Why don't people understand the meaning of the word "Theory"? What can we do to work towards correcting this?

On this site, and in many other forums of discussion, laypeople who argue for superstitious beliefs such as creationism or argue against natural processes such as evolution often say "Evolution is just a theory, not fact". These people misunderstand what the word theory means. Especially in scientific... show more On this site, and in many other forums of discussion, laypeople who argue for superstitious beliefs such as creationism or argue against natural processes such as evolution often say "Evolution is just a theory, not fact".

These people misunderstand what the word theory means. Especially in scientific literature. In common vernacular, "theory" is often used as a synonym for "hypothesis". People therefore assume that this is what the word "theory" means in scientific writing.

In science, a theory is not a hypothesis, but rather an explanation (or a collection of explanations) which is used to explain a phenomenon. Theories are tested by scientists who specifically aim to either re-test variables which were already tested, or to test new variables all together.

In science, a theory can never be "proven". People like to use this word, which makes me cringe because science doesn't "prove" anything. Science only disproves hypotheses and theories. A single peer-reviewed experiment has the power to disprove any theory, regardless of the amount of evidence stacked in favour of it.

My question here is this: What do you think we can do to try and improve the general population's understanding of how science works? If we can successfully accomplish this task, I believe more people will understand how nonsensical their arguments against science really are.

My goal here is to attempt to help even a few people understand these things a little bit better.
Update: Golfman: Dr. Dawkins has never stated that evolution is a "proven fact". At best he would state (just like any other scientist) that evolution is a scientific theory with a formidable amount of evidence stacked in favour of it.
Update 2: General MacArthur: Evolution has a mountain of evidence for it. I suggest you begin with "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin.
Update 3: katerbecker: Thanks for your response, even though it does not answer the question. What you seem to be missing is that there are MANY religious people out there who think it is their responsibility to force others to take up their beliefs. If this wasn't true, then there would be no conflict. Thus, it is in... show more katerbecker: Thanks for your response, even though it does not answer the question. What you seem to be missing is that there are MANY religious people out there who think it is their responsibility to force others to take up their beliefs. If this wasn't true, then there would be no conflict.

Thus, it is in our best interest to slowly chip away at religious superstitions in order to reduce and eventually stop the majority of the fighting and suffering in the world.
Update 4: swings1534: Where your flaw lies is in the fact that you believe humans are different than the other creatures on Earth. Evolution explains, with empirical evidence, the abilities we as humans have. Religion does not have the evidence to back it up and therefore cannot be taken into consideration.
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