Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

How do we distinguish between science and pseudoscience?

Spread the love

Sure hard to tell a lot of the time:

Demarcation is built into our funding systems. Applicants need to present their own work as superior to those of wrong-headed competitors, and the panels that evaluate the grants must always reject a large number of proposals as less worthy than the few they endorse. Limited funds set up a ruthless machine for discarding scientific claims, some of which might end up on the fringe. Studying the category of pseudoscience thus yields some insights into how contemporary science works.

The gray area is produced by the fact that almost every significant new scientific claim can potentially be the subject of controversy, the fuel that powers the cycles of credit and reputation. But not all discarded doctrines experience the same fate. Even in a single domain—the scientific properties of water—some of the losers of controversies end up simply as yesterday’s news, sincere science that happened to be mistaken, while others are branded as ignominious and take up residence on the fringes of knowledge.

Michael D. Gordin, “What belongs in the “gray area” between science and pseudoscience?” at Big Think (December 27, 2021)

The link takes you to an excerpt from On the Fringe by Michael D. Gordin (Oxford University Press, 2021).

5 Replies to “How do we distinguish between science and pseudoscience?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Gordin gets it. Money is everything, and the federal government is money.

    Before 1946 we had more varied funding, especially from local or inherited money, so we had more varied inventions and research.

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    I am currently reading a book that I recommend to everyone. The title is

    The Clot Thickens

    If one wants to see how politics interferes with science, this illustrates that it’s nothing new.

    As the title indicates it is a mystery thriller. And the culprit is heart attacks and strokes.

    Will we catch the perpetrator? Will we find out how he does it. Read and find out. The usual suspects are not guilty and only peripherally involved.

    https://drmalcolmkendrick.org/books-by-dr-malcolm-kendrick/the-clot-thickens/

  3. 3
    JVL says:

    The awarding of funding is a sticky wicket for sure and I have yet to hear a good, solid approach that everyone can agree with.

    Anyone have an idea that might work?

  4. 4
    Fasteddious says:

    One possible approach would be to set aside percentages in different categories:
    – blue sky research (new ideas never funded before)
    – follow-up past research (expanding, filling in, or confirming) – likely the highest percentage
    – alternative possibilities (ideas against the grain)
    – new takes on previously dismissed theories (AKA pseudoscience?)
    The percentages would be assigned according to the selection group for the science area in question, but no percentage could be zero. This would allow fringe ideas to get some funding. Of course the proposals would have to be detailed and closely vetted – no off-the-cuff proposals to investigate flat Earth theories. People willing to risk their credibility on fringe ideas would then get an opportunity to do so. Every few years the funding organizations and government bodies could assess the results based on some “benefit” calculation and tweak the percentages. If nothing else, this would increase the scientific discussion as fringe ideas got investigated and reported.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    Science mandates that ideas be testable, have been tested and have evidentiary support.

Leave a Reply