Science Johnson on 12 Sep 2008 02:17 am
How many times each day do scientists and other rational people hear this expression:
“Evolution is just a theory!”
This expression is used constantly by creationists to diminish and dismiss evolution. When they say that evolution is “just” a theory, creationists are using the word “theory” in the colloquial sense. They are stating that evolution is just a random guess, or a random opinion, about how things might work. They have no idea what the word “theory” means to a scientist.
Where do Creationists get their “just a theory” expression? They say this because scientists routinely use the name: “the theory of evolution”. Scientists of course are using the word “theory” in the scientific sense. The “theory of evolution” is scientifically supported by massive amounts of evidence, it is testable, and it can be used to make predictions.
So the problem here is a language problem. The word “theory” has two different meanings to two different groups of people. To one group (scientists), the word “theory” has great importance and heft (definition 1 in the dictionary). To the other group (the general public), the word “theory” implies a trivial flimsiness (definition 2). Unfortunately, the general public makes up 95% of the population, so their definition of the word “theory” wins.
Given this situation, scientists are making a huge blunder when they call it “the theory of evolution”.
What is the solution to this problem? It’s simple. We need to rename “the theory of evolution”. We need to stop using the word “theory” because, for 95% of the population, the word “theory” has the wrong meaning.
What is a better name? We should call it “Evolution Science”. Everywhere that we would be inclined to use the name “the theory of evolution”, we should use the name “Evolution Science” instead. Example:
Old way: “Hello class, I’m Mr. Smith and I am here to teach you the theory of evolution.”
New way: “Hello class, I’m Mr. Smith and I am here to teach you Evolution Science.”
In addition, every time a creationist tries to call it “the theory of evolution”, we shut them down and correct them by saying, “it’s called Evolution Science”. We do not allow creationists to call it “the theory of evolution”, because creationists have no idea what the word “theory” means in science.
Some people are already doing this. But right now, the name “theory of evolution” is by far the more common. If you go into Google and type both “theory of evolution” and “evolution science” (in quotes) as search terms, you can see that the former is four times more common than the latter.
We need to present a unified front. We need to use “Evolution Science” exclusively, across the board, and expunge “the theory of evolution” from the vernacular.
Don’t think a simple naming change will make a difference? The name has huge importance. Once they started calling Alaska’s bridge “the bridge to nowhere”, that name stuck and the bridge died.
Right now, our use of the name “the theory of evolution” is harmful. So we change the name. We call it “Evolution Science” from now on.