Gregory_Evolution+as+factn (reading 3)

Gregory_Evolution+as+factn (reading 3) - Evolution as Fact...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path T. Ryan Gregory Published online: 20 November 2007 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007 Keywords Terminology . Science . Language . Vernacular . Hypothesis . Fact . Theory . Evolution . Darwin Introduction With its vocabulary of hundreds of thousands of words, one might expect English to boast a surplus of ways to express different concepts. Indeed, there are many well-known examples of multiple descriptors for the same item or idea, often one or more from the Germanic and others from the Latinate roots of modern English. In addition to the diversity resulting from a history of linguistic hybridization, English has a tendency to assimilate words from other languages and to include the de novo creation of terms as the need arises. Thus, most technically complex professions exhibit a plethora of neologisms and jargon that can be all but impenetrable to nonexperts. Science is certainly no exception in this regard. However, when it comes to some of the most funda- mental concepts in science, there is a dearth of unambig- uous terminology. Worse still, words with relatively clear meanings in the vernacular are employed with very different definitions in science, a phenomenon that greatly confuses discussions of science when they are conducted in nonscientific contexts. For example, terms such as “ energy ” or “ force ” have specific meanings in physics that are easily confused when commingled with their common usages. This ambiguity has been exploited to considerable advan- tage by many a huckster who falsely invokes the respect- ability of science in the sale of products that would, in actuality, contradict well established scientific principles if they really exerted any of their claimed effects. Even more generally, terms relating to the process and products of science itself, such as “ theory ” and “ law ” , are almost diametrically opposite in scientific vs vernacular settings. This has been a source of both honest confusion and intentional obfuscation in discussions of science, especially with regard to evolution — which has, with the full thrust of equivocation, been misleadingly labeled as “ just a theory ” by opponents for decades. The intent of this article is to clarify the general meaning of some central concepts in science and the terms used to describe them, and to differentiate these from the very different definitions of the same words in common usage. The specific application of these terms, as defined in science, to the topic of evolution will be discussed in some detail. Defining Terms Hypothesis, theory, fact, law. Prefaced with “ hunch ” or “ guess ” , this list of terms would reflect what many people consider a graded series from least to greatest degree of certainty. This ranking may be appropriate in common usage, but actually makes little sense when these words are employed in a scientific context....
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 02/17/2011 for the course BIOLOGY 120 taught by Professor Fink during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

Page1 / 7

Gregory_Evolution+as+factn (reading 3) - Evolution as Fact...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online