When we speak of knowing science we do not mean simply knowing scientific facts e. We mean that one must clearly understand the nature of science itself— the criteria of valid evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of useful theories, the many aspects of the methods of science which make it possible to draw accurate, reliable, meaningful conclusions about the phenomena of the physical universe. It is therefore useful to consider some of the earmarks of pseudoscience. The substitution of fantasy and nonsense for fact leaves behind many different clues and signs that almost anyone can readily detect. Below are listed some of the most common characteristics of pseudoscience.
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When we speak of knowing science we do not mean simply knowing scientific facts e. We mean that one must clearly understand the nature of science itself— the criteria of valid evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of useful theories, the many aspects of the methods of science which make it possible to draw accurate, reliable, meaningful conclusions about the phenomena of the physical universe.
It is therefore useful to consider some of the earmarks of pseudoscience. The substitution of fantasy and nonsense for fact leaves behind many different clues and signs that almost anyone can readily detect. Below are listed some of the most common characteristics of pseudoscience. The presence of any one or more of these symptoms in any material in question marks it conclusively as pseudoscience. On the other hand, material displaying none of these flaws might still be pseudoscience— the pseudoscientists are inventing new ways to fool themselves nearly every day.
What we have here is a set of sufficient, rather than necessary, conditions for pseudoscience. This can also be seen in the fact that pseudoscientists never revise. The first edition of any pseudoscience book is almost always the last, even though the book may go through innumerable new printings, over decades or centuries. Even a book with obvious mistakes, errors, and misprints on every page is just reprinted as it is, over and over.
Compare to college science textbooks, which usually see a new edition every few years because of the rapid accumulation of new facts, ideas, discoveries, experiments and insights in science. That is, the pseudoscientist clips new or old newspaper reports, collects hearsay and questionable memories, reads other pseudoscience books, or thumbs through ancient religious or mythological works.
The pseudoscientist never or rarely ever makes an independent investigation to check his sources. The emphasis is not on meaningful, controlled, repeatable scientific experiments— instead, it is on unverifiable eyewitness testimony, stories, faked footprints, blurry photos, and tall tales, hearsay, rumor, and dubious anecdotes. Genuine modern scientific literature is not cited.
Real research is never done. Generally pseudoscientists never present any valid evidence of any kind whatsoever for their claims. One of the most bizarre recent tactics of pseudoscientists is to publish a novel, a work of fiction in which essentially everything is made up by the author— as usual in works of fiction! Joe Blow puts jello on his head and his headache goes away.
To pseudoscience this means jello cures headaches. To science this means nothing, since no experiment was done. Modine Flark reads her newspaper horoscope and says there must be something to astrology because the horoscope describes her perfectly. But when we read it we see it is a perfectly generally true statement that describes just about every human who has ever lived, and has nothing to do with Modine or her birth-stars.
These are examples of subjective validation, one of the main foundations of popular support for pseudoscience. A controlled experiment to study the effectiveness of a headache remedy, for example, would put a large number— thousands or tens of thousands— of people suffering from headaches in identical circumstances, except for the presence or absence of the remedy it is desired to test, and compare the results… which would then have some chance of being meaningful.
For instance, the interpretations of astrology depend on the names of things, which are accidental and vary from culture to culture. If the ancients had given the name Mars to the planet we call Jupiter, and vice versa, astronomy could care less… but astrology would be totally different, because it depends solely on the cultural baggage carried by the name and has nothing to do with the physical properties of the actual planet itself.
Maybe dowsers can somehow sense the presence of water or minerals under a field, but almost all claim they can dowse equally well from a map! Pseudoscientists never carry out careful, methodical, convincing experiments themselves— and they also generally ignore results of such experiments that are carried out by scientists. Pseudoscientists also never follow up. If one pseudoscientist claims to have done an experiment e.
Further, where a pseudoscientist claims to have done an experiment with a remarkable result, he himself almost never repeats it to check his results and procedures. This is in extreme contrast with science, where crucial experiments are performed over and over, by scientists all over the world, with ever-increasing precision. Such logical contradictions are simply ignored or rationalized away.
In a meaningful description of the physical world we live in, mathematical or factual or logical contradictions simply could not exist. In pseudoscience, they are par for the course! There are fads, and a pseudoscientist may switch from one fad to another from ghosts to ESP research, from flying saucers to psychic studies, from ESP research to looking for Bigfoot. But within a given topic there is no progress made, no new information uncovered; new theories are not forthcoming; old concepts are never modified or discarded in light of new discoveries, since there are no new discoveries for pseudoscience.
The older the idea, the more respect is given it. ESP experiments started at about the same time as research into the nature of electromagnetic radiation. They re still guessing cards in the ESP labs and yet applications of electromagnetism have completely revolutionized the world, time and time again, since the s. No natural phenomena or processes previously unknown to science have ever been discovered by pseudoscientists. Indeed, pseudoscientists almost invariably deal with phenomena well known to scientists, but little known to the general public— so that the public will swallow the total misrepresentations of the phenomena that the pseudoscientist wants to make.
