more elegant and concise, or to make them more all-encompassing. Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced. A theory is developed only through the scientific method, meaning it is the final result of a series of rigorous processes. Note that theories do not become laws. Scientific laws must exist prior to the start of using the scientific method because, as stated earlier, laws are the foundation for all science.
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