TGM subscribes to the opinion that definitions are a reflection of usage rather than a description of meaning. Most of the time, this distinction is irrelevant. Our aim is to be consistent with our usage throughout this site and it’s important that you know what we mean when we use certain terms, particularly those that are often disputed (denoted by *asterisks). Here are some important terms and what we think they are useful for…
Claim – An assertion, tested or not, that can be investigated and evaluated against the null hypothesis.
Evidence – Independently observable facts or testable models that lend credibility to a claim.
Exist – This is actually a pretty important concept that gets overlooked in existential discussions. What does it mean to say that something exists? A useful definition is that it manifests in reality. Well, this sort of definition will give fits to the supernatural theists. Try to get an apologist to explain what existence means and you’ll have them pinned to the mat before the fight begins.
Intelligent Design –
Null Hypothesis – The default position on any investigatory claim. The null hypothesis is assumed to be true until invalidated by sufficient evidence in a properly constructed experiment that eliminates random variables.
Reality – Everything that we can experience, examine, test or otherwise interact with. An important question is to what extent the supernatural ought to be considered “real”.
Religion – At its simplest, religion is simply a way of doing things and can be ascribed to any repeated behaviors. In the god conversation, religion is more accurately described as a set of beliefs and behaviors done with respect to dogma derived from a scriptural source.
Spiritual – We don’t know what this word actually means. “Spiritual” is typically used as a placeholder for some impossible to explain concept that relates to some mystical feature of the greater universe. Confused? So are we.
*Theory – Colloquially, a theory is the same thing as a hypothesis. Scientifically, a theory is a testable model with great explanatory power that has withstood efforts to disprove it. cf. Theory of Gravity, Theory of Evolution, Germ Theory of Disease. The misuse of this term greatly hinders discussion, particularly with respect to the Theory of Evolution.
*- denotes a word whose usage is frequently argued about in lieu of tackling the crux of a debate. Definitions must be agreed upon for any constructive discussion to occur.