Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
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07-07-2015, 08:38 PM
Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
My understanding of a theory is that it is the best current understanding of a subject based on a preponderance of the current evidence we have. So why would an idea that has been dis-proven and replaced with an idea that better fits the current evidence still be called a theory. The reason I bring this up is, a couple days ago I was in a discussion with a theist at my local library and he wanted to argue with me about evolutionary theory and he brought up this about the caloric theory being dis-proven but its still called a theory. I was still able to argue my point and show him that evolution is demonstrably true but it has bugged me ever since about this whole theory stuff. If someone could clear this up or at least help to explain it a bit to me it would be much appreciated.
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07-07-2015, 08:48 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
(07-07-2015 08:38 PM)Mike0190 Wrote:  My understanding of a theory is that it is the best current understanding of a subject based on a preponderance of the current evidence we have. So why would an idea that has been dis-proven and replaced with an idea that better fits the current evidence still be called a theory. The reason I bring this up is, a couple days ago I was in a discussion with a theist at my local library and he wanted to argue with me about evolutionary theory and he brought up this about the caloric theory being dis-proven but its still called a theory. I was still able to argue my point and show him that evolution is demonstrably true but it has bugged me ever since about this whole theory stuff. If someone could clear this up or at least help to explain it a bit to me it would be much appreciated.

Semantic arguments are trash. Once a scientific theory is disproven, it is no longer a scientific idea of any merit. Applying the word theory to a discredited idea is akin to using the colloquial meaning of the word "theory" (as in a conjecture or idea) as opposed to the scientific definition of theory (an idea that is explanatory, predictive, and well supported by a body of evidence).
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07-07-2015, 08:49 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
Ask him if he believes in the "theory" of gravity ? Facepalm

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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07-07-2015, 08:59 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
(07-07-2015 08:49 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Ask him if he believes in the "theory" of gravity ? Facepalm

I did actually, I always use that one when someone give me the "its not fact its just theory." and like I mentioned i had no problem proving my point and showing him how crazy he is but I was just curious why the scientific community would leave the theory tagged on to the idea, but I get what was said that it really doesn't matter.
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07-07-2015, 09:17 PM (This post was last modified: 09-07-2015 12:03 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
(07-07-2015 08:59 PM)Mike0190 Wrote:  
(07-07-2015 08:49 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Ask him if he believes in the "theory" of gravity ? Facepalm

I did actually, I always use that one when someone give me the "its not fact its just theory." and like I mentioned i had no problem proving my point and showing him how crazy he is but I was just curious why the scientific community would leave the theory tagged on to the idea, but I get what was said that it really doesn't matter.

Science is a method. Some theories are supported by evidence, some are disproven and dismissed. They are all still theories. There used to be a theory that bleeding people with leaches promoted health. The fact it was discredited doesn't change the fact that at one time it was a theory that some people thought had merit. The question is : "Is there any evidence supporting it ?" The real question is not the name, but the quality of the evidence supporting the theory.

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07-07-2015, 09:25 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
(07-07-2015 09:17 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
(07-07-2015 08:59 PM)Mike0190 Wrote:  I did actually, I always use that one when someone give me the "its not fact its just theory." and like I mentioned i had no problem proving my point and showing him how crazy he is but I was just curious why the scientific community would leave the theory tagged on to the idea, but I get what was said that it really doesn't matter.

Science is a method. Some theories are supported by evidence, some are disproven and dismissed. They are all still theories. There used to be a theory that bleeding people with leaches promoted health. The fact it was discredited doesn't change to fact that at one time it was a theory that some people thought had merit. The question is : "Is there any evidence supporting it ?" The real question is not the name, but the quality of the evidence supporting the theory.


exactly! pretty much exactly what i was thinking but didnt know how to put into words. thanks!
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08-07-2015, 07:29 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
Because, strictly speaking, theory is pretty much a meaningless word in science. An argument along the lines of a "Scientific theories have a lot of evidence; evolution is a scientific theory; therefore evolution has a lot of evidence" is an ultimately silly argument, even if the conclusion is true. If we want to argue that evolution has a lot of evidence, we'd argue that evolution has a lot of evidence by appealing to that evidence directly. However, because of creationism and the like insisting that evolution and big bang are only a theory, most textbooks and other pro-science sources have taken a sterner approach and say theories are *generally* extremely sound scientific ideas only because the theories that are most frequently attacked or are well known are sound scientific ideas. if you pay attention to most definitions of theories, you'll see that they hedge the issue.

For example, NSCE says near the beginning "These definitions [of law, theory, and fact] correspond to the way scientists typically use these terms in the context of their work." Or digging through Campbell Biology (being the more or less definitive undergraduate general biology college text). It gives a three part definition, but the third is: "And third, compared to any one hypothesis, a theory is generally supported by a much greater body of evidence. Those theories that become widely adopted in science (such as the theory of natural selection) explain a great diversity of observations and are supported by a vast accumulation of evidence. In fact, scrutiny of theories continues through testing of the specific, falsifiable hypotheses they spawn." Both definitions avoid saying that this definition is a hard and fast rule, but rather communicate it's more of a rule of thumbl.

So the short answer it this: it's called Caloric Theory because that's what it was historically called. It just ends up being one of those oddball theories that falls outside of the common definition; but the common definition (theory is a scientific idea with a lot of evidence) is a rule of thumb. Moreover, that rule of thumb is just highly applicable to evolution and big bang, two scientific theories are often discounted of lacking evidence because of the word "theory," which is an ultimately meaningless word in the strictest sense.
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08-07-2015, 08:25 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
Dismissing the theory of evolution because the caloric theory was disproven is like saying Obama can't be the president because Nixon is dead.

"Caloric Theory" is just a label for an explanation for a set of observations that later turned out not to explain additional observations that were made. The theory was useful at the time but turned out to be misguided so it was replaced by a better theory. Science came up with the Caloric Theory and better science consigned it to the dustbin.

Evolutionary Theory is not dependent on Caloric Theory and the only way to put it in the same category is to provide evidence that it can't explain. If that happens then it will be extended or replaced by a new theory that incorporates the new evidence while still explaining the mountain of evidence that already exists.

That's the beauty of science. It doesn't insist on clinging to outdated ideas and is willing to change when the evidence warrants change.

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08-07-2015, 08:59 PM
RE: Why is the dis proven Caloric Theory still called a theory?
You know why we can prove the theory of evolution is false?

Because we still have the phrase the Theory of Inheritance through acquired characteristics.

Since we still call Lamarck's theory that he crafted that theory, it must tarnish the concept of genetics through mutations.

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