From Reconciling understandings of Scripture and Science
Jump to navigationJump to search

See also Qms:Questioning Mainstream Science. — Bruce (talk)


A pseudoscience is any body of knowledge purporting to be either :—

  • both factual and scientific; or
  • of an even higher standard of knowledge;

but which fails to comply with the usual scientific standards of testability, repeatability, consistency with existing well-established science and experimental result, experimental accessibility, etc.

Read more

The Conversation, a not-for-profit news and research web site, has authoritative and interesting stories about pseudoscience.

The Problem of Demarcation

After more than a century of active dialogue, the question of what marks the boundary of science remains fundamentally unsettled. As a consequence the issue of what constitutes pseudoscience continues to be controversial. Nonetheless, reasonable consensus exists on certain sub-issues. Criteria for demarcation have traditionally been coupled to one philosophy of science or another. Logical positivism, for example, espoused a theory of meaning which held that only statements about empirical observations are meaningful, effectively asserting that statements which are not derived in this manner (including all metaphysical statements) are meaningless. Later, Karl Popper attacked logical positivism and introduced his own criterion for demarcation, falsifiability. This in turn was criticised by Thomas Kuhn, and also by Popper supporter Imre Lakatos who proposed his own criteria that distinguished between progressive and degenerative research programs.

Kuhn and paradigm shifts

Thomas Kuhn, an American historian of science, has proven hugely influential in the philosophy of science, and is often connected with what has been called postpositivism or postempiricism. Kuhn divided the process of doing science into two different endeavors, which he called normal science and extraordinary science.

The process of normal science is what most scientists do while working within the current accepted paradigm of the scientific community, and within this context Karl Popper's ideas on falsification as well as the idea of a Scientific method still have some currency. However, Kuhn noted that within the process of doing normal science, anomalies are generated, some which lead to an extension of the dominant paradigm in order to explain them (like the idea of Punctuated Equilibrium within the paradigm of Evolution), and others for which no satisfactory explanation can be found within the current paradigm.

When enough of these anomalies have accumulated, according to Kuhn, some scientists begin to participate in the activity of extraordinary science. It is at these moments that new paradigms are created and Paradigm Shifts occur (such as the introduction of Thermodynamics, Newtonian mechanics, the Theory of Evolution, etc.)

The process by which Kuhn says a new paradigm is accepted by the scientific community at large does indicate one possible demarcation between science and pseudoscience. Richard J. Bernstein reads Kuhn as saying that a new paradigm is accepted mainly because it has a superior ability to solve problems that arise in the process of doing normal science. That is, the value of a scientific paradigm is its predictive power and its ability to suggest naturalistic solutions to new problems while continuing to satisfy all of the problems solved by the paradigm that it replaces. Pseudoscience can then be said to be demarcated by a failure to provide such naturalistic explanations, which leads to the labeling of any theory represented as science and appealing to metaphysical explanations for natural phenomena as a pseudoscientific idea.

Feyerabend and the problem of autonomy in science

There has been a post-Kuhn trend to downplay the difference between science and pseudoscience. Paul Feyerabend has even gone so far as to claim that there can be found no method within the history of scientific practice which has not been violated at some point in the advancing of scientific knowledge. Both Lakatos and Feyerabend suggest that science is not an autonomous form of reasoning, but is inseparable from the larger body of human thought and inquiry. If so, then the questions of truth and falsity, and correct or incorrect understanding are not uniquely empirical. Many meaningful questions can not be settled empirically -- not only in practice, but in principle.

The problem of demarcation is considered solved by some, for others there is no such thing as an autonomous scientific method, no definitive philosophy of science and no clear and agreed-upon distinction between science and pseudoscience.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pseudoscience".

This page is copied from the old wiki. Please sign if you edit it.

edited by Bruce 16 November 2023