Knowing Alma Gottlieb is like having an in-house anthropologist on call. I always learn from her perspective. Here is the opening of her essay, with link to the whole.
The notion of a “theory” comes from science. As such, the term conveys all the legitimacy upon which the scientific method relies. It should not be tossed around casually like a frisbee in the park.
The so-called “Great Replacement Theory” we are now reading about in mainstream publications is not a theory. Therefore, it should not be called a theory. And it should not be graced with capital letters. Both these practices suggest unearned legitimacy. And, unearned legitimacy carries great risk.
We now know that repeatedly making false claims will train people to slowly accept those false claims. Recent research by a team of psychologists and cognitive scientists warns us that we humans tend to increase our belief in any claims—true or false, reasonable or unreasonable, likely or unlikely—the more often we hear or read about them. So, as we repeatedly encounter something being called a “theory,” we become more easily inclined to agree that it IS a theory. Once that happens, it moves into the realm of science. As such, we begin to attribute it truth status.