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  Topic: OT: Sciency Question  about "Laws" and "Theories&q, Seriously< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Mr_Christopher



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,13:37   

I hope this isn't too far off topic but can someone explain the difference in a "theory" and a "law".  Does that even make sense?  We talk about the "law of gravity" but what makes it a law?

I'm looking for a schooling on the subject.  Thanks.

Chris

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Lou FCD



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,13:42   

I think it's just a misnomer, Mr. C.

"Theory of Gravity" would be more correct.

ETA:  Minus, the quotes, of course.

Edited by Lou FCD on Feb. 14 2008,14:42

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C.J.O'Brien



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,13:53   

Concisely, a theory unifies diverse observations into a single explanatory framework that can be used to make predictions about future observations and generate novel hypotheses.

A law is an expression of a deep regularity in nature that has never been observed to fail under given conditions. Laws really have no explanatory power at all. They simply express how things are.

The classic example would be Kepler's Laws of Motion and Newton's Theory.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
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Richardthughes



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:02   

Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ Feb. 14 2008,13:53)
Concisely, a theory unifies diverse observations into a single explanatory framework that can be used to make predictions about future observations and generate novel hypotheses.

A law is an expression of a deep regularity in nature that has never been observed to fail under given conditions. Laws really have no explanatory power at all. They simply express how things are.

The classic example would be Kepler's Laws of Motion and Newton's Theory.

Cheers for that well written post.

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"Richardthughes, you magnificent bastard, I stand in awe of you..." : Arden Chatfield
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Henry J



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:06   

A theory is a body of knowledge about a subject.

A law is a single statement, very often a mathematical equation (or sometimes inequality), that expresses a consistently observed relationship.

  
Lou FCD



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:11   

Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ Feb. 14 2008,14:53)
Concisely, a theory unifies diverse observations into a single explanatory framework that can be used to make predictions about future observations and generate novel hypotheses.

A law is an expression of a deep regularity in nature that has never been observed to fail under given conditions. Laws really have no explanatory power at all. They simply express how things are.

The classic example would be Kepler's Laws of Motion and Newton's Theory.

Thanks CJ.

ETA: And Henry

Edited by Lou FCD on Feb. 14 2008,15:17

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Lou FCD is still in school, so we should only count him as a baby biologist. -carlsonjok -deprecated
I think I might love you. Don't tell Deadman -Wolfhound

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Bob O'H



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:25   

Ooh, don't get me started about laws...

Philosophers have decided that laws describe general regularities that always hold.  But they have also described ceteris paribus laws, which are laws that hold except when they don't.

I think "law" is a throw-back to a more naÔve age, before we realised that physicists were conning us with their claims that they couldn't be wrong.

Oh, hi, Dr. Heddle.  Didn't see you lurking there.

Bob

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Mr_Christopher



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:36   

Thanks guys I appreciate the lesson!

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Uncommon Descent is a moral cesspool, a festering intellectual ghetto that intoxicates and degrades its inhabitants - Stephen Matheson

  
Erasmus, FCD



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,14:46   

Quote (Bob O'H @ Feb. 14 2008,14:25)
Ooh, don't get me started about laws...

Philosophers have decided that laws describe general regularities that always hold. †But they have also described ceteris paribus laws, which are laws that hold except when they don't.

I think "law" is a throw-back to a more naÔve age, before we realised that physicists were conning us with their claims that they couldn't be wrong.

Oh, hi, Dr. Heddle. †Didn't see you lurking there.

Bob

oh you anarchist you.

good way to pick a fight, huh?  ask a biologist what 'law' means.

I ask myself, What Would Larry Laudan Say?

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You're obviously illiterate as hell.†Peach, bro.-FtK

Finding something hard to believe based on the evidence, is science.-JoeG

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Richard Simons



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,18:17   

Quote (Henry J @ Feb. 14 2008,14:06)
A theory is a body of knowledge about a subject.

A law is a single statement, very often a mathematical equation (or sometimes inequality), that expresses a consistently observed relationship.

Except for Mendel's Laws, which were really a statement about what he thought was going on and later conditions were added. The Law of Independent Assortment, for example, only applies to genes on different chromosomes. In fairness to him, he did not know about the relationship between chromosomes and inheritence and it seems he never ran into the problem of different traits being on the same chromosome.

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steve_h



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,19:09   

A theory is a sort of wild guess drawn out of thin air, and a law is a decree which states that you can choose to do or not do something, but will be punished for doing if you choose to do it (or not depending on the phrasing). Example: The latter requires a law maker, who might punish you for falling upwards after stepping off a high building.
ETA: eg.

  
ERV



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Joined: Sep. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,20:55   

If someone pulls the 'Its the THEORY of evolution, not the LAW of evolution!' just say 'Name a biological law.'

When they cant respond, roll your eyes, flip them off, and call them a tard.

No, heres the deal-- think of laws as facts-- PV=nRT. The sky is blue. Evolution is descent with modification.

Theories tell you the why behind the facts.  Theories are bigger than the facts and laws they encompass.

  
Henry J



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,21:42   

Quote
A theory is a sort of wild guess drawn out of thin air,


Out of thin air, or out of hot air? :p

Henry

  
Richardthughes



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(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,21:49   

Do Laws give "what"

and

Theories give "how"

?

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"Richardthughes, you magnificent bastard, I stand in awe of you..." : Arden Chatfield
"You magnificent bastard! " : Louis
"ATBC poster child", "I have to agree with Rich.." : DaveTard
"I bow to your superior skills" : deadman_932
"...it was Richardthughes making me lie in bed.." : Kristine

  
Erasmus, FCD



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Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 14 2008,22:02   

I give to you (as was given to me) Robinson's First Law of Biology:

Quote
Shit varies. †It matters. †Sometimes.


All other laws are subsumed under this fundamental observation of the universe.

In other news, no 'facts' are independent of supporting theories. †This makes the reductionist program intractable in biology. †At least in principle. †This inspires the old canard 'materialists believe nature is just mere chemical reactions' which is of course deconstructable along Teh Axis of What Does Mere Mean And Does it mean Mere-maid?.

ERV do you suppose that laws of biology are undiscovered, or non-existent? †If non-existent, why? †This is a fascinating if ultimately navel-gazing question.

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You're obviously illiterate as hell.†Peach, bro.-FtK

Finding something hard to believe based on the evidence, is science.-JoeG

the odds of getting some loathsome taint are low-- Gordon E Mullings Manjack Heights Montserrat

I work on molecular systems with pathway charts and such.-Giggles

  
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