Written by Kate Patterson, ESLLC 2017-2018
There has always been a disconnect between scientists and the public. Scientists have a hard time conveying the importance of their research and findings to anyone outside of the scientific field. Without a catchy title or subject most of the public will not be interested or take the time to understand the significance of the research. Yet, all around the world, at this very moment scientists are discovery and seeking out answers to things that effect every day human life. Where would humans be right how scientists weren’t constantly discovering new medical techniques, or discovering a new way to produce energy, or simply providing an idea of what the future holds for us? Without science and scientists, the world would be progressing at a much slower rate. Still this does not change the fact that scientists have a difficult time being understood or supported by the public, and one of the reasons is the general misunderstanding of what scientists mean by theory.
The public think that the word theory is just tossed around in the science community. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. In the scientific community, for a finding to be called a theory it must first be examined and retested by many scientists. As Kenneth R. Miller, biologist at Brown University defines a theory as, “a system of explanations that ties together a whole bunch of facts. It not only explains those facts, but predicts what you ought to find from other observations and experiments.” Theories cannot be thought of as random assumptions but need to start being regongized as tested explanations that explain the questions that humans are concerned and curious about.
This misconception of theory is used today by the public to silence scientists and their findings. There are people today that refuse to try to understand highly tested and credible theories. Such as the theory of evolution, or the big bang theory, or global warming. All research and finding point to the fact that all these theories are legit and are excellent explanations for what scientists have observed.
For decades, environmentalists and scientists have been shut down by the general public due to their lack of “cold hard facts.” For those denying climate change, this approach works every time to get the public on their side. It is easy to ignore that humans are causing rapid climate change when you think that all the evidence is just guesses and assumptions. From an environmental stand point this kind of thinking will not do. In order for climate change to be addressed seriously, everyone, including both scientists and the public, need to be on board. One of the first steps in doing this is do help everyone understand the evidence and severity behind climate change research. The theories that scientists are predicting for our planet cannot be taken lightly because the evidence found is showing us a future that is grim and unfavorable to live in. The word theory cannot be misused anymore, because theories are what help us understand and take care of this crazy world we live in.
Zimmer, Carl. In Science, It’s Never ‘Just a Theory’. The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2016,