Is it possible to distinguish between science and pseudo-science? sample essay
Introduction: For starters let us try to define both terms. Science is an organized, disciplined, unbiased search for knowledge for the world around us. Remember, Science does not discover facts, but rather finds statements (theories, formulae, descriptions) as a result of having examined the real world. These statements describe what may be expected to be found under stated conditions. Note, science is always prepared to adjust, reverse, abandon and/or subtract to/from its statement, in order to more closely approach the truth: The truth being an unreachable goal, which we will eventually and essentially get to (Randi, Internet).
Pseudo-science is an established body of knowledge which tries to pass itself as science. It tries to claim legitimacy that it would not otherwise be able to do on its own. We can also call it fringe or alternative science. It basically lacks the carefully and thoughtfully interpreted experiments which provide the foundation of the natural sciences. Incidentally, this is what contributes to its advancement. A vital point to emphasize is that a body of knowledge is used because science involves elements of intuition and guesswork. In regard to this therefore we discover a major weakness in utilizing the experiments approach in science.
This comes about because experiments do not always test a theory adequately, moreover results can be incorrectly interpreted or in cases be plain wrong. In legitimate science, these problems tend to be self correcting, through critical scrutiny by the original researcher of the greater scientific community (Chem1, Internet). Pseudo means fake. Thus, the surest way to spot a fake is to know as much as possible about the original, genuine or the actual science itself. Forthwith, it is of critical importance to understand the nature of science.
This will include getting to grips with the criteria of evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of theories and the many aspects of scientific methods that make it possible to draw reliable conclusions about the physical universe (Quakewatch, Internet). Having said this we ask, is there really a fine line between real science and pseudo-science? And if so, where does it lie? From an initial inspection, it is plain to see that these two are as opposite as rationality and religion are.
Whereas we use basic principles such as objectivity and accuracy to establish a finding, we also use in science certain admitted assumptions about reality. These, though, eventually do support themselves; they become proven or result in false verification thus discarded. Pseudo science on its part will utilize invented modes of analysis which substitute for meeting the requirements of scientific method, though they basically violate the essential attributes. It’s easy to identify many examples of these, but it is the more subtle and insidious and convincing cases that require better definition of the attributes involved (Randi, Internet).
The quest to clearly identify and determine the line dividing science and pseudo-science is indeed daunting. This is because the media has so much muddled the waters that we are, in instances, compelled to think what we see or hear in the media is the truth. It is wise to remember that, pseudo-science transcends all fields of science. Not one field is safe. For example, in the field of physics [and by extension, other natural sciences] the following are cases (Quackwatch, Internet) that have been used to try and unmask pseudo-science: • It is common the find proponents of pseudo-science referring to work many years old.
Unlike science were literature is updated every other year (latest editions) to take into consideration the rapid accumulation of new facts and insights, pseudo-scientists will rarely revise. • This point above exposes pseudo scientists to the intense criticism of holding on to bogus facts proposed many years ago. It has been found that they research by relying on newspaper clippings, hearsay, ancient religions or mythological works as their point of fact. They never bother to perform independent investigation to check their source. • Also they are fond of beginning with a hypothesis.
Usually, this hypothesis is very emotionally appealing and spectacularly implausible. After the emotionally appealing hypothesis has been fronted, they then look for supporting evidence. Should any conflict be identified it is quickly ignored or rationalized. • They ignore or misrepresent genuine scientific fact. Pseudo-scientists will instead rely on unverifiable eyewitness testimony, stories, tales, hearsay, rumor and dubious anecdotes. They will invariably rely heavily on subjectivity validation. Newspaper horoscope describes astrology perfectly making many people believe in them.
But on close examination, it is found they describe generalities enough to cover virtually everyone (Quackwatch, Internet). No pseudo-scientist who was shouting on the roof top at the beginning of the year offering/ putting forward predictions and hypothesis will be found to analyze how many of them came to pass at the end of the year (Chem1, Internet). This is unlike science where all principles must be tested and remain continually questioned or rejected over time. In pseudo-science, such predictions or hypothesis are not often falsifiable and are equally unlikely to ever be altered or shown to be wrong.
This is erroneously taken by proponents as evidence of validity. Where as scientific explanations must be stated clearly in unambiguous terms, this is the opposite in pseudo-science. They often invoke scientific terms in dubious context. For example, ‘energy vibrations’ and ‘subtle energy fields’ sound impressive but are essentially meaningless terminologies (Chem1, Internet). Looking at the case of Electromagnetic frequency for instance, f or a long time pseudo-scientists fronted a case for its likelihood to be associated with causing the onset of cancer.
Communities leaving near power lines and also electricians were deemed to be most at risk of contracting cancer in this way. However, after substantive review of existing literature and interview of specialists in the field, it was found that the statistical evidence for a correlation between the two was negligible and growing smaller. Even in the case of electricians, no effort was made to eliminate other factors before placing an accusing finger at high voltage power lines by the pseudo-scientists.
Further, pseudo scientists offer little or no theoretical explanation of how such electromagnetic fields [EMF] can actually produce cancer (Csicop, Internet). On the other hand, science is its own worst enemy. It allows stifling of orthodoxy of beat ideas. Science has the tendency of forgetting that many of the best ideas in human history began as heresies. Comparisons between bizarre claims and science as it is actually practiced will show that no sharp division can be established (Math, Internet). Forget the various checklists given to distinguish the two[i. e. science and pseudo science], as none perfectly achieves this.
The disagreements and disparities are more to be found on the finer points. Even the most hardened skeptic does not deny the possible validity of paranormal phenomena. It is necessary to point out at this juncture that, the fathers of science; Einstein and Newton, considered today as geniuses, were in their age actually considered heretics. What they chose to bring forward as science was so much against the norm then, that nobody dared believe them. They did not produce their revolutionary ideas in one moment of brilliance as propagated by scientists (findarticles. com).
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