30 Oct 2011

What is science? What is Pseudoscience?

Submitted by Stephen Winters
TitleWhat is science? What is Pseudoscience?
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsSimanek, DE
Access Year2011
Access DateOct 30, 2011
Last Update DateDecember 2009
PublisherLock Haven University website
CityLock Haven, PA
KeywordsPseudoscience, science

A visitor to my web site asks "What is the definition of pseudoscience?" That's a fair, but challenging, question. Normally one would expect the practitioners of a discipline to define it, but in this case the practitioners of pseudoscience don't recognize the validity of the label.
Let's recognize two uses of the word 'science'. First, it is an activity carried out by scientists, with certain raw materials, purpose and methodology. Second, it is the result of this activity: a well-established and well-tested body of facts, laws and models that describe the natural world.
Scientists accept that the observations and the results of science must be "objective." That is they must be repeatable, testable and confirmable by other scientists, even (and especially) skeptical ones. The edifice of law and theory that science builds must be representative of a "shared" perception that can be observed and verified by anyone equipped with good observation skills and appropriate measuring tools.
Scientists' personal styles, prejudices and even limitations are ever-present realities in the process. But rigorous and skeptical testing of the final result must be sufficiently thorough to weed out any mistakes.

It's fairly easy to distinguish science from pseudoscience on the basis of the final product, the laws and theories. If the results (1) cannot be tested in any way, (2) have been tested and always failed the test, or (3) predict results that are contradictory to well established and well tested science, then we can fairly safely say that we are dealing with pseudoscience.

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