Welcome guest, is this your first visit? Create Account now to join.
  • Login:

Welcome to the Online Debate Network.

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.

Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Somewhere, obviously. What kind of question is that?
    Posts
    10
    Post Thanks / Like

    Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    For example, and I may be quoting Richard Dawkins here when I say: gravity is a theory. Yet so few people are willing to leap from a ten-story-high window to disprove it. So does calling something a 'theory' really disprove anything? Or is this an instance of grasping at straws?
    Logic is not turning your back on religion; it's simply deducing it's wrong. A blind eye to religion is like getting in a boat while you know others are drowning. You're supposed to turn back around and say, "No, you can't teach these people lies!" Else, you're watching and not acting makes you someone who will accept without questioning-the very premise of religion.

  2. #2
    Registered User

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    48
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    Using "theory" as a negative is a common ploy to minimize the value of the truths it states. Let me show you.

    If it snowed last night and there are footprints across my back lawn, I theorize that someone walked across my lawn in the night. It is possible someone repelled on a wire across my lawn and placed a shoe every so often to make it look like footprints. It is, however, pretty damn unlikely. Because the evidence is not 100% conclusive, it is a theory. But a theory with a 99.9999999% accuracy may as well be proof.

    So if I say, "Huh. Somebody walked across my lawn last night." and somebody else says, "That's only a theory." Would it make you believe my statement any less? No. The likelihood of someone repelling on a wire to confuse me is, although possible, very absurd.

    Let's say the prints are paw prints. Let's say I theorize it is my neighbor's German Shepard. This theory has a much lower probability because there are a number of similar sized dogs in my neighborhood that have the same sized paw. So although it is a good theory, the probability of accuracy is much lower. I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

    So the answer is it depends on the probability of the theory in question being true.
    The inevitable argument of every theist comes down to, "God can move the goalposts whenever he wants." making a logical discussion pointless, because the logic only extends so far.

  3. Likes Allocutus liked this post
  4. #3
    Registered User

    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    993
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    Quote Originally Posted by TryingAtLogic View Post
    For example, and I may be quoting Richard Dawkins here when I say: gravity is a theory. Yet so few people are willing to leap from a ten-story-high window to disprove it. So does calling something a 'theory' really disprove anything? Or is this an instance of grasping at straws?
    To criticize a scientific theory on the basis that it is "just a theory" is to grasp at straws in an effort to discredit a well-substantiated, fact-based explanation for some aspect of reality.

    Here's the definition of "scientific theory" from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

    A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.

  5. #4
    Registered User

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Westford, MA
    Posts
    197
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    The only thing that calling something "just a theory" disproves is the claimants own grasp of what that term means within the context that scientists use it.
    "... freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists but a liberty to dispose, and order as he lists, his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property, within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own." -- John Locke, Second Treatise on Government

  6. Likes Allocutus liked this post
  7. #5
    Registered User

    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    234
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    "It's only a theory" is a claim often stated by creationists and IDiots when they talk about almost any theory of biology. Funny they don't talk about gravity, co-valence, or nuclear theories the same way.

    To a creationist or IDiot a theory is a wild guess based on mythology or superstition, not evidence. The "theory" of creation as recounted in the Bible is not supported by any evidence whatsoever.

    In science, a theory is a well tested hypothesis. It begins with an observation of a natural event. There follows a proposed explanation for the causes of that event (an hypothesis). The hypothesis is then subjected to tests that either support or disprove (i.e., falsify) the hypothesis. Scientific hypotheses that have not been falsified by testing are called theories. They are not guesses. Wikipedia defines a scientific theory as "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment."

    It seems that you have misunderstood the meaning of scientific theory.
    From The Treaty of Tripoli, Art. 11, negociated under Washington, passed unanimously by the senate, and signed by Adams -- "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;"

  8. #6
    Noah Wood
    Guest

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    Quote Originally Posted by pandion View Post
    To a creationist or IDiot a theory is a wild guess based on mythology or superstition, not evidence.
    I'd like to start out by saying that is extremely condescending and I'm pretty sure an Ad Hominem:
    1
    : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
    2
    : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made
    - Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Accessed 5/29/13

    It seems you are appealing to the same prejudice many Evolutionist's have against the Intelligent Design theorists and vice versa. Personally, and a little off topic, I might add; my main problem with evolution is that Evolutionists tend to draw conclusions without proper evidence, they claim us to be 'related' to other species despite there being no known species that can prove the existence of such a relation. From this some go on to say that all organisms are descended from the same unicellular organism, then they use the proven bits of evolution to try and make a fallacious argument that their theory is 100% fact, and that any ideas of Intelligent Design are little more than B.S. Often times this goes hand-in-hand with the so-far unproven theory that base elements can form RNA and DNA. I have no quarrels with someone if they believe in either evolution or intelligent design, my anger stems from people who use unproven ideas as fact and then try to discredit others' theories that disagree with it by using their own unproven theory as a basis of authority. Unbiased science should always be striven for IMO.

