(On the scientific “theory”)

If you are ever bored online (I am, obviously) you will wander into the large silly debate over evolution and “God-did-it” aka creationism aka intelligent design etc. And somebody on the other side will say, “It’s just a theory!” And some fearless defender of science will have to explain, for the umpteenth time, that in science the word “theory” means a rather well-tested and well-developed broad explanation.

I thought this was a particularly silly point for the creationists to try to argue. They’re not even trying to invoke scripture or intuition here, which might even make conceivable arguments; they’re arguing over the terminology of their opponents that they don’t need anyway.

But recently I realized that I had not-quite-consciously attached the same wildly-speculative label to other “theories”, now that I’m in AP Biology and ever-so-slightly closer to the frontiers. For example, the endosymbiont theory. It’s not of course that I think I should accept these things dogmatically — that’s always against scientific values — but I still feel like I’ve been tricked into being overcautious.

So now I genuinely think the scientists, or just whoever came up with this crappy idea to use “theory”, are at fault here. A new made-up word or phrase would totally be worth it here. It’s not like you guys pulled any punches with naming the organelles, or amino acids, or nucleic acids, or polysaccharides, or functional groups, or the elements of the periodic table. Don’t even get me started on the blasted months of the year.

Seriously, anybody who is responsible for naming stuff in the future, think of all the memory that could be used for better purposes.

Seriously. Two mating types and you call them a and α. There are no words for this feeling.


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