Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 02:21 pm
When does a theory stop being a theory? Does it ever? Is gravity still a theory?

I'm just wondering because I've been reading so much about that new Ben Stein movie "Expelled" where he talks about all the scientists being fired from their jobs for speaking out in favor of intelligent design.

I believe in having the freedom to speak freely and believe what you want but seriously, is evolution still a theory?

How much proof is required before something stops being a theory?
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raprap
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 03:12 pm
In science? Never. At best it's a Theory--& that includes gravity--Einstein showed that Newton was almost correct, but even Newton's theory of universal attraction, F=G*m1*m2/r^2, isn't absolutely 100% correct when you consider relativity--its 99.999999999....999% correct so it's good enough for government work (and to hold up the Golden Gate Bridge), so it's a pretty good theory--but it isn't (along with relativity) ever a law.

Now math, those aren't theories, they're theorems and once proved they're always correct within the constraints that started with. But math isn't science--it's just a hammer of science.

The result? The old adage of a mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer's view of pi strikes true.
To a mathematician pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and it's an irrational number.
To the physicist, pi is 3.14159 and it will remain that until they have a better theory.
To the Engineer pi is 3.

Rap
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 03:26 pm
To a machinist setting up surface feet per minute, pi is also 3.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 04:51 pm
So a theory DOES remain a theory forever?

How it's applied depends on how it will be used?

Has there ever been any theory that became fact? Does it stay a theory no matter what evidence comes up to support it?

Like black holes?

Or the earth is round?

Or planatary orbits?

Is photosynthesis a theory or a fact?

Is chemotherapy a theory or a fact?

What differntiates a theory from a fact?

I don't really have a dog in this fight, I'm just trying to get a handle on things.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 05:10 pm
In evolution, theory is the explanation of how it works. Since they wil be finding new evidence for the forseeable future, it will remain a theory. Hypothesis is a different matter.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 05:22 pm
boomer wrote-

Quote:
Has there ever been any theory that became fact?


There's the one about if you are a bloke you're phucked.
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TheCorrectResponse
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 06:38 pm
Rap's explanation is a good one. In science we can never know what is happening "behind the scenes". This was stated in 1927 as the "Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics". The best theory makes the best predictions that allows us to correlate observations with our experiences.

In science there is no problem when a new, better, theory comes along. It just means we more knowledgeable. So it's a good thing! If you look at the state of the many fields of science in 1900 and again in 2000 you can see the incredible changes that have occurred.
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raprap
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 07:13 pm
boomerang wrote:
So a theory DOES remain a theory forever?

How it's applied depends on how it will be used?

Has there ever been any theory that became fact? Does it stay a theory no matter what evidence comes up to support it?

Like black holes?

Or the earth is round?

Or planatary orbits?

Is photosynthesis a theory or a fact?

Is chemotherapy a theory or a fact?

What differntiates a theory from a fact?

I don't really have a dog in this fight, I'm just trying to get a handle on things.


Theories in many cases are used to explain facts (observations). The theories of gravity is used to explain why the earth is round and planetary orbits. The Relativity theory predicted black holes (singularities), now they are being used to explain other observations.

In a way a theory can be used to explain a fact, and to make predictions of other new (possibly not recognized) observations.

To some extent, a observation is the what--the scientific theory is the how, but the how can never be 100%, even though it may be well beyond surety. This is the strength of science, a scientific theory is in effect always in question---awaiting a newer, better explanation of the how of the what.

Howzatagin? You can believe anything you want---call it a theory if you want, but if it can't be used to explain the how of a observation, or to make reasoned predictions of a what---it's not a scientific theory--it is at best a hypothesis.

BTW Newton predicted that the earth wouldn't be perfectly spherical, because of angular momentum the earth would have an equatorial bulge and be flattened at the poles, The fact is that Newton's predictions were correct---that prediction however still does not make Newton's methods a fact----just a well supported scientific theory.

Rap
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Apr, 2008 07:17 pm
Someday an apple may fall from a tree and go up! We can't discount that possibility.
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boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 08:39 am
Quote:
Howzatagin? You can believe anything you want---call it a theory if you want, but if it can't be used to explain the how of a observation, or to make reasoned predictions of a what---it's not a scientific theory--it is at best a hypothesis.