    In science, a theory is a well tested hypothesis. It begins with an observation of a natural event. There follows a proposed explanation for the causes of that event (an hypothesis). The hypothesis is then subjected to tests that either support or disprove (i.e., falsify) the hypothesis. Scientific hypotheses that have not been falsified by testing are called theories. They are not guesses. Wikipedia defines a scientific theory as "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment."
    It seems that you have misunderstood the meaning of scientific theory.
    Now you are trying to change the topic to specifically scientific theories, did the OP state we were talking about the 'scientific theory'? No, he (gender unspecific) asked:
    Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of [an idea being wrong or disproved]*?
    *Changed from 'disproval'

    The word 'theory' has many definitions, here are a few, also from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Accessed 5/29/13
    1
    : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
    2
    : abstract thought : speculation
    3
    : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
    4
    a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action
    b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory
    5
    : a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena
    6
    a : a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation
    b : an unproved assumption : conjecture
    c : a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject

    Now, back to the topic at hand. No, calling something a theory does not validate it nor disprove it, it simply labels it as one of the definitions above.
    Calling something a theory and trying to use that as a way to disprove it is a logical fallacy. An example of this would be:
    Evolution is a theory.
    Theories are unproven. (definition 6b)
    Therefore Evolution is false.

    This argument is fallacious because the theory of Evolution being unproven certainly doesn't dictate it being true or not. Being fallacious and having zero facts to back it up, this argument would not add to any claims of falsity in the Theory of Evolution, however, it could not be used to prove Evolution either, and if this argument was used and someone said: That statement was fallacious, therefore you are wrong and Evolution is true, that would be a fallicist's fallacy. (I'm sure most people here understand this concept, but not everyone does).

  9. Likes Squatch347, Apokalupsis liked this post
  10. #7
    Banned Indefinitely

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    2,018
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    Quote Originally Posted by TryingAtLogic View Post
    For example, and I may be quoting Richard Dawkins here when I say: gravity is a theory. Yet so few people are willing to leap from a ten-story-high window to disprove it. So does calling something a 'theory' really disprove anything? Or is this an instance of grasping at straws?
    Theories are by nature explanations for the occurrences of events; the "reason" given for a particular state of affairs existing. Taking it extremely broadly, we can say that...
    All men are mortal and Socrates was a man

    is the theory explaining the state of affairs described by the proposition...
    Socrates was mortal

    Calling a theory an explanation for a state of affairs no more proves it true or false than does calling the above a syllogism.

    Of course, it is not necessary to jump off a building to successfully challenge any theory of gravity, be it Newton's or Einstein's theory. And I doubt that if any physicist ever constructs a quantum theory of gravity, and thereby disproves both Newton's and Einstein's theories, she will do so by jumping off a building! This is what the likes of Dawkins do. They suggest that by challenging the current EXPLANATION for gravity one is simultaneously challenging the EXISTENCE of gravity, and so should be perfectly willing, because they are...how did our dear Dawkins phrase it?...it had such scientific brio!...oh yes, "...ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)", to jump off a building to prove their contention. A truly absurd type of equivocation in this instance, even for Dawkins. The illogic is like hearing fingernails drawn over a blackboard!

  11. Likes CliveStaples liked this post
  12. #8
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    6,893
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    The word "theory" has multiple meanings and it is important to understand which meaning is being used. When Creationists or ID advocates say that "Evolution is just a theory" they are guilty of equivocation, because they are equivocating between two different definitions of the word. Often one finds in such arguments "theory" compared to "scientific law", the implication being that there is a hierarchy of certainty. This is an incorrect comparison. Scientific laws merely describe a generalized causal relationship, they do not posit a mechanism for this relationship. For example, Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation describes the relationship between two bodies. They posit no mechanism for "why" this is the case. In contrast, Einstein's Theory of General Relativity posits a mechanistic cause for gravity, that being the curvature of space and time. In terms of hierarchy of ideas then, a scientific theory is actually more descriptive and general than a scientific law because it explains the actual mechanisms of a phenomena.
    I typically cite original research papers and reviews that are available only to a personal or institutional subscriptional. If you wish a PDF copy of the papers I cite, send me a request.

  13. Thanks GoldPhoenix, CliveStaples, MindTrap028, Apokalupsis thanked for this post
  14. #9
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Wheaton, IL
    Posts
    13,845
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Does Calling Something a 'Theory' Really Add to a Claim of Disproval?

    Quote Originally Posted by TryingAtLogic View Post
    For example, and I may be quoting Richard Dawkins here when I say: gravity is a theory. Yet so few people are willing to leap from a ten-story-high window to disprove it. So does calling something a 'theory' really disprove anything? Or is this an instance of grasping at straws?
    Obviously, merely describing a claim as a "theory" does nothing to demonstrate anything about the claim (although it would demonstrate that the claim has been described as a "theory", I suppose).

    Theories (in the general rather than technical sense) have varying degrees of certainty; some theories have a very high probability of being true, while others are very unlikely to be true. A reasonable person does not assign a 100% certainty to a controversial claim without exceedingly strong evidence. Merely knowing that a claim is included in the set of all theories will only weaken one's confidence in that claim if, in light of the claim being a theory, one's confidence in the claim is lowered. This should deal the greatest blow to those whose prior confidence in the claim was 100%; if you already thought there was a nonzero chance of the claim being false, the revelation that the claim is a theory will probably not affect your confidence much.

    But even for those whose prior confidence was 100%, the revelation that the claim is a theory should not weaken their confidence much, since the claim's status as a theory is unlikely to undercut the evidential support that had originally led to the 100% confidence level.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Add
    By AlexanderWright in forum Community Advice Forum
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: June 4th, 2008, 08:57 AM
  2. Is ADD in children overdiagnosed?
    By theycallmelisa in forum Social Issues
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: December 2nd, 2007, 06:21 AM
  3. Can we add a new rule?
    By phrique in forum Site Feedback
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: September 21st, 2007, 09:49 AM
  4. Add a letter?
    By mrs_innocent in forum Hypothetical Debates
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: August 3rd, 2004, 05:26 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •