Science and Pseudoscience - A Primer

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by James R, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    I am a newbie here, this is my first post. I found this site just a couple of days ago, and since then, I've been browsing here and there and seeing what there is to see. I've noticed a number of threads, as have many of you i'm sure, whose authors don't really seem to understand what science is. I am not a scientist, merely a scientifically minded person, largely self-educated, so am not an expert on exactly what science is. But isn't the main prerequisite the use of scientific method? This thread which attempts to elucidate the difference between science and pseudoscience doesn't define the scientific method, unless I missed it and I apologize if I did. It's been a while since high school science class, so I can't fully define the scientific method, claim, test, hypotheses, test, etc, but I am sure that others here do know it by heart. I think it should be listed, and maybe in a new thread or in an edit to the first post of this thread so as not to bury it amid a hundred other posts.
    The previous post mentions methods (plural) in it's definition of science. Are there other methods other than what I always thought of as THE scientific method? Please educate me.
     
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  3. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    Also, shouldn't this thread exist in every science forum? Or is it only physics and math where you can differentiate between science and pseudoscience?

    Sorry about the double post.
     
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Welcome to sciforums, invert_nexus.

    What is commonly referred to as "THE scientific method" is more accurately a collection of attitudes and ways of approaching problems. There is no single recipe that somebody needs to follow in order to be doing science. For this reason, it is somewhat difficult to say exactly what the scientific method is. In this thread, I hope I've got at that a little by saying what it is not.

    Different moderators control different sub-forums here, so while this thread could be carried over to other sciences forums, the other mods have decided in their wisdom not to do so.

    Having said that, it does seem to me that physics attracts more than its fair share of pseudoscientists for some reason.
     
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  7. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    James I guess the reason why so many pseudo's are attracted to physics is that there are so many unanswered questions, therefore so many "unquestioned answers" ( I had to write that)
    But as invert_nexus has said I to believe that the rules that are commonly accepted by universities and R & D ordganisations regards to the scientific method should be more readilly displayed than they are.....

    Also a thread on what constitutes quality discussion could also do with a showing....
     
  8. larryhat Registered Member

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    Hi guys:

    How about something off the wall like Ball Lightning?
    There are lots of anecdotal reports, some pretty good,
    but it seems to be untestable so far. I believe there
    were some Russian experiments trying to reproduce it
    electrically BTW. If untestable, I presume that BL
    sits on the borders of science just like String Theory,
    pending imaginative new tests of experiments.

    I would not call that pseudo-science. Maybe fringe
    science is a better term.

    best - Larry
     
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    I guess it would depend what you were asserting about ball lightning.

    If you said that perhaps ball lightning exists and it might be explained using a particular physical theory, that would put you on one side of the line. If, on the other hand, you claimed that ball lightning is really the spirits of dead people manifesting themselves as glowing balls, then you would most likely be on the other side of the line.
     
  10. larryhat Registered Member

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    " If you said that perhaps ball lightning exists and it might be explained using
    a particular physical theory, that would put you on one side of the line.
    If, on the other hand, you claimed that ball lightning is really the spirits of
    dead people manifesting themselves as glowing balls, then you would most
    likely be on the other side of the line. "

    - - - -

    Hello James R:

    No disagreement on that. I was thinking of some so-far undetermined
    physical phenomenon. Conventional theories don't seem to have a
    good handle on it yet. I would never suggest spiritualism.
    My point is simply that BL is not convincingly repeatable in the
    laboratory. Theories are inconsistent, controversial or simply
    lacking.

    I don't think its fair to call BL 'pseudo-science', when fringe-science
    is less inflammatory and hopefully more accurate. If there is some
    good solution to the BL mystery, I'd love to hear of it. -Larry
     
  11. RDT2 Registered Senior Member

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    I'm not sure I'd agree that physics has more unanswered questions than say, biology or philosophy but it may attract more pseudoscience because much of it, even now well-accepted stuff, is so counterintuitive.
     
  12. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    I was just watching Penn and Tellers Bullshit! There is a statement made by a theologist.

