Right, although the word "theory" is ambiguous even within science. 'My theory is that if I do A to B C will happen." In that example, it's more or less a synonym for "hypothesis." The more important sense is the one you referred to, a theory that unifies or makes sense of a body of data.
"how do you know what god would or wouldn't do?"
That argument cuts both directions, a theist has no more knowledge than an atheist of gods mysterious ways as they like to point out. It is a non argument for there case.
They can be the best debaters in the world but also woefully uninformed on science.
If someone throws out the "just a theory" nonsense then it shows their scientific ignorance right off the bat. Usually, it's a waste of time debating those who don't understand what a scientific theory is.
But anyway I will shoot them down with something like this: "Yes, a theory in the same sense as the heliocentric theory which shows that we orbit the sun and the same as atomic theory and the germ theory. The theory of evolution is supported by millions of facts (evidence) and none in contradiction.
The following is from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.
the term "fact" refers to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.
i had previously posted this in a discussion we were having about The Greatest Show on Earth chapter one and thought i'd paste it over here:
(from The Greatest Show on Earth, Ch. 1)
Theory, Sense 1: (the scientific sense) A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.
Theory, Sense 2: (the it's just a theory sense) A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.
The point being, that when people say, like above that, "it is still just a theory," you are pointing to sense 2, whereas the correct sense when talking about the Theory of Evolution is sense 1.
Hear ya- one step at a time for the believers though eh! Thanks for the link.(how anyone can take a man who wears such silly hats seriously..................!!!!)