The Vocabularist: When is a theory ‘just a theory’?


‘A Lancashire headmistress attracted fury with a tweet in which she said “evolution is not a fact; that’s why it’s called a theory”.

In ancient Greece theoroi meant something like “observers”. They were envoys sent by city-states to consult oracles, to give offerings at famous shrines or attend festivals.

Theoria was a word for their duties. It came to mean any act of observing, and was used by Greek philosophers, generally, in the sense of “contemplation”.’

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