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RE: Theory or Law : Semantics??



> From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] 
> On Behalf Of dale mcinnes
>
> Odd question to ask the List.
>  
> Do you believe that the Theory of Evolution should just be 
> regarded as a well established Theory?? Or do you think we 
> should start calling it a Law?? How comfortable are we on this??
>  
> Again. Not a frivoulous question. It could carry somewhat of 
> an impact over to Joe and Jane Public.
> If they hear it referred to as Law (as in Gravity), it may 
> send the signal that those who disagree are completely 
> out-of-touch with 21st C reality. When the public hears 
> "theory" they automatically assume "hypothesis" ...... 
> "speculation" ...... "best guess".
>  
> Could semantics be part of our problem out there??            
>                         
Rather than write out my answer, I'll just point you towards my webnotes on
the topic:
http://www.geol.umd.edu/pages/sgc/lectures/03theory.html

(Sadly, the link to Neil DeGrasse-Tyson's lecture no longer works. In it, he
points out that the use of the word "law" in Science fell out of favor after
the turn of the 19th Century.)

Dawkin's has suggested the word "theorum" (not "theorem", already in use)
for something which "has been confirmed or established by observation or
experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for known facts; [it
is] a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or
causes of something known or observed." He uses evolution, heliocentrism, a
round planet, and photosynthesis as examples of theora. 

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: tholtz@umd.edu   Phone: 301-405-4084
Office: Centreville 1216                        
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/
Fax: 301-314-9661               

Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite/
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
http://www.geol.umd.edu/sgc
Fax: 301-314-9843

Mailing Address:        Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                        Department of Geology
                        Building 237, Room 1117
                        University of Maryland
                        College Park, MD 20742 USA