Demarcation Essay

2077 words - 9 pages

Pseudoscience occurs when a topic that in itself is not scientific is treated as a science. Despite society’s general disregard for the demarcation point between science and non-science there are real, everyday consequences to accepting these fields into our scientific domain. So why are certain theories classified as scientific? On one hand there is an ignorance and apathy in regard to this demarcation, on the other hand pseudo-sciences are accepted as sciences because of the appeal they hold in intrigue and comfort. The situation is made more complicated by science that is practiced in an unscientific matter. This bad science straddles the line between what is science, done poorly and what ...view middle of the document...

However if the person acts in a way that is contra-theory then it is clear that their inner workings are more complicated, or that perhaps they are so self aware they are purposely defying the theory - and thus this theory remains confirmed.

This same idea applies to the field of history. It has been said that history helps us to learn and avoid mistakes of the past. If a present event mirrors an event of the past a historian will be quick to point out the science of a historical theory by identifying that the future does in fact mimic the past. However in the same vein if an event unfolds in a way that is different from history it is clear that we have learned from the past, or that perhaps we have not gone far enough into the future to see a past event repeat itself.

The general nature of pseudoscientific theories means that even those events that should disprove the theory result in affirmation. It also means that the circular logic of these theories means they cannot be disprove, they cannot be falsified. So if Popper’s idea of demarcation through falsification is true it is clear that those topics which cannot be proven falsified through any instance are non-scientific.

Science is meant to be practiced in a skeptical mind set. This means that scientists who develop theories must be willing to give them up when evidence that disproves them comes along. A pseudoscientific theory cannot be refuted, and is often held with unwavering conviction by those who believe it. A recent example of this is the creation science debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. When asked about what would sway his opinion on creationism Ham ultimately said that nothing could. This sort of commitment to an idea is unscientific and can be found in many pseudoscientific subjects. So in accordance to this idea, anything that cannot be proven false is not scientific.

Moving away from falsification, pseudoscience is also explored by Paul Thagard. Thagard speaks to the verifiability of science, that have observations that can be confirmed/denied through deduction. He points out that while scientific theories should be verifiable there are also pseudoscientific theories that can also be verified (he specifically mentions the statistical evidence that is pro astrology). But Thagard does not accept falsification as demarcation because of several arguments against it, namely the Duhem Quine problem.

Thagard proposes a matrix of three elements as the basis of demarcation. These are: theory, community and historical context. Theory deals with the actual structure of the argument, bringing into question it soundness and validity. As well as its ability to predict and explain. The theory aspect manages how good a theory is based on its intrinsic value. However there are pseudoscientific theories that may be good theories but are proven non-scientific by different aspects of this matrix.

The community element deals with how people perceive and deal with the theory. It brings...

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