Classic examples: Pseudoscience books offer examples of almost every kind of fallacy of logic and reason known to scholars, and have invented some new ones of their own. A favorite device is the non sequitur. Clearly the conclusion does not follow! That is, pseudoscientists base their claims on incompleteness of information about nature, rather than on what is known at present. But no claim can possibly be supported by lack of information.
We cannot use this fact as evidence that flying saucers are from outer space, since we have no evidence he saw a flying saucer— or anything else! Maybe he saw a ghost! In many cases, the fact is that science has no interest in the supposed phenomenon because there is no evidence it exists; in other cases, the scientific explanation is well known and well established, but the pseudoscientist is not aware of it or deliberately ignores it to create mystery.
Many pseudoscientific labels— ghosts, UFOs, ESP— are just names for a state of complete ignorance of what, if anything, is being labelled. Could the woods be full of unknown monsters, the rivers full of unknown monsters? Zoologists don t think so; they ve been there repeatedly to look, and it s their profession to find and study new animals.
The experience of scientists over the past years is that claims and reports which describe well-understood objects behaving in strange and incomprehensible ways tend to reduce upon investigation to deliberate frauds, honest mistakes, garbled accounts, misinterpretations, outright fabrications, and stupid blunders. It is not wise to accept such reports at face value, without checking them. Pseudoscientists always take such reports as literally true, without independent verification. A high school dropout is accepted as an expert on archaeology, though he has never made any study of it!
A psychoanalyst is accepted as an expert on all of human history, not to mention physics, astronomy, and mythology— though his claims are inconsistent with everything known in all four fields! Emotional appeals are common: This is essentially never the case. There is no controversy among astronomers concerning astrology— they unanimously agree it is nonsense. There is no controversy among physicists concerning Velikovsky s ideas— they are unanimously condemned as simply wrong.
There is no case known to me in which a pseudoscientist s claims have taken advantage of any genuine scientific controversy. Instead, pseudoscientists operate entirely outside science, and their claims and beliefs are not relevant to any known scientific puzzle or uncertainty. One frightening trend observed more and more strongly during the last half of the 20th Century was the incorporation of contrarian pseudoscience into the core beliefs of various fundamentalist religions, so that today a fundamentalist is almost certain to deny the facts of global warming, biological evolution, human origins, etc.
There is general agreement among interested observers that, over the past two decades, Americans have grown increasingly indifferent to the often-demonstrated fact of their ignorance of even the most basic scientific discoveries of the last four centuries, and increasingly unconcerned that US K students generally tie for last place in knowledge of math and science, in comparisons among 70 or more nations.
An actual and naked hostility to science and scholarship has been tied up seemingly inextricably with political and religious ultra-conservatism. This attitude of distrust and dislike of science, mathematics and rational thought in general very obviously has an entirely negative educational impact. And ultimately, such hostile attitudes must result in an ever-increasing popularity for various pseudosciences, particularly those which can adapt themselves to the prevailing political and religious dogmas.
Not only is no evidence offered that the claim is true, the problem of how all previous investigations led to precisely opposite conclusions is ignored totally. The very word theory is one of the most often misused by pseudoscience. In science, a theory is a detailed, quantitative description of an observed physical process of nature.
For example, in physics, a theory of gravity would be a mathematically-expressed law that allowed the calculation of the gravitational force in any specific, given circumstance. In zoology, a theory of evolution would offer a description of a detailed, testable set of processes that result in the frequently observed origin of new species of living thing. You can t describe a process that is not there to be described, so there is hardly any concept more alien to pseudoscience than a scientific theory!
Pseudoscientists never offer theories The listener is forced to interpret the statements according to his or her own preconceptions. Basically they seem to think that sorting out the bad data and tossing it away consists of cherry picking, and leads to all well-established scientific results being questionable. What a real cherry-picker does is pick out only bad data and ignore all the rest.
And in fact the real cherry-picker ignores most of the bad data too, only pointing to the one or two goofy examples that he thinks offer support to his favorite crazy idea. The attitude of science is that all phenomena must be capable of being studied by anyone with the proper equipment, and that all procedurally valid studies must give consistent results. A man who claims to be a concert-class violinist, but does not appear to have ever owned a violin and who refuses to play when anyone is around who might hear him, is most likely lying about his ability to play the violin.
That is, we are told a story, but we are told nothing else; we have no description of any possible physical process. This is all he said. He gave no mechanisms. But the mechanism is all-important, because the laws of physics rule out the process as impossible. The bald statement itself, without the underlying mechanism, conveys no information at all. Again, Velikovsky says that Venus was once a comet, and this comet was spewed out of a volcano on Jupiter.
