Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Theory Or Fact?

In everyday conversation, we can reject someone’s opinion on something by saying, “That’s just a theory.” But we can’t rightfully reject the theories of Darwin and Einstein.

Can we?

If we want to reject science and Darwin’s evolution by natural selection, we first need to speak the same language.

Because words like theory, fact and hypothesis mean something very different to us than they do to a scientist.

To a scientist, a fact is an observation about the world. Such as, “The sky is bright blue.” 

If you were to answer the question, “Why is the sky bright blue?” You’d have a hypothesis, a proposed explanation for a phenomenon that acts as a starting point for further investigation.

Some reasonable ideas for a bright blue sky could be:

  • It’s the 4th of July
  • It’s Judgement Day
  • There’s an alien spacecraft outside your window
  • The sun is up

Once you eliminate every wrong idea, you’re left with a new hypothesis, “When the sun is up the sky is bright blue.”

Get enough evidence through rigorous testing and experimentation and you have a theory. A reliable explanation of a phenomenon. Which becomes more detailed as more information is gathered.

Now that we’re speaking the same language, we have the answer to our original question about Darwin and Einstein.

No, we can’t reject their scientific theories, because E=MC2 is not an opinion or belief, but an accurate description of the natural world.

And there lies the trouble.

As long as science has existed, people have questioned the validity of scientific theories as if it were a question of belief.

Back in 2002, Mike Pence gave a speech in the House of Representatives where he demanded that […] educators around America teach evolution not as fact, but as theory.” And casually brushed aside all the thousands of hours scientists have spent to debunk Darwin’s theory and couldn’t.

The same happened to GMOs in the ‘90s, when scientists tweaked the papaya’s DNA to save it from an incurable virus. Which should have been an occasion for celebration, but led to unfounded health concerns, despite that non-genetically modified vegetables and fruits no longer exist. (Seedless watermelons are not natural.)

Even today, people reject science. And only because they can’t research the validity of a scientific theory themselves.

So to the scientifically illiterate, science is a matter of belief rather than truth. Even though scientific theory is true whether or not you believe in it.

The issue?

Thinking science is a matter of belief delays all political solutions about how to solve life-threatening problems, like climate change or non-mandatory vaccines.

So how do you convince the scientifically illiterate that science is not a question of faith?

By giving them the right tools to figure out the truth.

And if they’re too lazy to figure out the truth?

By telling them that scientists are highly competitive people who would love nothing more than to be cemented in the anals of time next to Marie Curie and Einstein. 

If a scientist’s most hated rival publishes a new paper that could potentially be the greatest discovery of the century, you can guarantee that he’ll do everything in his power to debunk that hypothesis.

So if you can’t trust your understanding of science, you can trust the stiff-necked ambitions of the human ego to lead us to the truth.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach