Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Have A Theory

My theory is:

One of the reasons people are willing to give Not so Intelligent Design space in the classroom is they don't understand the word theory, in it's scientific context.

With any mystery, puzzle or project, people will come up with a theory of what, why or how something happened. Conspiracy theory's abound about almost any controversy. Oliver Stone got to make a movie acting out his own theory about who killed Kennedy.

Every one has a theory about something, and many are just plain nutty.

So, when someone hears an attack on the Theory of Evolution, it is easy to accept. After all, it is just a theory.

In science, a Theory is far more that just an idea.


There is a very high threshold that must be met for a theory to be born. It has to be not just an idea, but an idea that has been tested, observed, tested again and again observed then tested again. Only when you have created a body of work where you can make predictions, and then test those predictions, and the predictions are validated by the test results are you getting close to developing a valid scientific theory.

So the little word we casually use to define our wackiest of ideas is, in scientific word, a term deserving great respect.

That is the disconnect. Outside the scientific world theories are proposed and disposed without much thought. If we can entertain the millions of theories of the murder of President Kennedy, why can't we do the same in science, not understanding (or remembering) that there is a huge difference in what that one little word means.

So maybe I don't have a theory, lets call it a hypothesis.

I also think that science needs to take back the word theory, and make sure people understand that a theory really is.

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6 comments:

T.J. said...

I like the site. Keep up the good work.

NotVeryBright said...

Great minds think alike. ;-)

Nice entry.

JFH said...

No offense, John, but Darwinian theory of evolution doesn't meet the rigorous tests that you've stated. I'm not faulting the theory, because it's impossible to "make predictions" and validate them through testing when it comes to macro-evolution.

As I stated on Laurin's blog, Newtonian physics is a perfect example of a far better theory that was throughly tested, vetted, and PROVEN (for the measurements abilities we had at the time). We now, know that it's actually a fair approximation of general physics but it's obviously wrong in key aspects.

To be blunt, evolution has become almost a "religion" to many (especially atheists) because they fear that exposure of one of the weakest (albeit the best) theory of the origin of the species will lead people to believe in a Creator. (Sorry, as a Christian I gotta capitalize that term). In the physics world, we realize that even Einstein was wrong in some of his theories, but for some reason, in the biology world, Darwin is irrefutable.

John said...

The theory of evolution is still being tested, but that is the case with a great number of scientific theories. The people Involved still have generations of work to do, and testing the actual processes can not be done in some cases (how do you replicate 1,000,000 years of evolution to see what happens). But like other theories (the big bang, gravity) you work on what you can to prove or disprove the various ideas, and keep filling in the puzzle.

Over all Evolution is proving to be very sound science, and it's ability to predict discoveries is indicitive that the theory is sound in many if not most areas.

But this is not about Evolution (Darwins or any other version). This is about ID, and should it be taught in our schools.

This statement in a post at Panda's Thumb address that.

Intelligent Design theory is not a valid scientific theory for these reasons: 1.) Its hypothetical, intuitive and religious assumption of the intelligent design of complex systems is not testable or falsifiable using the scientific method, 2.) ID “theory” cannot develop hypotheses, and 3.) ID theory does not predict new discoveries as a true scientific theory does. More simply put, ID cannot explain natural phenomena beyond the intuitive and religious assumption that “God did it.”

I took a grand total of 12 credit hours of science in college, I am not a scientist, but that doesn't mean that I am totaly unable to tell the difference between good science (as is being done by the vast majority working on evolution) and fake science that we see being presented as Inteligent Design.

Thanks for your visit and your post.

Deacon Tim said...

The ID argument reminds me of Monty Python's "All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end."

John said...

very true