That is “Just A Theory:”
The word theory gets used in various ways depending on who you are talking with.
For many in the general public, the word theory means little more than a thought, guess, or hunch.
Someone might say they have a theory about Bigfoot, the flat earth, the Loch Ness monster, or how the government faked the moon landing.
We undoubtedly have many “thoughts” on such topics.
Still, not a single person has a theory about them, at least not as far as science is concerned.
Misusing the term theory can be a pet peeve for many in science, and the proper use of terminology is essential in science, so it is understandable.
Science has plenty of theories, but these are not guessing or hunches.
Scientific theories are the end of the road. They are not just facts, but explanations for all observed and tested facts, and they never turn into “laws.”
Some examples are cell theory, evolutionary theory, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease, and atomic theory, to name a few.
So, what does the word theory actually mean to the scientific community?
The National Academy of Sciences defines theory as a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that incorporates facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.
You can think of a scientific theory as the idea that explains everything: every fact, law, observation and logical deduction from every field.
Theories must have the power to make predictions and have those predictions proven true.
Theories must also be falsifiable, which is an excellent quality of science. Prove them wrong if you can; testing a theory should only make it more robust if it is a good theory.
Recent research titled “Specialized astrocytes mediate glutamatergic gliotransmission in the CNS” illustrates that predictions based on our understanding of a theory happen constantly.
The research team proved the existence of a new cell type in our brains.
This hybrid cell is a mix between an astrocyte and a neuron. These cells with a dual function had been “predicted” for years before science found them.
Their discovery opens new research targets for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. This discovery improves our understanding of neuroscience and adds to the details of cell theory. Google “Newly Discovered Brain Cell Type Has Extensive Abilities,” and you will find an excellent article covering the journal paper, but in less detail and much easier to read.
The discovery of a new cell changes cell theory by adding more to the story. Our knowledge of cells and how they work to form the tissues and organs that create multicellular life is being changed all the time by new research. However, the foundation of cell theory, developed in the mid-1800s, remains the same. Cells are the basic unit of life, and all cells come from preexisting cells. New fossils, anatomical evidence, and DNA evidence change evolutionary theory. However, the core idea of common ancestry and descent with modification remains unchanged. Cell and evolutionary theory form the foundation of the biological sciences, with evolution being the single unifying theory, just as plate tectonic theory forms the foundation of geology. The germ theory of disease might be “just a theory,” but once you know what science means by that, you understand that calling something in science “just a theory” is quite the compliment.
Dr. Jack Brown is the Paris Junior College Science Division chairman. His science articles are published every other Sunday.
https://theparisnews.com/news/the-candle-theories-are-explanations-not-opinions/article_1a665ea8-5407-11ee-b8be-03e7a89826a4.html THE CANDLE: Theories are explanations, not opinions | News