What is a Theory Anyway?

I know that the article is a bit dated for this post, but the topic is timely.

As a person trained in Science, I find it a bit maddening when I hear people throw out the words “It’s just a theory.” The statement on its face demonstrates an ignorance about science that undermines much of the debate about important issues such as climate change.

Let’s start with evolution…it is a scientific theory. or as noted in the article…

climate change theory“In science, the word theory isn’t applied lightly,” Kenneth R. Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University, said. “It doesn’t mean a hunch or a guess. A theory is a system of explanations that ties together a whole bunch of facts. It not only explains those facts, but predicts what you ought to find from other observations and experiments.”

There are many theories that have been demonstrated again and again and in many cases people were prosecuted and persecuted because the scientific theory did not support popular notions. Study Galileo or Pasteur or Curie…

So, when we speak about climate change, we have facts…climate change is happening.

And we have a theory…that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This theory is supported by a massive and growing body of scientific evidence.

I think that is what galls science deniers as it has galled science deniers since the beginning of time. If the facts don’t fit a belief…and notice my use of the word…then those that deny science simple say “it’s just a theory.” Of course, they don’t know what that means.

Read the full article:
In Science, It’s Never ‘Just a Theory’
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.

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2 comments

  1. Jeffrey grant says:

    Wayne, anthropogenic climate change is not a theory, it is a hypothesis that is supported by a statistical correlation. Statistical correlations are not adequate to enable a theory. Most scientists subscribe to the scientific method to enable theories.

    • Wayne DeFeo says:

      Hey, the system is fixed so that you can reply. that’s great. No, I disagree…as does the author. But thanks for replying.

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