What qualifies as science?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Jozen-Bo, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Jozen-Bo The Wheel Spinning King!!! Registered Senior Member

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    As I understand, science requires tools of measurement, procedures for testing, and working theories that can be tested to gather data concerning the results.

    A speculation is an idea that has not formed into something that can be tested, but has the possibility of being polished into a testable theory in some cases.

    Pseudo-science is composed of material that can not be tested, and ranges often into the spectrum of wild speculations with no grounding for any verification.

    Can anyone elaborate on this if it needs to be elaborated?

    Thanks.
     
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  3. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    I would take issue with this. Pseudo-science can be tested. For example, you can examine a person's character and his sun sign. Astrology will make some statements about a correlation which on statistical analysis can be shown to be manifestly untrue. Pseudo-science can be proven to be wrong, but for reasons best know to themselves, adherents will ignore the evidence. This applies to all kinds of alternative crap.
     
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  5. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not so sure. Is there not pseudo-science around that makes no testable claims at all? Crank aether theories for example?
     
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  7. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    Ultimately it depends on a definition. I have always understood pseudo-science as something which claims to be a science but clearly is not because evidence is ignored. I'm not sure about how to define something with no testable claims. (Philosophy? Bollocks?)
     
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  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Well one could say metaphysics I suppose, if the idea is respectable. But we see cranks on these forums all the time with ideas that sound vaguely scientific but cannot be tested.

    Intelligent Design is an example, the problem being that no agreed objective definition of "design" in the sense they mean, is possible to make, and thus no objective evidence for it is possible. Yet it claims to be scientific. To me, anything that purports to be scientific but doesn't work or can"t be evaluated objectively is pseudo.
     
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  9. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    Pseudoscience is claims presented as science (with the associated trappings: maths, "technical" words etc) but which have no scientific justification.
     
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  10. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    They generally go pretty light on the "maths" aspect.
     
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  12. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Every time I look into a mirror

    my brain ask the questions

    Something intelligent designed this?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
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  13. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    I like a OP question that tackles a problem head on.

    Science is a discrete, structured form of human knowledge scaffolded over time by means of the scientific method of whatever remains when observations or hypothesis are reproducibly tested to the extent it is possible confirm hypotheses and observations that are FALSIFIABLE.

    Falsifiability is important to the scaffolding of science because unless an observation or hypothesis is verified by more than one scientist (and by that I mean, scientists that do not have a vested interest in the observation or the scientific interpretation of the result of the other), then the veracity of the observation or hypothesis remains tentative until the necessary work is performed to attempt to falsify it. Until this is done, what you have is an observation or a hypothesis that has not passed all of the testing necessary for incorporation into our growing body of scientific knowledge.

    Because the structure of scientific knowledge is discrete, a knowledge of science in one field or area of expertise does not necessarily mean someone has even a rudimentary knowledge of other parts of science. No person or scientist alive, save possibly the all-knowing Google together with Wikipedia, has a ready command of every facet of every field of science. This feature of science causes a lot of heated science discussions here and elsewhere, and I suspect this would be so even if there were not a parallel development of a correspondingly vast amount of disinformation about science as readily accessible to internet users as more reputable sources. This situation is likely to remain the case indefinitely, or for as long as the disinformation yields as much or more profit than reliable sources that require payment in order to access the more reliable information.

    Karl Popper, a noted philosopher, is responsible both for a theory that the structuring of science knowledge by means of the scientific method is in some ways analogous to the process of evolution by means of natural selection, and for the requirement that such hypotheses be falsifiable. If what Popper says about science is true, and it probably is, it would suggest that pseudoscience competes in a more or less direct manner with science in a struggle for survival of the fittest. I would hasten to point out that it is much easier to scaffold real science by incorporating it into our structure of scientific knowledge than it is to try and fit pseudoscience into the same framework. The problem with this idea is that even time tested scientific ideas are more or less continously replaced by new theories that explain more and provide direction for new scaffolding. Rather like this:

    http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170328-why-you-should-mostly-trust-what-science-tells-you

    Suggest use of the Google Chrome browser to view this video

    Note what parts are ommitted in Popper's description of science. Peer review would seem to be an important way to vet new scientific knowledge, but there are several problems with this approach, particularly in the internet age. What if there are as many peer reviewers invested in disinformation and pseudoscience as there are in real science? Many of these pseudoscientists may have convincing credentials, or credentials that are at least as convincing as many actual scientists. The other problem seems to be that real scientists engaged for pay in scientific work are likely to be very busy people. Most who are not academics or who do not have an army of graduate students working for them for academic credit have the time to devote to carefully reading or vetting the work of other scientists, even within their own increasingly narrow scientific specialties.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  14. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    It must also be noted, in a discussion about Popper's model of the way the scientific method works, that a great many people will take issue with ANYTHING, much less science, sharing a process akin to the ideas of Charles Darwin.

