Talk:Scientific theory

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"Why are scientists pushy about their theories (opinions)." So hilariously bad, that it must be vandalism. Oh, and you forgot a question mark. --WOVcenter 03:34, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Yes, vandalism, or some sort of joke. "Everyone had a thermometer that measured differently, which is why we have two temperature scales; fahrenheit and celcius." Ha ha. Please revert. RSchlafly 03:48, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Theory v hunch

This article is still in bad shape. It is not true that there is any big difference between scientific and non-scientific usage of the word "theory". Scientists use the word to describe a hunch as much as non-scientists do. RSchlafly 12:47, 10 March 2007 (EST)

That's not necessarily true. Scientific "hunches" are known as hypotheses, and most hypotheses are disproved. Theories have corroborating evidence to suggest that they are accurate. --WOVcenter 13:34, 10 March 2007 (EST)

No, you are not correct. If you were, then give me some citation backing you up. Show me some scientific paper that says, "That hypothesis might be good enough to be called a theory according to the layman's use of the word, it has not been proved accurate enough to be called a scientific theory." It doesn't happen. There are theories like String Theory that have not been confirmed at all. RSchlafly 17:02, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Actually RSchlafly the statement preceding yours is correct. Your demand regarding a scientific paper makes no sense; why would a scientist writing for an audience of other scientists ever make the statement you require? Next, the National Academy of Sciences, which has reasonable jurisdiction over basic scientific terminology, defines a theory as, "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." In other words, not a "hunch." String Theory moreover doesn't really apply, since many physicists such as Carlo Rovelli and Philip Anderson contest the validity of calling String Theory a theory at all. --WOVcenter 20:10, 20 March 2007 (EDT)

I accept the NAS definition, but where is the proof that scientists use the term "theory" differently from others? They don't. A lot of physicists use the term "String Theory", if not all. Are you saying that they are wrong? Does the NAS say that they are wrong? The article promotes a phony distinction that is not recognized by the vast majority of scientists. RSchlafly 16:12, 24 March 2007 (EDT)

Theory v Scientific Theory

The Theory page seems to overlap with Scientific theory at least in intent, but the former takes a very different position on what the word "theory" means. In fact, it takes a position that makes other uses of the word here problematic. I made a note about that on Talk:Theory. Perhaps Theory could just redirect to this one? And it would be nice to see something here about how personal bias can lead to the word "theory" being attached to something that isn't really a theory at all (not falsifiable, for example, or having many inconsistencies that are overlooked because they contradict personal bias). Just because the word "theory" gets attached to something in common usage doesn't make it a theory. Bwilliston 14:05, 10 March 2007 (EST)

Scrap the other page. It just adds to the confusion. Make it redirect here. RSchlafly 17:05, 10 March 2007 (EST)

The disputed section says that a common speech theory is different from a scientific theory, with the former being an "unsubstantiated guess" and the latter having to be "well-supported and accepted". My dictionaries don't say any of those things, and they don't reflect any popular or scientific usage to my knowledge. I'd be happy to use a dictionary definition, but if you want something else, then you should provide some support for it. RSchlafly 05:00, 25 March 2007 (EDT)

I propose replacing the definition in this article with one that conforms more closely to dictionaries and common usage. I suggest:

A Scientific Theory is a model or framework for describing the behavior of a related set of natural or social phenomena. A theory is a plausible or consistent explanation; it becomes scientific when it is subjected to empirical scrutiny. A Scientific Theory must be falsifiable, meaning that there must be some way to do observations that might disprove the theory.
A scientific theory does not necessarily have to have strong experimental support or accepted by the scientific community. Scientists often refer to untested theories and competing theories. Theories can be extremely well-confirmed, such as conservation of energy, or wildly speculative, such as String Theory. RSchlafly 18:14, 25 March 2007 (EDT)
That sounds pretty good, I'm all for it. --Hojimachongtalk 18:15, 25 March 2007 (EDT)

Blocking and reverting

Why is my version of the article being reverted? I see no fault in it. If you wish to block it, I request that you please give reason.

Reason: Because you are a mindless liberal vandal. Oooooooo. Anything else? --<<-David R->> 22:59, 20 March 2007 (EDT)

My version got reverted too! The true reason is that the crazy fundamentalists behind this website can't handle the truth. They have to twist it a little bit so that it doesn't contradict the infallible (yeah right) bible. Sorry guys but evolution is real and there's nothing you can do about it! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Thoth (talk)


I broke the existing entry into two paragraphs, and added mention of Scientific Laws. Sources still need to be cited (specifically for the first statement. Would the person who wrote the original article cite that?). Charliemc86 16:46, 21 March 2007 (CST)



The concept of scientific theory has come under fire from fundamentalist Christians who don't accept the theory of evolution. The recurring argument is that "it's not fact. It's only a theory" but as shown here in a scientific theory is something that is supported by fact. It's a verified hypothesis and thus in science theory and fact don't stand in opposition.

