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"Theory" vs. "Scientific Theory" (Huge Difference)

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by leibowde84, Jan 13, 2016.

  1. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    It astounds me that so many people have not learned that, in the realm of science, certain words have different meanings than everyday usage. The distinction between a "theory" and a "scientific theory" is an extremely important one to understand. So, I thought I'd start a thread to invite discussion on this topic.

    "Theory" = a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.

    "Scientific Theory" = a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method aand repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.
     
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  2. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    It should be noted that in any specialized field, the common parlance of various words is distinct form specialized usages. This is true not just of the sciences. It's why standard dictionaries, while useful, are inadequate for conveying all usages of any term.
     
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  3. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I think it is a mistake to think there is a absolute boundary between "theory" and "scientific theory". I would agree that the scientific method means that it is far superior to other methods in establishing a correspondance between our ideas and the objective world, thereby demonstrating that these are ideas are- in a working definition- "true".

    Science is however a product of the long history of ideas. It wasn't until the late 19th century that science became a distinct discipline from philosophy and certian strands of natural theology. Science, rather than being a hobby for the wealthy elite and the well-educated who could fund there own interests and studies, became a profession. this professionalisation of science meant that there had to be clear definitions of what science is. philosophers of science in the 20th century spent most of their time explaining "why science works". In our time, science has come under sustained scruitiny from many areas, particuarly from religious groups, as well as "post-modernist" social scientists who assert science is a "social construct" that has no special monopoly on truth. In someways, that represents a retreat back to the more philosophical understanding of science in the 19th century, but it is often rarely presented as such.

    Whilst science is clearly a superior method, it's cliam to superiority must be demonstrated in practice by reproducing natural phenenoma, particuarly in a laboratory environment but it can be done in other contexts too. this is why evidence is so important, but not all philosophical challanges to science are illegitimate. it is important to take into account that there are philosophical issues behind this and the superiority of science is not a given. science, unlike revealed religion, has to earn its authority. unqualified support for science is as dogmatic as that of religion, even if the ideas being defended may still be correct. "popular science" has an unfortunate effect as mis-representing science in simplistic terms, and science education is generally poor as it consists in a repetition of facts rather than the ability to demonstrate them through our own observations. this is a weakness which makes it easier to attack science because we have such a poor understanding of what it is.

    that's my only hesitation to the OP but otherwise I am in full agreement.
     
  4. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    There is no claim to superiority in the OP. A "theory" in common usage is a "hypothesis". A "scientific theory", otoh, I is a theory that has been confirmed through repeated experimentation and observation.
     
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  5. Desert Snake

    Desert Snake ️️️️️️️️️️

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    Heheheh, well... yes, there are methof=ds for establishing a scientific theory. The problem is that this works in the context of what it is theoretically out to 'prove'. It's a catch 22, you can't get around it.
     
  6. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    Where did you get all that from? I was merely pointing out that a "theory" is merely a hypothesis, whereas a "scientific theory" is a hypothesis that has been confirmed through repeated experimentation and observation. I am merely pointing out the different meanings these terms have. I am not speaking to methods or anything of that nature. Do you disagree with the meanings of these terms?
     
  7. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    The everyday common usage of the word Theory equates better with the scientific term Hypothesis. i.e. It is a good idea but it is far from proven.
     
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  8. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    Exactly!!
     
  9. Desert Snake

    Desert Snake ️️️️️️️️️️

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    I think that that is going to vary. When I say ''theory'', it tends to mean something with a bit more than idle speculation. Does it have to? I don't know. what is the common usage, that may vary. I don't believe that you are presenting some easily verified differential between these types of ''theory'', except perhaps in actual application. /to an extent, by chance, not by necessity/
     
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  10. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    The term "scientific theory" is a scientific term with a specific meaning different than the term "theory". Look it up. It is a fact.
     
  11. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    sorry. as you and @Altfish put it, theory=hypothesis, that is alot clearer. I read into it that you were trying to distiguish "scientific theories" (as built on a body of knowledge) from theorising based on speculation (which is more appropraite to philosophy and theology).

    @q konn said what I was thinking on this too. its less a question of linguistics and more of the context the term "scientific theory" is applied to.
     
  12. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    if it's been confirmed it's no longer an explanation or supposition or intelligent guess.
    it's a fact....it's a law....it's a property.....a repeatable effect of a know cause.

    we often keep using the word theory.....long after the fact has been secured.
     
  13. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    Fair enough, but I wasn't referring to any specific theory. Just the meaning of the term.
     
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  14. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    In which category would you place String Theory and Punctuated Equilibrium?
     
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  15. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    yeah, I jumped ahead as I though you meant proven theory rather than hypothesis (and hence how its proven and how valid such proof is would count). that was where I got mixed up.
     
  16. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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  17. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    What does the phrase "acquired through the scientific method" mean?
     
  18. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    This should help:

    sci·en·tif·ic meth·od
    noun
    1. a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
     
  19. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    With all due respect to Wikipedia, I believe that what distinguishes Scientific Theory from Theory is not that it has been "confirmed" but, rather, that it falsifiable through intersubjectively verifiable testing. Some scientific theories prove false.
     
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  20. leibowde84

    leibowde84 Veteran Member

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    You are mistaken. What makes a scientific theory is the confirmation of a theory/hypothesis via repeated experimentation and observation. All dictionaries, scientific websites, and scientific articles agree on this.
     
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