Clive Thompson wants us to simply redefine the “theory of evolution” as the “law of evolution”. This is possibly one of the worst ideas I’ve heard yet for overcoming the problem of the colloquial definition of theory. It is not correct. The theory of evolution is a whole collection of ideas describing complex phenomena; it is not reducible to the kind of clear and simple mathematical description we associate with scientific laws. When somebody asks me what the ideal gas law is, I can say PV=nRT; when someone asks me what the law describing the gravitational attraction between two bodies is, I say Gm1m2/R2; when they say, “OK, smartie pants, what is the law of evolution?”, what am I supposed to do? Recite Hardy-Weinberg at them (which, by the way, is called a law already, but is not the sum of all of evolution by any means)?
It’s a bad idea that sets us up for more confusion and will play right into creationist hands. Why not go all the way and just call it the “Truth of Evolution”? It’s the same strategy — it’s all avoiding the issue by an attempt at redefinition, and mangling the idea in the process.
(Larry Moran sees it the same way I do. He must be a very smart man.)