Facts and Theories

by Gene Callahan

“The theorist who drops anchor here or there and puts out his equipment of theoretic hooks and nets in order to catch the fish of the locality, interrupts but does not betray his calling. And indeed, the unconditional engagement of understanding must be arrested and inquiry must be focused upon a this if any identity is to become intelligible in terms of its postulates. An investigation which denies or questions its own conditions surrenders its opportunity of achieving its own conditional perfection; the theorist who interrogates instead of using his theoretic equipment catches no fish.” – Michael Oakeshott, On Human Conduct

We often hear controversy today over whether something is a “fact” or a “theory.” This arises both in the debate over anthropogenic global warming and in the disputes between creationists and Darwinists: Is global warming a “proven fact” or a “speculative theory”? Is evolution a “scientific fact” or “just a theory”? For instance, at globalwarming.com, I find the statement: “While some would call global warming a theory, others would call it a proven set of facts.” Continue reading