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Why things like relativity and evolution aren't called laws?

  1. May 17, 2013 #1
    I was reading in my textbook the definition of a scientific law: must be found experimentally valid over a wide range of observed phenomena. So why arent things like the theory of general relativity and the theory of evolution called the laws of evolution and the laws of relativity? Will that eventually happen? I think it would clear up some of the non scientist's nomenclatural confusion...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2013 #2
    well I looked up Wikiepedia and this is what they say

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theories

    Under the heading Theories and Laws

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_law

    second paragraph:
     
  4. May 17, 2013 #3

    russ_watters

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    Staff: Mentor

    Short answer: being a theory is the highest level of acceptance an idea in science can achieve. Laws are mathematical models that may or may not be physically accurate -- as in the case of Newton's law of gravity.
     
  5. May 17, 2013 #4
    It has to do with the precise meaning of those terms. The term theory in The Theory of Relativity is defined as follows;

    Theory - Systematically organized knowledge, especially a set of assumptions or statements devised to explain a phenomena or class of phenomena.

    Law or Postulate – A formulation or generalization based on observed phenomena or consistent experience.


    It is in those senses of the terms that one can say that the special theory of relativity is based on two laws

    Law 1: The laws of nature are the same in all inertial frames of reference

    Law 2: The speed of light is the same in all inertial frames of reference.
     
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