I was itching to write a flash fiction piece in response to my one-word prompt, “theory.” But in the end, I decided, rather than trying to pull something new out of thin air, and at the risk of coming off somewhat as a rapscallion, I’d repost this December 2017 rant.
It really chaps my ass when people argue that evolution is “just a theory” in order to attack its credibility.
In everyday vernacular, the term “theory” is often used to describe a guess or a hunch. In science, though, a theory is not a “good guess.” It’s something that has been proven to have considerable merit based upon substantial amounts of evidence. It’s based upon facts and observations, not on beliefs.
Let’s clarify a few terms and how they’re defined from the scientific perspective.
Hypothesis: In science, a hypothesis is an educated guess based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.
Fact: In science, a fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and, for all practical purposes, is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow based upon further examination and new discoveries.
Theory: In science, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
So, a scientific theory, such as evolution, is a highly substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, and provides an explanation that fits all the observations. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It’s as close to proven as anything in science can be.
In other words, a hypothesis is educated guess; a fact is a what; a theory is a how and/or a why. A theory in science is an explanation, not just a hunch or a good guess.
What a theory is not is a belief or an opinion unsubstantiated by observable, tested evidence.
So to those of you who claim that evolution is “just a theory,” you’re right, it is a theory. A well founded scientific theory.
Written for these daily prompts: Word of the Day Challenge (itching), Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (theory), Ragtag Daily Prompt (air), and Your Daily Word Prompt (rapscallion).