Fact vs. Theory

April 14, 2006

Part of reason people find it easy to reject evolution is that scientists refer to it as a “theory”. In everyday English, a theory is something that you’re not really sure of, but think might be true. In science, a theory is a body of thought. So the different definitions are causing the general public to doubt something that scientists consider a fact.

One solution might be to use a new word. This is what Creationists did when they switched to Intelligent Design. One option here is to find a word that’s defined the same in both science and common English. But in science you must always leave open the possibility that you’re wrong, and any word that implies this will necessarily fail to communicate just how sure scientists are about evolution.

Another option is to use a new word, but just define it differently for science and common English. That’s already the case now with “theory”, so doing so with the new word wouldn’t be any worse. I suggest using the word “fact”. In everyday English it means something objectively and undeniably true, but in science it would mean a body of thought. Then scientists could refer to the “fact of evolution” and Creationists would have one less weapon.