The Controversy Between Science And Pseudoscience

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Climate deniers are accused of practicing pseudoscience, as are intelligent design creationists, astrologers, UFOlogists, parapsychologists, practitioners of alternative medicine, and often anyone who strays far from the scientific mainstream. The boundary problem between science and pseudoscience, in fact, is notoriously fraught with definitional disagreements because the categories are too broad and fuzzy on the edges, and the term “pseudoscience” is subject to adjectival abuse against any claim one happens to dislike for any reason. In his 2010 book Nonsense on Stilts (University of Chicago Press), philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci concedes that there is “no litmus test,” because “the boundaries separating science, nonscience, and…show more content…
That is, does the revolutionary new idea generate any interest on the part of working scientists for adoption in their research programs, produce any new lines of research, lead to any new discoveries, or influence any existing hypotheses, models, paradigms or world­views? If not, chances are it is pseudoscience.

We can demarcate science from pseudoscience less by what science is and more by what scientists do. Science is a set of methods aimed at testing hypotheses and building theories. If a community of scientists actively adopts a new idea and if that idea then spreads through the field and is incorporated into research that produces useful knowledge reflected in presentations, publications, and especially new lines of inquiry and research, chances are it is science.

This demarcation criterion of usefulness has the advantage of being bottom-up instead of top-down, egalitarian instead of elitist, nondiscriminatory instead of prejudicial. Let science consumers in the marketplace of ideas determine what constitutes good science, starting with the scientists themselves and filtering through the editors, educators and readers. As for potential consumers of pseudo­science, that’s what skeptics are for, but as always, caveat
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