Aha! Okay then. This sums it up very nice!

Thank you all for your patience in making this distinction clear for me.

So is intelligent design a theory or a hypothesis? I see how people can believe that it is used to explain the how of an observation but does it make any reasoned predictions of a what?

If there is no way to observe something over time can it really be a theory? Is "miracle" a theory of it's own?
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 08:56 am
boomerang wrote:
So is intelligent design a theory or a hypothesis? I see how people can believe that it is used to explain the how of an observation but does it make any reasoned predictions of a what?


I'd put ID in the realm of a theory but question the reasonablnees of the "reasoned" predictions. The probalms with it is that there really isn't any way to test it. And, of course, it is in direct conflict with the theory of evolution.

Evolution is hard to prove in itself (you can't just put something in a cage and demand that it evolve overnight!) but there have been hundreds of thousands of tests that support it and nothing to disprove it thusfar.

Quote:
If there is no way to observe something over time can it really be a theory? Is "miracle" a theory of it's own?


You may not be able to observe something directly but there may be a corresponding cause/effect relationship(s) on other things that may be observable. If those observations can be made, appear to be true and other possible causes are ruled out then those observations support the theory.

Most "miracles" fall a part because those "other possible causes" can't be ruled out. The appearance of a likeness of the virgin Mary on your morning toast could very well be a miracle but it can also be explained by the variances in the density of the bread, the heating properties of your toaster, etc...
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 09:16 am
Can't they put simple organisms in a "cage" and watch them evolve though? Something like a virus adapts and evolves pretty quickly, doesn't it?

And we can look back across time and make assumptions about the future to test theories, can't we?

Doesn't that make ID just another magic toaster?
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 09:37 am
boomerang wrote:
Can't they put simple organisms in a "cage" and watch them evolve though? Something like a virus adapts and evolves pretty quickly, doesn't it?


My understanding is that they don't evolve that quickly (unless they are "forced" to through genetic engineering but then that wouldn't prove evolution - it would prove that we can manipulate their genetic make-up) but I'll leave that for someone more qualified in that area.

Quote:
And we can look back across time and make assumptions about the future to test theories, can't we?

Doesn't that make ID just another magic toaster?


*nods* In some cases you can look back. But we are limited in our abilities so we might be able to detect that something happened but not be able to fully explain why it happened.

We have put together are fairly considerable chain of species. ID capitalizes on that by trying to offer an explaination for the "why". Evolution theory says the changes would just be random mutations and some mutations survived, some didn't. ID claims that those mutations were purposeful and intentional (or, at least that's my understanding of their claims).

That makes ID hard to disprove (and, to some extent, explains why some people have resorted to attacking the motives of it's proponents instead of the theory itself.) as well as hard to prove ("divine intervention" isn't widely accepted in the scientific community...). Evolution has a lot of tested support, ID doesn't. Those who are convinced evolution is correct aren't going to be persuaded by ID proponents unless they can come up with equeal testing to show their theory is just as viable.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 09:50 am
The standard tactic of "intelligent design" proponents is not to "prove" anything, nor to amass any data in support of their "theory." It doesn't deserve to be called a theory, because it is not testable, it is not falsifiable and it is not predictive. Rather than provide any basis for their "theory" which resorts to scientific method, proponents of "intelligent design" spend their time attempting to "disprove" scientific theory, and not simply evolutionary theory. In a direct attack on the theory of evolution, they advance the notion of "irreducible complexity," which derives from the Reverend Paley's watchmaker analogy. Paley wasn't the first to advance the thesis, and in fact, Cicero uses the same analogy, employing the example of a sun dial, more than 2000 years ago. Basically stated, irreducible complexity posits that some aspects of living organism are too complex to have evolved from simpler forms, the eye being the example to which they most often resort. They ramify this by pointing out that the evidence used to support the theory of evolution implies that eyes have evolved independently from several evolutionary lines. This sort of propaganda appeals to the uncritical minds of those who are already prepared to question evolution. There is nothing inherently objectionable to the idea that several evolutionary lines could produce the same effect, or the same organ--but it sounds conclusive to those with little or no background in science, especially in biology.

