Charasteristics of Science

A rigorous review process effectively filters out articles by crackpots. But it does not stop them from publishing. The freedom of speech allows them to present their papers orally in scientific (predominantly physics) conferences, where their fifteen-minute talks, although attentively listened to by other crackpots, is completely ignored by the mainstream scientific community. Unsatisfied by the brief attention received in conferences, they pay printing companies out of their own pockets and publish their nonsensical findings themselves. This trend has grown considerably with the advent of personal computers and self-publishing software. It is not uncommon for the physics faculty to occasionally receive books with flashy covers claiming to have disproved the relativity theory or quantum physics, or to have discovered a new theory of gravity, a new theory of light, or the final theory of the universe. In all cases, these books contain very little mathematics – not going beyond the lowest-level high school algebra – or none at all.

I have emphasized the word “mainstream” above because the desire of making profits and the popularity of pseudoscience among the scientifically illiterate, who make up the majority of the population, has prompted some otherwise reputable publishers to offer “peer-reviewed” journals whose executive, associate, and assistant editors are all pseudoscientists, and all submitted articles are reviewed by pseudoscientists.

Publication of “peer-reviewed” journals edited by pseudoscientists whose articles are “reviewed” by pseudoscientists has nothing in common with the scientific peer-review process and is a dangerous manifestation of society’s surrender to pseudoscience.

7. Absence of Controversy/Falsifiability

Because science is based on objective, verifiable, quantitative observation, it leaves no room for controversy in the mainstream science. If there is a new theoretical proposal with which the mainstream science is uncomfortable, there may be a short period of controversy. However, when observation verifies or nullifies the theory, the controversy ends – except for a few potential crackpots who find a good excuse in the proposal to form a new “society.”

I have to emphasize that

There is always disagreement between the mainstream scientists and the fringe/quack scientists in any given discipline. That disagreement never goes away and should not be considered as controversy.

There is another form of non-falsifiability which is related to the presence of controversy and occurs in some disciplines. It is more subtle than the statement about the disappearing Santa Claus noted earlier. It occurs when there are different “schools” of thought in the mainstream of a discipline, which disagree with one another. If one “school” of a discipline makes a statement and claims that it is true, and another school in the same discipline claims that the statement is false and neither can prove the other false, the statement is not falsifiable (see this for a concrete example).

Any mainstream discipline that is composed of various “schools,” which cannot agree on some given statement and each school takes pride in “debunking” the other is not a scientific discipline.

8. Insensitivity to the Removal of Statistics

Thanks to the scientifically illiterate media, the use of statistical analysis in any “study” makes that study “scientific.” In this spirit, insurance becomes a “science” as do gambling, marketing, opinion polls, keeping track of traffic accidents, and a host of other activities that use statistics to “predict” the behavior of the population. This prediction is not of the kind discussed in the third characteristic of science. This is a prediction inherent in any statistical analysis, and unlike the prediction of science, which is often unrelated to the original investigation, it cannot go beyond the very investigation for which the analysis is made. The statistical analysis of highway accidents can be used only in highway accidents, that of marketing a new product for ages between 12 and 30 can be used only for the sale of that product to that specific age group. On the other hand, the predictions of the general theory of relativity, for example, encompass the bending of light, the slowing down of clocks in gravity, the precession of the perihelion of planets, the explosion of large stars into neutron stars and black holes, the operation of GPS, and the big bang.

2 thoughts on “Charasteristics of Science”

  1. This view on 10 characteristics of science brings to mind Malcolm Knowles and his 6 andragogical principles that could not stand the test of time. They are nice assumptions derived through a tiny slit on a massive whole solid body of science. They are more of an assembly of general characteristics of all sciences but restrictively assigned to a small branch of science that is of personal interest. The world of science has obviously advanced beyond that limited scope! Science is integrated and science is life. There is science in everything as there is history in everything, including science.

    1. The 10 characteristics are derived from the “old” sciences. No one questions the fact that physics, chemistry, and (molecular) biology are sciences, and they all pass these 10 characteristics. However, other disciplines claiming to be science fail those characteristics (a couple of them can be found under the NON-SCIENCE tab). And many people – including some who are professionals in those disciplines – question the fact that the latter disciplines are indeed science.

      I agree with your last statement in the following sense: everything is made up of quarks, leptons, and gauge particles, and they all assembled IN THE PAST to make that thing up.

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