Differences Between Science and Pseudoscience
A majority of people are very familiar with the word “science”. There is no doubt that science plays a crucial role in our life. However, it seems that not everyone can distinguish science correctly from non-science and pseudoscience. The following essay will present the differences between science, pseudoscience and non-science first, and then discuss three possible responses to the question that what we should do when there is a clash between scientific explanation and non-scientific explanation. The brief discussion related to the correct non-scientific explanation will present finally.
There are some differences between science, pseudoscience and non-science. The goal of science is to discover what there is in the world and explain why it is and how it is (Hammerton, 2010, p.1). Science is helpful to answer some of these questions by presenting what the cause and impacts of different actions (Hammerton, 2010, p. 3). One of the significant characters of science is the construction of theories. Scientists usually want to explain the results of observation and experiment in terms of general theory rather than simply recording the results (Okasha, 2002, p. 2). Physics, biology, geology and psychology are within the domain of science (Hammerton, 2010, p. 1). However, some questions would be better explained by philosophy rather than science, such as evaluative questions, non-empirical questions, normative questions and questions related to personal experiences (Hammerton, 2010, p. 2).
Pseudoscience refers to a theory that belongs to the domain of science, however, it is not scientifically testable. The philosopher Karl Popper thinks that the main differences between science and pseudoscience are whether the theory is scientifically testable. According to Popper, Marxism and Freudian psychology are in the domain of pseudoscience (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). Astrology is within the domain of pseudoscience as well.
Referring to non-science, without any doubt that non-science is very different from science. There are a plenty of examples about non-science, such as history, which is within the domain of arts (Okasha, 2002, p. 1). A moral theory, which tells us what is good and what is bad, is not regarded as a scientific theory due to the reason that morality does not belong to the domain of science (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). Another example of non-science could be the creation-science (Curd and Cover, 1998, p. 38).
As we have seen, science aims to discover what there is in the world and explain why it is and how it is. The scientific explanation sometimes clash with the non-scientific explanation, such as explanation of history or tradition or religion. What should we do when there is a clash between scientific explanation and non-scientific explanation? Which one should we favour? It is not easy to answer these questions and responses would depend on various cases. In general, there might be three possible responses.
First of all, it is obvious that a scientific explanation is preferred than a non-science explanation in some cases. In other words, scientific explanations are more convincing and stronger than explanation of religion, history and tradition sometimes. It could be done by observation directly. The cause of the rain would be a good example. Some people claim that our sacrifices to the Rain God generate the rain. This explanation of cause of the rain is obviously a non-scientific explanation and could be proven as an unconvincing explanation. For instance, we can cease the sacrifices and notice that there is still an existence of rain (Hammerton, 2010, p. 6).
Secondly, in some cases, it is required to consider which explanation fits better with the observed facts because sometimes it is difficult to find a predictive difference between scientific explanation and the non-scientific one. This is usually true when the event to be explained is a one-off historical event. Possible examples might be the creation of species that is described by biologists and the creation of the universe that is described in the Bible. It seems that the former example has scientific explanation and latter one has non-scientific explanation (ibid.).
Moreover, sometimes people may give a response that there is no reason to privilege scientific explanation over non-scientific explanation because they think science and non-science are equivalent in the relevant aspects. For example, some people argued that science is a matter of faith or a religion just like other religion. However, is science really a matter of faith? Is science really a religion?
It is clear that science is not a religion. However, the answer for first question is not that easy to answer. The word“faith”has two meanings. On the one hand, to believe something on the basis of faith that refers to the meaning of to believe something which is out of evidence. In other words, it means that to believe something which lack of evidence to prove its truth. On the other hand, to have faith in something refers to that to rely on or to trust. Some people have both kinds of faith in God. However, some religious people have faith in God only in the second sense. They do not believe in the first explanation of faith which is to believe on the basis of faith. The reason of this is that those people think there has a strong evidence of existence of God provided. In this case, science is not a matter of faith (Hammerton, 2010, p.5). According to science, scientists only believes something which has evidences provided and do not believe something which lack evidence. Therefore, scientists have the second kind of faith in science. In other words, the scientific explanation and non-science explanation (such as the explanation of faith) are equal only in the second sense of faith which is to have faith in something. Scientists present strong evidence that the way the world works has explained by science. For example, scientific theories play a significant role in offering evidence of our increased ability to predict and control things (ibid.). Consequently, it is not correct to claim that science is the same as a matter of faith and there is no reason to privilege scientific explanation over non-science explanation.
Are non-scientific explanations ever correct? In my opinion, the answer would be yes. Explanations of moral theory could be an example. As mentioned before, history and moral theory are a part of non-science. The moral theory is not scientifically generated and not scientifically testable. However, it does not mean that there has something wrong with the theory itself. The moral theory shows us what actions are right or wrong and what things are good or bad (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). The explanation of moral theory helps us to distinguish right from wrong. Therefore, as far as I concerned, the explanation of moral theory would be correct. In other words, there should be some correct non-scientific explanations and not all non-scientific explanations are wrong.
In conclusion, there are differences between science, non-science and pseudoscience. In general, science is helpful to answer some of these questions by presenting what the cause and impacts of different actions. It is noticeable that main differences between science and pseudoscience are whether the theory can be test scientifically. It is clear that non-science is not within the domain of science. Examples of non-science could be history, moral theory and creation-science. From my point of view, there must be correct non-scientific explanations exist. People might have three main responses if a scientific explanation clashes with a non-scientific explanation. There is no accurate answer to say that we should exactly support scientific explanation or non-scientific explanation due to different cases. It is important that we should support each one of the explanation according to various cases, evaluating the evidence and forming our own belief.
