In a slightly more formal setting, a theory is an inclusive inferential abstraction of a body of data (aka, facts or observations).
inclusive - it must hold for the entire set of data that it has been formulated for. In some cases that will involve experimentation to force observations of the theory "in action".
inferential - as opposed to deductive (the logic of predicates, or derivation of truth from general to particular), inferential logic derives a general truth from particular data. Deductive logic is always true if the predicates are true; inferential logic may not be. It only seems to gain power towards truth depending on the size and applicability of the positive data supports it. Negative data, of course, negates the theory; such data must be dropped, or the theory extended to include the errant data, or the theory dropped altogether. New data which should fit in the theory but does not falls into this category of negative and must be handled.
abstraction - the process by which meaningful sense is made from a plethora of data. Einstein and many other scientists have commented on the beauty and simplicity of great theory; that is due to its abstraction.
A Law of science is often a pithy rephrasing of some aspect of a theory; it may often be couched in mathematics, the ultimate pith.
(26-08-2010 03:38 PM)BnW Wrote: Theists do not deny micro evolution, i.e. changes within a species. What they deny is macro evolution, where a new species evolves from a previous species. So, a virus changing does not defeat their logic, but mammals evolving from the same organisms that spawned amphibians does defeat their argument, at least if you take the bible literally. I've seen theists who claim that God created all life over time and that evolution is his work. I suppose that could be true in the sense that that I can't prove it's not, but it really doesn't mesh up with the bible.
Btw, I believe that is somewhat the position of the Catholic Church. They don't come out and say that but they also don't take the position that the Earth is <10,000 years old.
The position of the Catholic church on evolution is only that the faithful must believe that at some point in human evolution god infused a soul into all mankind, thus setting him apart from the animals. They also require that at some point man was beset by original sin; since the story of Adam and Eve is considered metaphor, I'm not exactly sure on how that is handled philosophically, but it is necessary in order to require that Jesus die. Beyond that, your beliefs about evolution (including geology, cosmology and all other "sensitive" areas of science) are up to you. There are definitely Catholics that go the YEC path by choice; the Berean movement, for example. Ken Miller of the Dover trial fame is a Roman Catholic, and has written a book, Finding Darwin's God
, about how he deals with it.