The phrase “theory of evolution” is sometimes used pejoratively by people who do not want to acknowledge that populations and species of biological organisms evolve. In fact, the legislature of the state in which I reside – New Hampshire – is now considering legislation (e.g., see here and here) “requiring the teaching of evolution as a theory in public schools”. As any scientist will tell you, the meaning of the word theory in science is very different from its common usage.
Pondering this difference got me to thinking about how the theory of evolution stacks up to other more readily accepted scientific theories, at least in the public’s mind. We all have an intuitive understanding of many physical phenomena, and so I wanted to compare how the theory of evolution stacked up against our scientific understanding of something as familiar as, say, gravity.
A paper in Ecology Letters describes a “unification” of the six unified theories of ecology (doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01449.x). I didn’t know we had six “unified” theories to start with. (How can there be more than one “unified” theory? But that’s beside the point.)