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+--Forum: Antievolution, Politics, and the Law
+---Topic: The Law of Evolution started by MidnightVoice

Posted by: MidnightVoice on Aug. 28 2005,10:30

One way to get round the current impasse in the States is to persuade the AAAS or a similar body to make an announcement at the next Annual Conference.  Some thing along the lines of  “Having passed all the required scientific analyses for over a Century, we hereby declare that evolution is no longer a theory, but has the status of a law.  

As a corollary to this, as it is now a Law, no alternate theories need be taught, and such theories should be rigorously excluded from text books at any level.  “
Posted by: Swoosh on Oct. 11 2005,23:28

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?
Posted by: MidnightVoice on Oct. 12 2005,03:42

OK, so I will put my thinking cap on.  I am glad someone has been thinking along these lines, and your idea is an improvement on mine!
Posted by: rimby on Oct. 12 2005,10:11

Unfortunately, XXXX sounds a bit like dogma.
Posted by: FishyFred on Oct. 12 2005,11:27

How about "solution?"

The debate then shifts to calling something "The solution of relativity" or "The relativity solution."

"Theory of evolution" or "Evolution solution" (teehee!)
Posted by: Swoosh on Oct. 12 2005,22:36

The Dogma of Relativity.
The Dogma of Evolution.
The Dogma of Karma.
The Dogma of Intelligent Design.

You can see where it fits some better than others.  I tend to think of Dogma as more an ideological strange attractor than a scientific explanation based on evidence and research.  Color me confused by your use.

Solution is a good start.  Although the term reminds me of "solved", like you would use it in math.  Maybe metatheory?  That would simply the textbook/website updating process.  :D
Posted by: Wonderpants on Oct. 13 2005,04:59

The problem is that whatever you call it, ID will find a way to attack it.

If you call it a law, they'll talk about dogmatic atheists desperate to prop up an idea in crisis.

And if you continue to call it a scientific theory, they'll use the old 'it's just a theory!' line.
Posted by: Henry J on Oct. 13 2005,05:23

Even if a few people pick some terminology they like better than what a million scientists are using, what fraction of that million might be persuaded to use the proposed terms? ;)

Posted by: Swoosh on Oct. 13 2005,05:43

Hey, I know.  How about we rent the word out to corporations, kinda like the Olympics does.

Evolution, brought to you by Coca Cola.
Yahoo! Evolution.

This way the fundies couldn't be quite so cavalier about claiming a communism-evo link.
Posted by: FishyFred on Oct. 13 2005,06:33

"Oh noes! Those atheist evolutionists bow down to the almighty dollar!"

Of course, then we subpeona the DI's financial records...
Posted by: Swoosh on Oct. 13 2005,07:05

Snickers evolution.  Soft on the outside, crunchy on the inside.

Or we use their own words against em.

The Logos of Evolution.
Posted by: rimby on Oct. 14 2005,13:07

The reason it sounded like dogma to me was because MidnightVoice said,


As a corollary to this, as it is now a Law, no alternate theories need be taught, and such theories should be rigorously excluded from text books at any level.


Sounds arbitrary, would you agree? I was assuming from your first post that this would apply to theories promoted to XXXX status, but that may have been wrong, in which case my apologies.

I'm not sure when you could safely promote a theory to XXXX. After all, it was once beyond reasonable doubt that we lived in a static universe, and that continents did not move.
Posted by: HPLC_Sean on Oct. 17 2005,05:44

This thread seems to be ascribing a heirarchy of ways to describe scientific thoughts and conventions. The fact is that there is no concrete heirarchy and there should be none.
Hypotheses are specific testable statements and generally predate theories but are not inferior to them necessarily. Examples include: The Riemann Hypothesis (mathematics) has been tested to 1.5 million prime numbers but is still called a hypothesis; Avogadro's Hypothesis (chemistry) led eventually to Avogadro's Number but it is still called a hypothesis; The One Gene-One Enzyme (or Polypeptide) Hypothesis has been postulated and holds for those genes we have studied since 1941.
Theories are explanations of the general principles of phenomena with considerable evidence to support it. Examples include: The Theory of Evolution (biology), Gravity Theory (physics), Theory of Special Relativity (physics); Probability Theory (mathematics), Game Theory (economics).
Laws are mathematical definitions or mathematically definable phenomena. Examples include: The Laws of Thermodynamics (1st, 2nd, 3rd); Newton's Three Laws of Motion; The Ideal Gas Law. Evolution doesn't fit because it isn't primarily describable as an equation and is not tested mathematically.
Furthermore, there are PRINCIPLES. I don't know what the difference between a principle and a theory is but there are numerous examples: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (particle physics); Bernoulli's Principle (fluid behavior); The Superposition Principle (wave physics); LeChatelier's Principle of Equilibrium (solution chemistry).

