A Scientist’s Rant about the Word “Theory”

Frustrated scientistI have many pet peeves in my life. Because I am a scientific editor, many of my pet peeves revolve around abuse of the English language. The abuse that set me off most recently is the misuse of the word “theory”. These days everyone has a theory about something. For example I have a “theory” as to why I gained five pounds over the holidays: Too much rich food and egg nog! However, from a scientific standpoint, saying “I have a theory as to why I gained five pounds over the holidays” is not a proper use of the word theory. While it is likely that the food and egg nog contributed to the weight gain, I do not have a theory. The cause of the weight gain has not been scientifically scrutinized and put through rigorous testing. There isn’t a pile of scientific evidence to support my statement. What I have is a sound working hypothesis, not a theory.

Continue reading “A Scientist’s Rant about the Word “Theory””