This is not encyclopedic, it's not even spelled right. --Ed Poor 18:51, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

This could be expanded on at Theory and fact. --Ed Poor 18:53, 13 April 2007 (EDT)


Palpable pap! Among scientists there are no "evolutionists", which is a term made up by the pseudo-scientists of Creationism. Read the quotes in the article. It refers to scientists, not evolutionists, and those scientists include geologists, astronomers, physicists and chemists. NitramNos 16:18, 8 June 2007 (EDT)

No, that is not the origin of the term. Yes, the quotes refer to scientists. They are examples of evolutionists talking about scientists. RSchlafly 16:42, 8 June 2007 (EDT)
I beg to differ (along with the rest of the scientific community). They are examples of scientists talking about scientists. You are confused by the nonsense propagated by non-scientists and evangelical scientists. There is no such thing as an evolutionist. The misinformation on this site about what science is and what scientists do boggles the scientific mind. Perhaps that is why there are Natural History Museums, and then there are Creationist museums. NitramNos 15:52, 9 June 2007 (EDT)
If you had the scientific community on your side, then you'd be able to cite some sources. You can find the word "evolutionist" in the dictionary. RSchlafly 10:11, 10 June 2007 (EDT)
I guess your confusion, RSchlafly, lies in the fact that you conflate the profession of a biologist who specializes in the study of evolution (an "evolutionist") with all scientists who accept the Theory of Evolution as the unifying theory of all the life sciences, and make observations, perform experiments and publish their findings on that basis. Scientist studying the mutations of a flu virus, scientists studying a troop of baboons, and scientists classifying new plants discovered in the Amazon may all rely on the Theory of Evolution to predict and explain much of what they observe, but they are not evolutionists as defined by the dictionary. You, however, use the term to include any scientist who accepts the Theory of Evolution as fact. That is ann error. NitramNos 10:35, 10 June 2007 (EDT)
Your ad hominem attacks are not relevant to the article. RSchlafly 10:41, 10 June 2007 (EDT)

Evolution example

The section on the evolution example is hopelessly confused, and duplicated in Theory and fact. Both ought to be deleted. It makes sweeping statements about "all scientists" and "opponents of Evolution", none of which are supported. Some of it is nonsensical. It concludes "This is an unfair way to win a debate", but there is citation to anyone actually trying to win a debate that way, or to the supposed misunderstandings. I considered trying to improve it, but I think that it is hopeless. The stuff just does not belong. RSchlafly 23:34, 30 August 2007 (EDT)

Gravity example


The set of observations and mathematical formulae that explain how this force works, and the experiments which demonstrate that those observations and formulae are correct is called the Theory of Gravity.

No one has ever explained how the force of gravity works. We merely observe that gravitational force is proportional to an object's mass. Why this is so, and how it works is another story: a story yet to be told.

Formulas do not explain how something works. They merely predict the workings. For example, you can drive a car, knowing that the controls to operate it are reliable. But you need not understand the concepts of internal combustion or centripetal force to get a driver's license. You don't even have to know the basic formulas about momentum, inertia and force. --Ed Poor Talk 12:26, 18 March 2008 (EDT)

Usage of the term

We need to examine the implications of applying the word theory to an idea. In contrast to scientific laws such as the law of gravity - which are universally accepted by scientists - theories are not considered quite as thoroughly proven. Some theories have been retained in the face of contrary evidence or put forth despite the lack of any favorable evidence; see phlogiston theory.

The political debate over the theory of evolution exploits the connotations of the word theory. But this uses a circular argument:

  1. Since it's a theory, it must be true.
  2. It qualifies as a "theory" because many scientists believe it.
  3. Schoolchildren should believe it because it's a "theory".

This is tantamount to a confession that "we believe it because we believe it", i.e. we support it for reasons other than its explanatory power and its consistency with observations. --Ed Poor Talk 09:09, 21 March 2008 (EDT)

--Ed Poor Talk 09:09, 21 March 2008 (EDT)

Ed, this doesn't sound familiar to me. Can you point me to something where I can find those 3 arguments, or a portion of them, being used? Thanks. Murray 10:25, 21 March 2008 (EDT)
Ed - As far as I can see, the opening sentence of the article has it about right, and I'm not sure what you are suggesting here. In science a law describes what (always) happens, while a theory proposes an explanation of why it happens. It's nothing to do with whether it's "thoroughly proven" and "universally accepted". A theory never becomes a law; it's a completely different kind of thing. The law of gravity says (roughly!) that an apple will always fall to the ground, but does not explain why. Phlogiston theory was an attempt at an explanation of observed phenomena; evolution theory is another attempt to explain a set of observations. Whether they are true or not, and whether you (or "many scientists") accept them or not, has nothing to do with it. Theories are not "second-class" laws, and they do not (as it were) aspire to become laws. Nobody is saying "Since it's a theory, it must be true" - so I don't see where your line of reasoning comes from, or where it is leading. Humblpi 16:36, 21 March 2008 (EDT)

Scientific Lexicon

Should it be added that, in the scientific community, a theory is the highest "rank", for lack of a better word, a scientist could hope for a hypothesis to achieve? Should we also differentiate String theory, so called because it's a hypothesis in the branch of theoretical physics, and the theory of evolution, so called because it's a scientific theory? Should we say that theories, under no circumstances, can become laws, but are rather an explanation of how laws interact with each other? I'm afraid that this article appears to liken theories to what most scientists call "hypotheses". I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it is incorrect to say the least. MykalOfDefiance 21:52, 25 March 2009 (EDT)

I don't think that it is true that theories have highest rank. Some theories are better than others. Some have not been validated at all. Some theories are indeed hypothetical. RSchlafly 01:07, 26 March 2009 (EDT)

Regarding my edits...

I would like to be given an explanation for why my edits - which are, to the best of my knowledge, in line with the current scientific understanding - were undone. Is the idea that String Theory is not necessarily a theory offensive to somebody? Or was it the section about other theories, such as Cell Theory, Atomic Theory, etc? JPope 20:13, 10 December 2009 (EST)

Your string theory contributions remain in the article. But your claim that evolution is true has been reverted. JacobB 20:16, 10 December 2009 (EST)
I apologize for being so outright about that. I edited the article again - removing the direct assertion regarding Evolution - but maintaining my section about examples of scientific theories, and changing that pesky grammar edit. Also, I added appropriate citations.JPope 20:27, 10 December 2009 (EST)