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iNow
Post  Post subject: "Just a theory..."  |  Posted: Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:37 pm
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This issue comes up regularly enough that I'm putting this primer here for reference. It discusses some of the critical differences between scientific parlance and common usage, as well as differences between theory, law, and hypothesis. It also addresses common issues about the burden of proof.

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang ... -of-proof/
Quote:
Perhaps no word in the English language generates as much misunderstanding as the word theory. In scientific circles, this word has a very specific meaning that’s different from everyday use, and — as a theoretical astrophysicist myself — I feel it’s my duty to help explain exactly what we mean when we use it.



I'm also adding this image from within the article here, mostly because it's well done and cool.

Image

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"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan


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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: "Just a theory..."  |  Posted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:47 am
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Very nice article and graphic. Funny that the well-known Sagan quote "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" should be considered controversial according to some of the comments below.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: "Just a theory..."  |  Posted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:31 pm
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that's because under a number of limited circumstances persistent absence of evidence does become evidence of absence, i.e. when you're looking for a well-defined object in a confined space and all searches have failed to unearth it, then the probability that it is indeed not there is rather high

e.g. the proposed planet Vulcan inside the orbit of Mercury

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: "Just a theory..."  |  Posted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:31 pm
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OK that makes sense.


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