    "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

    How's that for pseudoscience?
     
  13. Persol I am the great and mighty Zo. Registered Senior Member

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    Well, he's right. Just because we can't find it doesn't mean it isn't there. But that also doesn't mean we should take someone else's word for it.
     
  14. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, I suppose you're right. Penn and Teller are just so damn convincing that it overwhelmed my sensibilities.

    I guess where pseudoscience comes in is when you attempt to use this logic to prove something. So, I guess using the phrase in the context above could be considered pseudoscience in a way. I feel so dirty.

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  15. PhysMachine MALLEUS SCIENTIARUM Registered Senior Member

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    I would contend that pseudoscience comes in when you don't consider experimental data and just make thought arguements, like how the Greeks carried out science.
     
  16. Persol I am the great and mighty Zo. Registered Senior Member

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    Nah... thought arguments are fine too. It's the ignorance of existing evidence and the lack of logic that is a problem.
     
  17. HOWARDSTERN HOWARDSTERN has logged out.... Registered Senior Member

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    James R,

    Hey man, are you JREF?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Cause if you arte thou Mazing Andi, then you owe me a million bucks!
     
  18. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    No, I'm not James Randi. But I'm fairly sure he doesn't owe you anything. Chances are you never submitted a proper application for the million dollar prize.
     
  19. paradigm Banned Banned

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    I can't offer an alternative physics theory but I can offer an alternative physics paradigm that debunks the bizarre interpretations of the present physics paradigm.
    See Debunking Physics and Discovering the Ultimate Paradigm of Science at http://paradigm.blogharbor.com
     
  20. hyperdog Registered Senior Member

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    Amen. And while we're at it, let's debunk the bizarre notion that the earth is round.

    After all, if it seems bizarre to me, then it can't possibly be true. Intelligent people recognize this principle as the Second Law of Hyperdog.
     
  21. HOWARDSTERN HOWARDSTERN has logged out.... Registered Senior Member

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    Now I know it's you ! ! ! ! !

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    You sent me the same email reply four years ago ! ! !!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  22. kriminal99 Registered Senior Member

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    I dont have a problem with all this stuff in relation to weather something is "science" or not. But who cares if it is science? This really only concerns someone who is getting ready to perform the actual experiments or something.

    If something is not testable, or not disprovable, its not wrong or not unuseful or not uninteresting. How many people claiming things like "We have capacity for genetic memory because its the only thing that makes sense logically" try and claim it has been "scientifically proven". Most of these types of arguments are based on logical reasoning and noone cares if it has been scientifically proven or not.

    Truth be told the concept of science itself is rediculous because most experiments are not directly of what the theory trying to be proven concerns. They experiments usually are about something else and then reasoning is used to link the experiment to the theory. That means the so called science has actually entered the realm of logic and reasoning.

    Also the argument of onus of proof resting with the challenger to build a body of knowledge is highly flawed. It pretty much requires that no one was ever wrong or used flawed reasoning to come up with what is so far commonly accepted. It doesn't do any good that your set of beliefs about the world is getting bigger and bigger if they are all wrong. In truth this argument seems to be based on the fact that there are more people that believe the challenged idea, they think they are right and they don't like to be told they are wrong. Not exactly a valid reason to say the other person has to prove it, in truth this is just the phds being equally as immature as an ignorant person who refuses to even consider the commonly accepted ideas.
     
  23. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

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    MacM , what is not scientific about Alien Abduction? Is it because, "since it primarily contains material clearly not sceintific"

    You do recognize that if the claims were truthful and accurate, to a significant degree, that ignoring the issues of thec laims could prove disastrous to an awful lot of people? So you would provide no money for research into Alien Abduction and perhaps Animal and Cattle Mutilation, Roswell (where I worked for our uncle for a spell)? Don't you have any curiosity? I am making much of your statement, and p'haps I doth protest too much. but what the hey, this is Sciforums at its best.

    Of all the points you have brought out re the demise of SRT, the most basic, recioprocity, etc, you claim is "scientific"? Is this a correct reading.?

    Geistkiesel.​
     

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