He just gives us words, related to one another within a sentence… but the relations are alien to the universe we actually live in, and no explanation for how these relations work or can exist is given. We have stories, but never theories. The literary genre known as science fiction has been invaluable to pseudoscience for more than years, in providing fact-free scenarios which the pseudoscientist can adapt readily, and which have the advantage of being already familiar to the public through use and reuse in 20th Century films and television series.
Magic, sorcery, witchcraft— these are based on spurious similarity, false analogy, false cause-and-effect connections, etc. That is, inexplicable influences and connections between things are assumed from the beginning— not found by investigation. So-called herbal remedies and supplements sold over-the-counter for a variety of ailments in almost every grocery store and drug store are not supported in any case by any scientific research whatsoever, but rather entirely by folklore, tradition and magical thinking.
Yet such supplements often do contain active ingredients that have strong physiological effects, almost all dangerous, almost none desirable, and never mentioned on the product label! The result:
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Donald French, president of the Society of College Science Teachers, points out in his recent commentary on disclaimers in science textbooks that science is typically taught as a litany of terms and facts using textbooks that do not stress that the concepts presented in them are actually theories —the best current explanations supported by experimental evidence that scientists have to offer We teachers, therefore, have created a huge misconception for students and non-scientists who read and use textbooks. They have come to believe that science is absolute and not open to challenge. Worse still for the scientific community is the fact that, in common speech, theory has almost the opposite meaning from its use in the sciences.
Thurs October 28, The so-called scientific method is a myth. But to squeeze a diverse set of practices that span cultural anthropology, paleobotany, and theoretical physics into a handful of steps is an inevitable distortion and, to be blunt, displays a serious poverty of imagination. If typical formulations were accurate, the only location true science would be taking place in would be grade-school classrooms. Scratch the surface of the scientific method and the messiness spills out.
Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real
By Sean Carroll July 15, 8: It seems clear to me that, by those standards, religious belief typically involves various claims about things that happen in the world — for example, the virgin birth or ultimate resurrection of Jesus. Those claims can be judged by science, and are found wanting. Francis Collins , recently nominated to direct the NIH, argues that some sort of God hypothesis helps explain the values of the fundamental constants of nature, just like a good Grand Unified Theory would. These views are by no means outliers, even without delving into the more extreme varieties of Biblical literalism. But there was also a more interesting and substantive issue lurking below the surface. And this, I think, is not just a matter of definitions: I can think of one popular but very bad strategy for answering this question: Science is a messy human endeavor, notoriously hard to boil down to cut-and-dried procedures.
WHAT IS SCIENCE?
All rights Reserved. It is extremely important to distinguish between facts and theories in science, and in every other subject also, because facts usually remain the same and theories often change. They are not always easy to differentiate, and even scientists forget to do it. And the people who write science textbooks nearly always forget to do it. So I ll try to give you some guidelines so you can do it yourself, because twenty years from now the facts will be the same, but the theories may have changed a lot. I know because I ve had to relearn some theories since I taught this class 25 years ago, but the facts are the same.
Reproducibility vs. Replicability: A Brief History of a Confused Terminology
Cooking is chemistry, and every time you set foot in your kitchen, you walk into a laboratory, packed with high-tech gear and stocked with supplies, made just for you. People say cooking is an art, and that s true, but the science of cooking is easier to grasp and repeat. Understanding it will make you a better cook and help you have a little fun in the process. There are some simple scientific principles you can take with you to the kitchen to improve your food and have a little more fun. In this post, we ll walk you through them, and introduce you to a movement that wants to bring the benefits of modern technology, experimentation, and observation into your kitchen. Finally, we ll look at some food hacks that incorporate these methods, and explain why they work so well. To help us, we teamed up with J.
Reproducibility is the closeness of the agreement between the results of measurements of the same measurand carried out with same methodology described in the corresponding scientific evidence e. Reproducibilty can also be applied under changed conditions of measurement for the same measurand to check, that the results are not an artefact of the measurement procedures. The values obtained from distinct experimental trials are said to be commensurate if they are obtained according to the same reproducible experimental description and procedure. The first to stress the importance of reproducibility in science was the Irish chemist Robert Boyle , in England in the 17th century. Boyle s air pump was designed to generate and study vacuum , which at the time was a very controversial concept. Historians of science e. Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer , in their book Leviathan and the Air-Pump , describe the debate between Boyle and Hobbes, ostensibly over the nature of vacuum, as fundamentally an argument about how useful knowledge should be gained. Boyle, a pioneer of the experimental method , maintained that the foundations of knowledge should be constituted by experimentally produced facts, which can be made believable to a scientific community by their reproducibility.
A cornerstone of science is the possibility to critically assess the correctness of scientific claims made and conclusions drawn by other scientists.
.VIDEO ON THEME: G2Voice #115 You don’t have to be a scientist to practice science