But the "intelligent design" folks don't have a statement of theory which can be tested, or falsified, or which predicts changes of state in the life forms which exist on this planet. A theory of evolution does. It doesn't matter that evolutionary theory can get it wrong, because the scientific method takes error into account--if a theory is falsified, it is restated so that it is not contradicted by the data, or it is discarded. A theory of evolution has stood up to this test remarkably well in more than a century and a half, and the theory has only needed tinker with the details of the inferences taken from data which has accumulated. The basic theory remains unchallenged by the scientific method, regardless of what creationists, and their "wolf in sheep's clothing" cousin, "intelligent design," has to say. One of the biggest failings of "intelligent design" as a theory is that its proponents are unwilling to stipulate or describe the intelligent designer. At the very base of this so-called "theory," there is a huge hole which only blind faith can fill.
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TheCorrectResponse
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 09:57 am
Boomerang:
ID is neither a hypothesis nor a theory. Both MUST be disprovable. That is the simple test. ID is simply a way to get creationism taught in schools. It puts a veneer of science around it, at least for those who don't have a good understanding of science. ID is what the late Nobel laureate R. P. Feynman would call "Cargo Cult Science".

You want to work it through for yourself?

According to ID "God" created the universe and all that is in it. Try and set up a scenario that allows you to disprove that!
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 11:28 am
boomer wrote-

Quote:
Doesn't that make ID just another magic toaster?


Yeah. Nice metaphor. Lovely golden brown toast done to perfection.

Drosophilidae can only be seen evolving in a jar. Tells you nothing really. Except how evolution works in a jar possibly, after a few billion generations.

TCR wrote-

Quote:
It puts a veneer of science around it, at least for those who don't have a good understanding of science.


Decoded that means TCR is asserting that he/she has a good understanding of science. 'Scuse me while I wipe my eyes.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 11:45 am
Settin' Aah-aah wrote-

Quote:
The standard tactic of "intelligent design" proponents is not to "prove" anything, nor to amass any data in support of their "theory."


Obviously for those who hide their head everytime the psychosomatic problem comes up. Or property, class, marriage customs and other "controversial issues" of which there are quite a number.

Why do you continually go back to where you started? You have not dealt with a single point I have raised except by asserting that I hadn't raised a valid point.

Science as we know it was invented by Christians. Nobody else. Does our standard of living not represent data in your face or do you think it just grew on a tree.

One thing ID predicts is that atheistic, materialism leads to pessimism and insecurity and, indoctrinated en masse, to catastrophe.

You don't really want to bother with this debate Settin' if you are not prepared to look into the social consequences. It is infantile to avoid doing so. A perfect example of the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 11:48 am
If I were well versed in science I probably could have answered my own question about what differentiates a theory from and idea and I think the replies here have done a pretty good job of doing just that. If you have something to add, spendius, that shows how ID really is a theory I'd be interested in hearing it.

Like I said, I've been reading and hearing a bit about this movie "Expelled" and found myself wondering why people would lose their jobs for questioning evolution. So I started listening a little harder.

It seems these academians are losing their jobs not for questioning evolution but for supporting ID. So I started wondering why that would happen. That led me to question whether ID was really a theory or was it just an idea and what the difference between the two might be.

If you watch the trailers for this movie they make it sound like there is some huge conspiracy to keep this "theory" out of the marketplace.

Personally I don't see that big a rift between evolution and ID except, I guess, that you have to view God as the unmoved mover instead of having gotten it just right the first time out.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 11:53 am
I'm sure there are several threads debating ID. That wasn't my intent here. If you want to move that discussion here I'll back off because my question has already been answered but I have to say it makes me nuts when people drag their other discussions onto a thread because I haven't read anything that they're talking about.
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TheCorrectResponse
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 12:04 pm
I'm glad you got your answer. Ignore Spendius, he is not really a troll, he has some "personal issues" if you get my meaning. He really can't help himself. This wouldn't be the first thread he has ended and it won't be the last.

If you want to annoy him, ignore him, it will drive him crazy...actually its more of a put than a drive in his case.
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