He graduated “in theory”

He graduated “in theory”: Enhancing ones resume is not a good idea, especially if you’re only 24 years old and your job is at NASA and you think you need to “control the message” better among science reporters.

Quote from the NY Times:

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Not to get picky, but isn’t the “Big Bang” a theory? It makes sense to me and I assume it is correct, but has it moved from theory to “fact” while I wasn’t watching? Sorry, but I’ve become a skeptic about these things ever since I learned a low-fat diet isn’t necessarily more healthy than a regular diet.

  • lcreekmo

    Yes it’s the Big Bang theory. The problem is the difference between the public and scientific understandings of the word “theory.” To a lay person, a “theory” often means something shaky or unsettled, a conjecture. “That’s just a theory,” means no one knows for sure, and you probably shouldn’t believe it. To a scientist, “theory” follows instead the first definition fr American Heritage: “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” So when scientists say Big Bang “theory” they’re explaining what happened. And when politicians add the word “theory” at the end of the phrase “Big Bang,” they’re suggesting you should thing “conjecture.” Cyncial? Perhaps. I’ve been accused of that before.

  • Hudge

    Evolution is also a theory. For that matter, democracy could be considered a theory of government.

  • Andrew

    Don’t forget music “theory.” I always liked that–sounds like no one really knows for sure. I’ve heard some musicians that sounded like that was the case, too.