(Just thought it was funny. I get that it’s more complex than this. See below.)
Because of debate between creation and evolution, semantic games have been played on what the definitions of “law,” “theory,” and “hypothesis,” are and to which category evolution fits into.
With the high risk of receiving ad hominems thrown at me, I will take the liberty of defining each of the three terms and giving some examples. You can decide for yourself whether you disagree or not.*
A hypothesis is a belief about how something works which has yet to be tested, observed, or falsified. Many hypotheses arise out of fields which are harder to verify as true in reality such as psychology, health, mathematics, theories based on other theories, or unfalsifiable ideas. Since every hypothesis is almost immediately tested as a theory it is almost impossible to list any without having to change it every 5 minutes so I will withhold examples here.
A theory is a former hypothesis which has accomplished at least 1 of 3 things: been tested with mixed results, been tested without the effects directly linked to the mechanism, or able to explain a wide variety of disciplines. Some examples include:
- Invariance of the speed of light.
- Plate tectonics.
- The geologic column.
- Large-scale man-made climate change.**
- Various quantum theories.
A law is a former hypothesis which as never been disproved, giving the same results regardless of how many times it has been tested (given the variables of other laws).***
- The 3 laws of motion.
- The conservation of mass-energy.
- The laws of chemistry.
- The 4 laws of thermodynamics.
By these standards, I would retain gravity, atomic “theory”, and germ “theory” in theories while putting evolution in hypothesis. The observable effects of gravity, atomic, and germ “theories” (given the variables of other laws; and apart from basing the results on other theories) are consistent. Evolution, though able to profoundly explain an impact other fields of science, does not have a sufficient mechanism nor is it observable, testable, and falsifiable.****
The reason for the misplacement with evolution, I believe, is because of the consensus of scientists who agree that it is true. This however commits the logical fallacy of appealing to the majority. It is understandable for lay people, not immersed in the subject, to take the consensus for granted though when it is a majority of experts. Because of its lack of a observable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable mechanism, evolutionary scientists must either downgrade the definition of a law or upgrade the definition of a theory.
*I’ve seen definitions from respected scientists from both sides attacked from both sides which is why I’m willing to risk it myself and just give examples.
**Though probably not a good idea to put this in if I’m trying to subdue controversy, but I just put it in to say that there are ways of testing this, though these tests are not directly available for the next half-century.
***This caveat, “given the variables of other laws,” means for example that the law of gravity will always show that two masses will gain or lower attraction by the square or inverse square respectively “given” a set space and mass.
****Things like “explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, ad hoc-ness, accord with accepted beliefs, and superiority to rival hypotheses” are ways of dealing with history (or forensic science) not operant science (science you can repeat again and again).
(All retrieved 9/3/2013.)