Joined: Oct. 2005
I think you're on to something. Lately, I've been pondering a fudge to the scientific nomenclature, differentiating its terminology from the vernacular terms. Which is snob for saying, let's change it from "theory" to something else that people won't mistake for "hunch".
All over the media, I see the term misused. Even some scientists refer to their ideas as theories when I don't think it meets the criteria. The ID people are clearly capitalizing on this fuzziness. Why give them the option? Why not calibrate the terminology?
Hypothesis: this one can stay. Its sufficiently narrow that it can't be confused with anything else. This applies to one experiment, one piece of data only.
Theory: Demote this term. Use it when you've got a collection of data that you want to explain, but aren't reasonably confident of your explanation. Its somewhat less than what we now call a theory, but more than just a hypothesis. Its a hypothesis that explains a bunch of hypotheses, and has yet to run the gauntlet of scientific rigor. There is an acknowlgeable chance that it will be subject to major modification or complete rejection. This puts the term more in harmony with the vernacular.
xxxx: We used to call this a theory, but since that was too confusing and exploitable, its time to change the term. It refers to a sort of meta-explanation. Its beyond a reasonable doubt, and has run the gauntlet of scientific examination. Its not really a law, per se, because the explanation is still subject to minor modification. "The Germ XXXX of disease." "The XXXX of Relativity." "Evolutionary XXXX."
Law: This one can also stay. The law of gravity, as generally understood: Objects are attracted towards each others center of mass. Quantify it mathematically if appropriate. A law is a sort of "specific generalization" that can't realistically be called into question.
So the question then becomes, what do we call what we currently call a theory? I am wracking my brain but can't come up with the right word. Meta something? Maybe something in latin?