Darwinists' bad theory that they own the word "theory"
Darwinists are under the illusion that they can change people's perception of Darwinism by
Abstract A central obstacle to accepting evolution, both among students and the general public, is the idea that evolution is “just a theory,” where “theory” is understood in a pejorative sense as something conjectural or speculative. Although scientists and textbooks constantly explain that the scientific use of “theory” is quite different, the pejorative use continues to cause confusion, in part because of its deep roots in a popular, Baconian, understanding of science. A constructivist approach, whereby students are helped to examine the adequacy of their preconceptions about “theory” for themselves and to revise or replace them appropriately, is recommended.
For one thing, trying to
BTW, in mathematics, the term "theory" often means a branch of mathematics that has been rigorously proven. Some well-known mathematical theories are probability theory and set theory. A related word, "theorem," often means something in mathematics that has been proven, e.g., Pythagorean theorem and binomial theorem, but "theorem" does not always mean something that has been rigorously proven.
Branch and Mead discuss the controversy over adding the term "scientific theory" to the term "evolution" in the Florida state science standards:
. . . in Florida, just days before the state board of education was scheduled to vote on the new state science standards in 2008, there was a proposal to insert the phrase “the scientific theory of” before mentions of evolution. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, “By adding the word theory, which many opponents of the standards had argued for, the new version may appease those who do not view evolution as a scientific fact or those whose religious beliefs are in conflict with evolution” (Postal 2008). Clumsy, unnecessary, and apparently opposed by a majority of the writing committee, the revisions were accepted anyway, despite a valiant effort on the part of board member Roberto Martinez, who described the revisions as “an effort by people who are opposed to evolution to water down our standards” (Bhattacharjee 2008).
As the dust settled, though, it was increasingly clear that the revisions did not, after all, succeed in materially compromising the scientific integrity of the standards. Evolution was not invidiously singled out for attention: plate tectonics, cell theory, atomic theory, electromagnetism, and the Big Bang all received the same treatment.
Also, the final version of the Florida state standards gives its own non-dictionary definition of "theory," and -- as I indicated -- I think that is a wrong thing to do:
Recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life. (page 50 of document, page 54 of pdf file)
Unfortunately, the debate over using the word "theory" in the Florida science standards completely pushed aside the debate over the outrageous statement "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology," which remains in the final version of the standards (page 89 of document, page 93 of pdf file).
Controversy over the meaning of "theory" also arose in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution-disclaimer textbook-sticker case, particularly in regard to the phrase, "evolution is a theory, not a fact." The complete statement of the textbook sticker was,
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
Selman noted that a version that was proposed by a teacher and approved by the administration (but ignored by the school board, in large part because the school board had already voted on language that their counsel thought was constitutional) said,
This textbook contains material on evolution, a scientific theory, or explanation, for the nature and diversity of living things. Evolution is accepted by the majority of scientists, but questioned by some. All scientific theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
The statement "Evolution is accepted by the majority of scientists, but questioned by some" is an example of how an intended meaning of the term "theory" can be narrowly specified.
On Evolution News & Views, Casey Luskin is starting a five-part series that discusses the following questions:
1. Are Darwinists correct to define "theory" as "a well-substantiated scientific explanation of some aspect of the natural world" or "a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence"?
2. Under such a strong definition of "theory," does evolution qualify as a "theory"?
3. Is it correct to call evolution a "fact"?
4. Is it best for Darwin skeptics to call evolution "just a theory, not a fact"?
5. All I wanted to say is that I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism. How can I convey such skepticism without stepping on a semantic land mine and getting scolded by Darwinists?”
Also, in discussions of the study of evolution of Cit+ (citrate-eating) E. coli bacteria, there was a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word "goal." Zachary Blount, the lead author of the paper on the study, said that he believed that the Cit+ evolution was foreseen as a possible and desirable result of the experiment but it was "not a goal." To me, that is a definition of "goal" -- something foreseen as a possible (or sometimes even virtually impossible) and desirable result. For example, in a search for the Fountain of Youth, finding it is a "goal." So merely saying that Cit+ evolution was "not a goal" can be very misleading. The word "goal" needed to be qualified here, e.g., a secondary goal, a longshot goal, one of many goals, etc..