BLUFThe word theory means different things to different people. Unfortunately, this difference can allow people with specific agendas to manipulate established scientific knowledge to confuse people.
Marcelo Gleiser writing in Think Big makes the following points:
- In science, a theory is generally based on solid empirical evidence.
- Many people use the word to mean undetermined knowledge based chiefly on speculative thinking.
- In this context, “in theory” means something might not be correct.
- Even with the scientific community, there are different types of theories—one is the result of an accumulated body of knowledge, the other a speculative idea.
- A scientific hypothesis is an idea not yet empirically tested or vetted by the scientific community.
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References from the Web:
- APR 2013 Just a Theory": 7 Misused Science Words-Scientific American
- APR 2016 In Science, It’s Never ‘Just a Theory’-New York times