The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

Science and pseudo-science.

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The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science concerns where to draw a separation boundary or line, as concerning the nature of studies. The main problem arose when the nature of scientific expedition came into question. The framework behind scientific theory and how they were formulated is at the essence of the feud. In this respect, facts and truths, as they are gained, are from four distinct sources. They are: 1) Science; 2) Non-science; 3) Pseudo-science; and 4) Religion.

The feud itself is between science and religion, science and non-science and science and pseudo-science.

Science and religion walked hand in hand till about the 14th century when Copernicus introduced the concept of the Earth revolving around the sun, and not vice versa, as had been taught in schools as a scientific fact before then. And where did they get this ‘fact’?

They got it from the Church, which taught it to everyone. This led to a very violent, very aggressive rebuke from the Church that marked these great men of science as heretics and in their own time, even condemned them to death and assassination.

It was in reply to this great criticism and rejection that science itself parted ways from religion, and in doing so, scientists developed a new attitude. This attitude was almost one of negating any metaphysical or supernatural explanation for any occurrence. The empirical approach, which said that only those occurrences that have roots in factors that are empirically observable and seen are real and any others are just outside the realm of science altogether. This was the start of ‘Logical Positivism’.

Non-science came into being when a relatively clearer picture of science itself was formed. Basically all forms of studies, which employed the scientific method to explain this phenomenon, were classified as ‘scientific’ knowledge.

In contrast to this, other methods of knowledge that did not employ this method became ‘non-scientific’ due to the very nature of their knowledge processing. For example, if one was to take the example of ‘lying’, which in itself is a social phenomenon, one knows that it occurs. One further knows that since it occurs, it exists, and extrapolating from that, since it exists, it must be having an effect on the physical reality of the world, which it does. But if one was to try to empirically prove the existence of a ‘lie’, one would find himself in extreme discomfort. A lie has no dimensions, it has no mass or weight. It apparently has no singular, repetitive cause for its formation, and there is no momentum associated with it, by virtue of which it exerts force on the physical reality. A lie is thus just a lie, and nothing more. Similarly, early astronomy was also regarded as a non-science at one time when Plato as Professor Wilson put it claimed that, “The heavenly bodies…exhibited perfect geometric form”. But all this changed drastically after the explanations given by the greats, such as Copernicus, Kepler, Newton and Galileo, who associated real scientific principles to it and proved that the heavenly bodies do not violate these rules. Even today, these rules are inviolable as far as the immediate solar system is concerned. So how is one to say that a study, which is ‘unscientific’ now, will forever be unscientific?

When it was seen that even apparent non-sciences did have the potential to become scientific at some point in their own process evolution, it was decided to group all religious and non-sciences, into a broader category, i.e. pseudo-sciences. It was later that scientists themselves found out that science does not explain everything, in fact, the very processes that scientists employ do not have a scientific basis. An example of this is the Inductionist point of view, that if something is seen to hold true over a large set of conditions, then it must in fact be inviolably true. For example, if I see a large number of black crows, and I do not see even one white crow over my course of study, then I can conclude that all crows ‘are’ black. But on closer inspection this is utterly meaningless, because there is still no reason for me not to run into a white crow at some uncertain point in the future. The process of induction, one of the founding premises of science, is in fact unscientific by its very own nature. Another problem that ails any clear demarcation of sciences is the fact that a study conducted in any field of science cannot take everything into account. Some parameters that do have an effect on the outcome on an experiment ‘must’ by necessity be assumed. This is where another problem develops. One assumption naturally depends on another assumption. And this other assumption depends on another one and so on, until an assumption arrives that cannot, or has not uptil that point been explained by scientific means. This naturally means that science must include pseudo-science to function. So how can one in fairness compartmentalise science and pseudo-science when they augment each other?

Therefore, in my opinion, any attempt to separate science from pseudo-science is futile, and will not be fulfilled at least until either all assumptions and factors in a scientific study are accounted for, or are in control of the scientist, or until all knowledge that exists in the universe is known. It is only then, can we begin the task of separating knowledge on a more intelligent criteria.


Written by redtribution

September 15, 2007 at 3:37 pm

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