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Challenge accepted, but not tonight . . . later! Robert Merkel

This is a very clear description of "theory," but it is limited to "theory" in positivist science. I don't think this definition of theory applies to hermeneutics or critical theory. Perhaps people who have worked on articles on these topics can help develop this one? SR

Good point. One note is that I think the definition of theory used here is not restricted to postivist views of science but rather include science in general. I don't think that non-positivists would disagree with the meaning of theory used here. Where the disagreements come from is where and how theories arise and their relationship if any to objective reality.

well, I guess there are two issues. I meant to raise the point that there are non-scientists -- but scholars nonetheless, who attempt to bring to their work some sort of rigor and internal consistency -- who have and use theories, and define theory differently. I think you are raising another but equally important point that some people might characterize scientific theory in slighly different ways.

But I suspect that critical theorists, and certainly those of a post-modernist bent, might appeal more to Wittgenstein's notion of "language game" to account for theories. Is this consistent with the definition here? How would a pragmatist (or perhaps, better, a pragmatacist) define theory? Is there a sense to talking about "Nietzsche's theories?" If so, is one using theory the same way as in this article? SR

The below is from [Scientific theories]. It needs to be merged into this entry:

What is a theory?

In common lingo a theory is little more than a guess or a hypothesis. But in science, a theory is much more than that. A theory is an established paradigm that explains all of the data we have and offers valid predictions that can be tested. In science, a theory can never be proven true, because we can never assume we know all there is to know. Instead, theories remain standing until they are disproven, at which point they are thrown out altogether or modified slightly.

Some examples of current scientific theories are gravity, quantum mechanics, and evolution. Some other theories that have been disproved are those such as Lamarckism and the geocentric universe theory. Sufficient evidence has risen to declare these theories false.

So, the next time you hear someone arguing with you about evolution, saying, "Well, it's just a theory," remind them, that in science, theories are equivalent to truth. Scientists aren't just guessing that gravity or evolution are true. They are the best theories we have for explaining the millions of data all around us.

A good example of a non-scientific theory is Intelligent Design. Creationists are using it as a wedge to try to get alternative teaching put into schools and such, but the truth is that Creationism is not a theory at all. By saying "Goddidit" as an explanation for every natural phenomenon, we are not predicting anything, and so the theory is useless. We wouldn't have built computers by now if Benjamin Franklin had said two hundred years ago, "God makes electricity, and that is that", instead of actually figuring out the naturalistic explanation.

I took out
Creationists are using it as a wedge to try to get alternative teaching put into schools, but Creationism is not a theory at all. Saying "Goddidit" as an explanation for every natural phenomenon does not predict anything, and is thus useless for science and not considered a theory.

Although I personally agree with it, its's a bit of a rant. And the part about creationists and schools is probably only relevant in the US.

I think the two sections duplicate each other a bit. Merging might require more than just cut 'n paste.

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