What's in a name? A lot. How many times have you seen the argument, "Evolution is just a theory. It's never been proved!"
Evolution is, without a doubt, supported by more evidence than any other field in the history of science. Genetics, immunology, diseases and parasites, taxonomy, fossils, dozens of radiometric techniques ... the list goes on and on and on – thousands and millions of facts and observations, every one of them in agreement with the predictions of Evolution.
It's time to stop calling it a theory. It's Evolution Science.
Scientists use the word "theory" in a different way than the general population. To a scientist, a "theory" is a model that describes a system in an accurate and predictive way. But to the public, a "theory" is something uncertain, something tentative, something that may very well turn out to be false.
The valance model of chemistry is a wonderful theory (roughly, the "ball and stick" model of molecules). It describes a great deal of organic chemistry remarkably well, but falls apart when the electrons' orbitals start to span more than two atoms. Is it "just a theory"? Does the fact that the valence model breaks down for complex aromaticity, tautomers, metal bonds and hydrogen bonds, make it "wrong"?
No! The concept of right and wrong doesn't apply to scientific models. The right terminology is useful. The valence model is useful for most organic compounds, and beyond that, you have to use a quantum-mechanics theory – another model. Quantum mechanics are far more predictive, under a much wider range of atomic configurations, than the valence model, but even quantum mechanics breaks down under extreme heat (relativistic velocities), and doesn't tell you much about radioactivity. Is it "wrong"? No, it's just not useful outside the constraints of the model.
Here's where we scientists are doing ourselves a disservice. The concept of modeling a complex system is fairly esoteric philosophy. The average non-scientist wants to know, "How does it work?" Or, "Is Einstein right or wrong?" The concept of a model's domain (the conditions under which the model is predictive) is not something you're going to read about in the morning newspaper.
We need to start using the same terminology as the general public. It's time to abandon the Theory of Evolution. It's Evolution plain and simple, right alongside Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Astronomy.
In the common parlance, evolution is a science. It's a model of a very complex system, the system of life on Earth. The basic facts of evolution have been proved so far beyond any reasonable doubt, that it would be fair to call it 100% certain. Sure, there are interesting details, we're still finding unusual species that force us to rethink some of the details. We're still filling in the corner cases and details. But to say that the core ideas behind evolution science are anything but 100% proved is a huge mistake.
So stop calling it a theory. And whenever you hear someone else say, "The Theory of Evolution," consider a gentle reminder that the proper term is "Evolution," or "Evolution Science."