Re: [humanism-174] In "Garlic Man" We Trust :)

From: Tim C.
Sent on: Sunday, January 13, 2013 3:04 PM
Unfortunately, when a word has multiple definitions, it is difficult to determine exactly which definition fits a particular situation.  In science, the term "theory" seems to be misunderstood by the public, and worse, sometimes misused by the scientists!  String Theory is more fairly "string hypothesis" or "string wild idea".  While string fits onto a mathematical framework, there are as yet no experiments or predictions that confirm or support it.  Worse, the math requires the intervention of multiple un-discovered extra dimensions in order to operate!   As Randy states, some use the term "theory" more loosely than they ought.
 
Tim Campbell
 
In a message dated 1/13/[masked]:31:05 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, [address removed] writes:
Okay, I understand that you used a different meaning of the word. I assume then that your intent was to agree with both Tim and I that String Theory is at present not truly a scientific theory. However, when discussing a genuine scientific theory, such as evolution or Cell Theory or Quantum Theory, definition four is the more correct one to use. As I said putting the qualifier "only" in front of the word theory when discussing a well-established scientific theory is typically a tactic used by those who wish to dismiss a theory, such as evolution, as no better than a hunch or guess or opinion. My point was that this is not what scientists mean when they label an explanation as a theory. You are mistaken that the scientific community is not settled on "any one particular definition." There are some who do tend to use the word more loosely than the rest of the scientific community. But there is a sizable consensus on the definition. The wording of many is different but at their core they are essentially the same. Here are a few selected from some science organizations:

American Association for the Advancement of Science: http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/evolution/qanda.shtml

 A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. 

National Academy of Science: http://www.nationalacademies.org/evolution/TheoryOrFact.html

It refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.

Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses.

National Center for Science Education: http://ncse.com/evolution/education/definitions-fact-theory-law-scientific-work

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

National Science Teachers Association: http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/natureofscience.aspx

Theories are inferred explanations of some aspect of the natural world. Theories do not become laws even with additional evidence; they explain laws. However, not all scientific laws have accompanying explanatory theories.

Lastly, I offer one more online source for your additional illumination about the term theory as it is used by the general public compared to how the term is used by scientists: http://thinking-critically.com/2010/07/08/theory-scientific-vs-laymans-definition/

I trust you will read it. I also hope you read the previous one I sent. Just in case here it is again: http://www.notjustatheory.com/

Randy

From: Mark R. Orel <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Sunday, January 13,[masked]:57 AM
Subject: Re: [humanism-174] In "Garlic Man" We Trust :)

Randy: 

I'm afraid the misunderstanding is on your part.  

Theory:
1. Contemplation, speculation.
2. The result of contemplation; hence, an analysis or explanation;
esp., an analysis of a set of facts in their ideal relations to one another;
as, essays in theory.
3. The general or abstract principles of any body of facts real or assumed;
pure as, distinguished from applied, science or art; as the theory of music
or of medicine.
4. A general principle, formula, or ideal construction, offered to explain phenomena
and rendered more or less plausible by evidence in the facts or by the exactness
and relevancy of the reasoning; as, Lavoisier's theory of combustion; Adam Smith's
theory of moral sentiments.  In its most proper acceptation, theory means the completed
result of philosophical induction from experience.  - J.S. Mill.
5. A plan or scheme theoretically constructed.
6. A hypothesis offered as a basis of thought on a given subject; loosely, any idea ,
guess, etc., put forward to be accepted or rejected in seeking the explanation of some
condition, occurrence, or the like.
7. Math.  A body of theorems presenting a clear, rounded, and systematic view of a
subject; as, the theory of probability.

   -  Webster's Second.

I used it as I intended and I used it correctly.
You are using it the context of definition four. 
I used in the context of definitions two and three. 

I will also say that the scientific community does
not seem to be settled on any one particular definition. 


M. Orel

On[masked]:13, Randy Pelton wrote:
Mark,

First of all your use of the phrase "only a theory" appears to reveal a misunderstanding on your part. If it is a theory then what is meant by saying it is "only a theory?" You seem to be implying that there is some level within a hierarchy of scientific knowledge or knowledge in general to which the idea has yet to rise. In science, theory is the pinnacle. Theories in science are the BIG IDEAS. They are the explanations that are supported by a broad and deep body of evidence, facts, and laws. A theory explains, among other things, the relationship between a body of observations, laws, facts and both experimental and theoretical evidence. There is no category of scientific knowledge higher than a theory. Yet the phrase you use seems to imply there is.

Furthermore, be careful with the use of this phrase. This phrase is most often used by those whose intent is to dismiss a theory as no better than a guess or an unfounded opinion someone might have. And this most certainly is not what a theory is. 

Finally, all this said, it is unfortunate, IMO, that scientists call it String Theory. At best it is a hypothesis. As Tim pointed out earlier, String Theory is as of yet untested. None of its predictions have yet been experimentally tested and therefore this so-called theory has no actual verification. It is a very intriguing idea. And if it turns out to be correct it will explain a number of observations that remain unexplained. But this so-called theory still awaits some experimental verification.

If you need further clarification and information on why it is misleading to refer to a scientific theory in this way, I recommend reading Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America‚Äôs Soul written by biologist Kenneth Miller. While the book is primarily about evolution, Miller tackles the intentionally misleading use of the phrase "it's only a theory" offered up by those who deny evolution. They often describe it as "just a theory" as means of dismissing it as being no better than a hunch. You might also read the short discussion of what is meant by scientists when they use the term theory on the website http://www.notjustatheory.com/

 Randy



From: Mark R. Orel <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Thursday, January 10,[masked]:54 AM
Subject: Re: [humanism-174] In "Garlic Man" We Trust :)

As I said this was a quick and simple description.  I did leave
a great deal out.  Is there something more you would like to
know? 

As far as string theory goes, I did write, "If you like string theory". 
I hoped that implied it to be only a theory.  But I thank you
for the clarification. 


M. Orel







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