Curd, M. and Cover, J.A. (Ed.) (1998) Philosophy of Science : the Central Issues, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, p. 38.
Hammerton, M. (2010) Lecture 9: Science, Pseudo-Science and Non-Science, the University of Sydney, p.1-8.
Okasha, S. (2002) Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, pp. 1-2.
― Mark Twain
Pseudoscience is a practice or theory that is presented as scientific theory, but has no real backing or valid evidence. Based on this, many false theories and beliefs have been derived implying that people's perceptions are real, and not the observations and experiments. For instance, the Lunar effect, which says that the human behavior is influenced by the full moon, or that the pyramids in Egypt were the creation of extraterrestrials (aliens). In real science, a lot of experimentation and scientific methods are used to conclude a concept.
Below is a list of topics and examples of pseudoscience that you should check out.
Examples of Pseudoscience
It is believed that the position of the stars and planets can influence people's lives.
It is believed that there exists a relationship between our birth dates and us, or any events related to us.
It is said that crystal gemstones have certain healing properties like getting over a trauma or relationship, bringing happiness, success, and wealth, etc.
It is Chinese method that believes happiness and prosperity can be gained by arranging objects and home in a certain way and proper directions.
►Handwriting or Signature Analysis
It is a belief that says that a person's personality can be known by his/her handwriting or signature.
►Tarot Cards and Palmistry
Both, which have been around for centuries now, evaluate your personality and future based on the readings of cards and your palm.
In Astronomy and Space Sciences
It was a belief according which certain apocalyptic and doomsday events like 'pole shift', 'solar storm', or 'galactic alignment' were to occur in 2012 that would result in the end of the world.
It was a proposal by Erich von Däniken in 1968 that the Earth was visited by ancient astronauts in the past who claimed to have started the human civilization or helped the ancient cultures for technological growth.
It is believed that human behavior is affected and influenced by the Full Moon.
Termed as 'cerealogy', crop circles are geometric designs created by flattening of the crop. They are thought to be the work of UFOs that land at night or other meteorological phenomena.
►Face on Mars
A rock formation on Mars that resembles a 'face' is believed to be an evidence of life on Mars.
►Moon Landing Conspiracy
The theories claim that original moon landing by Apollo was hoaxed and fake. The pseudo-scientists have tried proving it by using faulty science.
It is a prediction made by Nancy Lieder that stated that a mythological planet, Nibiru, would collide with Earth in the year 2012.
►Worlds in Collision
In his book Worlds in Collision, Immanuel Velikovsky proposed that ancient texts and evidences show that mankind would witness disastrous collisions of other planets in our solar system.
In Earth Sciences
►The Bermuda Triangle
It is an area near Florida where unusual events have occurred like disappearing of ships and airplanes. It is perceived that it is due to paranormal activities, unusual natural phenomena, or extraterrestrial abductions.
►Flat Earth Society
It is believed that the Earth is flat and disc-shaped, and that it accelerates upwards, giving a pretense of gravity.
►366 Geometry or Megalithic Geometry
It says that a circle should be divided into 366 degrees, and is still being used by Freemasonry.
It is proposed that the Earth is either completely hollow or consists of hollow parts beneath the crust.
It is believed that mythical creatures like fairies, gnomes, elves, and pixies exist even today.
It is a theory that says that there are some new kinds of fields that travel much faster than light.
It is a class of motion that violates the second law of Thermodynamics. Free energy is an example of perpetual motion that disregards the first law of thermodynamics as well as law of conservation of energy. There has been no concrete proof till date.
It is based on the theories of Thomas Townsend Brown that an electrical charge applied to a mass can produce anti-gravity effect.
It was an alternative theory to special relativity that was proposed by Ricardo Carezani. It failed to make accurate predictions.
It is a state of deep relaxation where a person is unusually open and responsive to commands of the hypnotist.
It is a theory that claims to determine characteristics and personality traits from the shape of the head (bumps on the skull).
It is a controversial theory that looks to investigate the causes and existence of psychic abilities and the concept of life after death with the help of science.
►Polygraphy or Lie Detectors
It is an interrogation method that is used to detect a lie using physiological responses of pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity of the person being interrogated. It is believed that the responses will differentiate the deceptive answers from those of non-deceptive answers.
It is a therapy that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation.
It is a belief that prenatal experiences and those during birth trauma influences people's lives.
It is a medical practice that works by giving diluted solute to patients.
It is the use of magnetic fields for improving one's health in a positive way.
It is a training program that claims to overcome any learning challenges by certain movements.
It is a method that uses the treatments that have not been proven effective using science.
It uses crystal gemstones to heal one's health and mental state by bringing happiness and prosperity.
It is a method of medical diagnosis and therapy that uses various frequencies to cure health problems.
It is an act of curing any health issues by prayers and other faith-related processes.
Some More Pseudoscience Topics
So, these were some topics for pseudoscience. It is completely up to you to believe any theory or not. Pick any one you like, or if you know any other than these, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and is not meant to offend or hurt anyone's sentiments. Buzzle does not promote or criticize any theory or belief in any way whatsoever.
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