I should hope it’s patently obvious that this person is just having fun, but just in case it isn’t, now you know.
We’ve all felt like this was the explanation for something at one time or another. There seemed to be no particular rhyme or reason to the explanation, and it totally seemed wrong in your head, but the speaker was all, “Trust me; I’m a professional.” Well, the going joke among my science friends (as I’m sure it is at universities everywhere) is that they call it a B.S. for a reason. I mean, at the end of the day, a lot of what we think we know is just really, really well-educated guesses based on years of observation and experimentation, and we just haven’t pushed the right, or rather, wrong buttons yet. Or rather, if there are any wrong buttons, and there may very well not be, we haven’t pushed them yet because out of a set of a googol or so buttons, finding the one that doesn’t behave as expected is well beyond Herculean in terms of tasks.
Yes, there are irrefutable facts in this world, and math is a lot of how we understand these things. Math, at its core, is immutable. But some of the fields that use it aren’t yet because as much as we know, we also know that there’s some part of it that we don’t know because we haven’t been able to explore it yet. Current theory seems to cover everything we’ve discovered so far pretty well, though. However, I get the feeling that a lot of people don’t really get what a theory is in scientific terms. It’s basically one step down from God’s own truth, if I’m putting it in layman’s terms. As Wikipedia puts it (which is accurate, and better than what my sleep-deprived brain can come up with right now): “In modern science, the term “theory” refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that any scientist in the field is in a position to understand and either provide empirical support (“verify”) or empirically contradict (“falsify”) it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge, in contrast to more common uses of the word “theory” that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better defined by the word ‘hypothesis’). Scientific theories are also distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions.”
This, my ducks, is why I was absolutely pissed when the 2011 Miss America contestant from my home state decried teaching evolution in schools because “we kinda want to stay away from little theories … I believe in the truth and the truth only”. (And this is where my roommate will jump in and tell you that it’s okay for definitions to have multiple definitions, even when they contradict each other. Considering how important it is to know the difference here, though…) Okay, so, in that case, we definitely shouldn’t talk about relativity, gravity or a lot of other things that we take as truth simply because we haven’t seen proof that we’re wrong yet. Good to know. None of these things are just “little theories”. (Side note—I am aware that some parts of evolution are rather more shaky at least in people’s minds because, let’s face it, it’s hard to test a process that takes that much time in such a way that it can produce results in a reasonable amount of time. However, I think we can all at least agree that there is pretty strong evidence that micro-evolution has occurred and continues to do so.) We might not fully understand them yet, and we may never fully understand them, but that doesn’t mean they hold no weight.
Unlike this explanation for how algebra works.