I am very dubious about ascribing a heirarchy to the various ways of describing explanations for observable phenomena. To me, they're all equal and deserve equal respect.
Posted by: Henry J on Oct. 17 2005,16:12

To put in my two cents here, I would think that either law or principle would be a concise statement about something that happens under the described circumstances. A Theory is a body of knowledge for which the main principle(s) have been confirmed by testing, i.e., a confirmed hypothesis. A hypothesis is a proposal for a new law or principle that hasn't yet been confirmed.

I'm unsure if there's a technical distinction between "law" and "principle"? Would "law" be more general while "principle" could also refer to something that applies in more limited circumstances?

Unfortunately, several of the terms do get misused. String "theory" as I understand it is still unconfirmed, so it should be called "hypothesis", but it's been called "theory" for so long now that this misuse seems very unlikely to get corrected. Not to mention that those unfamiliar with scientific usage think "theory" means hypothesis or even just a guess.

Unfortunately, given all that, if talking to people who wouldn't be sure of the status of the theory under discussion, I'd say to clarify the term, as in "theory confirmed by repeated testing" or "hypothesis that hasn't yet been confirmed", or something along one of those lines.

Posted by: Greyshade on Nov. 07 2005,04:47

I would propose using the word 'science' as the intermediate between theory and law.  

Just being logical...

Besides, I like the sound of the 'Science of Evolution' and the 'Science of Relativity'.
Posted by: acriticaleye on May 28 2006,08:35

isnt a law somthing that can be proven though? somthing you can see?
Posted by: Henry J on May 28 2006,12:57

Re "isnt a law somthing that can be proven though? somthing you can see?  "

No, in science a law is a concise statement of a basic principle of some sort. They're often in the form of equations (e.g., g = G M1 M2 / r**2), or sometimes inequalities (e.g., entropy(after) >= entropy(before)).

Posted by: acriticaleye on May 28 2006,16:10

then do you suport my statement?
Posted by: Henry J on May 28 2006,18:23

Re "then do you suport my statement? "

I don't think I did. You asked if a law could be proven. It can be tested against observation; if it's wrong enough observations ought to spot someplace where the "law" doesn't hold. For example, Newton's law of gravity is shown incorrect by the movements of planet Mercury (which moves fast enough for relativity to affect it's position to a measurable extent). If by "proof" one means "prove beyond reasonable doubt", then a scientific law might be said to be proven within the areas in which it's been tested. But that's not usually what's meant by "proof".

Posted by: acriticaleye on May 29 2006,04:35

were you for or agenst the "law" of evolution then?
Posted by: Henry J on May 29 2006,08:16

Re "were you for or agenst the "law" of evolution then? "

What are you proposing as a "law" of evolution?

Closest things to a law I can think of off-hand would be (1) that complex life has recent ancestor(s) very much like itself, and (2) features not constrained by environment will vary independently of each other.

Posted by: acriticaleye on May 29 2006,16:10

off the origonal message.
Posted by: Henry J on May 29 2006,17:49

Re "off the origonal message."

Oh. Had to go reread the parent message to see what it said. Calling a major theory a law makes no sense, IMO. A law in this context is a concise statement of some principle or other, and theory in this case includes a large body of knowledge. Calling a whole body of knowledge a "law" would not make sense.

Posted by: acriticaleye on May 30 2006,07:37

thats what i was saying
Posted by: Beemer on May 25 2008,12:18

A Law is descriptive.
A Theory is explanatory.

Not all theories become laws. The ToE is destined to remain a scientific theory which is not to be confused with the lay or common usage of the word theory being a hunch or a guess.

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