    Popper might have avoided this controversy simply by calling it "trial and error", but this would have been an injustice to a process as nuanced as that of science, and also to nature's way of fine tuning survivability. While evolution may be wasteful in terms of either the number of organisms that are poorly adapted and go extinct, or the number of scientific hypothesis that turn out to be incorrect ideas about the way the universe or a tiny portion thereof works, calling it "trial and error" does not do credit to the fact that both processes, unequivocably and undeniably work to their respective desired effects, even if it seems to take forever and a day for it to do so.

    The only difference, if there is one, between how a scientist goes about scaffolding a new scientific hypothesis into our body of scientific knowledge and the way nature adapts new speicies of organisms to survive and thrive new environmental challenges, is that hopefully a scientist only fine tunes a small part of an idea that already exists, and doesn't need to tear down the entire structure of science and start over again from scratch. Most of the time, nature doesn't do anything like that either, really, does she?

    Is Charles Darwin's theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection falsifiable? Why yes, it is. Superbugs with antibiotic resistance prove it beyond the shadow of a sliver of any reasonable doubt. Great observation and analysis, Darwin. Is Popper's idea about the nature of the scientific method falsifiable? Again, yes. Both of those ideas are exactly the way science works.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I suppose that those are the sorts of things that often go into the practice of science, at least as it's been conceived and practiced since the 17th century 'Scientific Revolution'. I'm not convinced that there is any single simply-stated essence of science that is tight enough to exclude everything non-scientific and broad enough to encompass all examples of science.

    I'd say that a speculation is a guess. A hypothesis is an informed guess, a high-end guess, one that is testable and consistent with accepted theory.

    Maybe in some cases. I'm not convinced that there is any sharp distinction between what is and isn't science, or any simple procedure for drawing that distinction. (Philosophers of science call this the demarcation problem and it's still an area of active dispute.)

    To steal a distinction from the ancient Greeks, understanding how to make something happen is craftsmanship/technique (techne). Understanding why it happens is knowledge/science (episteme).

    But I'm not convinced that there is any single 'techne'-like procedure to arrive at the whys of things.
     
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  16. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Darwin observed a unique situation in which nature itself provided the necessary controls, and also repeated testing of the results of his analysis. There is no question of this, nor of the other experiments that confirm how a genome interacts with its environment.

    There also is no question, Popper picked that as a model of how science works because it is the best example of an established body of knowledge, the results of which are not in doubt. If there is bedrock to how real science works, this is it.

    Both of these particular pillars of scientific knowledge are general enough to be open to extension, and refinement without fear that the original analysis or the assumptions underlying it are in any danger of being replaced by something that better explains how nature or the scientific method work. For instance, Darwin's raw theory says almost nothing specific about the equillibrium that must be maintained in order for a species not to become extinct. But other science built on it does. Popper's theory provides no assurance that science will have steady progress, or if progress will terminate or end up in a theoretical cull-de-sac, nor whether there might be any way to work around an experimental obstacle that presents itself as a roadblock to further scaffolding. If it happens in nature, it can happen in science. Evolution has no particular direction. Neither does science.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    When you can't find an answer, go where you should have looked the first time: Wikipedia.

    Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge (q.v.) in the form of testable explanations (q.v.) and predictions (q.v.) about the universe (q.v.).

    In my observation, it's usually a lack of testable explanations (or a surplus of explanations that can't be tested) that distinguishes pseudoscience from real science.

     
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  18. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    The wikipedia definition goes one step too far.

    A sufficiently complete body of science knowledge does not need to make any new predictions because all of the conceivable predictions have already been made and tested.

    Until or unless that is the case, predictions have no science knowledge status different from any other new hypothesis.

    Science knowledge will always be incomplete. Predictions aren't science until or unless they are confirmed.
     
  19. Counter Registered Senior Member

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    Science is based upon the senses.

    There are pro's and con's. They are opposites.

    Con-gress. Pro-gress.
    Con-stitute. Pro-stitute.
    Con-script. Pro-script.

    Pro means for.
    Con means against.

    Pre is another prefix for pro (be-fore.)

    Pre-ci-ous means to remove 'ci' from science, leaving sence.

    In other words if something is precious it has never sensed.

    We may then examine es-sence (to 's' sence (sense.))

    However there are not only five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.) There are also senses of humour, balance and probably an infinite variety of senses.

    Un-con-sci-ous (or pre-ci-ous.)
     
  20. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    I hardly ever visit the linguistics forum. This is why.
     
  21. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    So what is "content" against? Concrete? Congratulations? Converge?

    There are some holes in your theory.
     
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  22. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    But the previous post was not linguistics, it was total bollocks.
     
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  23. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    You're right, of course.
     

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