The Demarcation Issue

The boundary between science and pseudo science, better known as the demarcation issue has been in debate for decades between philosophers of science in order to find the basis on which this separation can exist. The likes of Karl Popper initially introduced the demarcation criterion called “falsificationism” which states that falsifiability is the “logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment”[l] and it was on this beginning that Popper was able to make the distinctive separation of science from pseudoscience.

However f Popper’s approach was taken into consideration, many scientific discoveries would have been impoverished, since the theory behind the discovery would have been deemed a pseudoscience due to the lack of proof and experimentation supporting it. Paul Thagard, Imre Lakatos and Thomas Kuhn are some of the strongest opponents of the model of falsificationism. Popper’s demarcation has been critisized for its disregard for legitimate science and for allowing pseudoscience the eminence of a science.

This essay contrasts the ideologies of Karl Popper with the 3 philosophers ith regards to certain scientific discoveries which consequently reveal the inadequacy of falsificationism as a demarcation criterion. Karl Popper described the demarcation problem as the “key to most of the fundamental problems in the philosophy of science. “[2]The scientific revelation that contradicts Popper’s proposal is Isaac newtons concept of gravity.

Gravity through newtons explanation is an invisible, mass less, attractive force between objects that have mass. [3] It is what keeps humans on earth and the earth’s orbiting of the sun. With regards to Popper he theory of gravity is in fact a pseudoscience since it is simply a question of how can one undergo a physical experiment or observation in which newtons theory of gravitation can be refuted? The lack of proof to support this theory is the principle of Poppers disregard to gravitation as a scientific discovery.

On the contrary, Paul Thagard disapproval of Poppers ideology is prominently seen here, as Popper so hastily disregards the theory of gravitation. Thagard’s approach states that a scientific theory is deemed a pseudoscience if “it has been less progressive than lternate theories over a long period of time and thus solves many unsolved problems. “[4] His thesis does not neglect experiments altogether. Accordingly a theory us only considered a pseudoscience if it is left to stagnate thus portraying minimal progression in comparison to alternatively proposed theories.

When this is compared to Poppers idea of separation between science and pseudoscience, regardless if a theory is falsifiable Thagard implies that if progress is not made and it is left to degenerate it only then is namely a pseudoscience. Therefore we should ake newtons law of gravitation into consideration. Although there is little confirmation that gravity at all exists, the mere fact that it has made significant scientific progression and hence was later used as a foundation of other scientific manifestations.

With reference to Thagard’s proposal, newtons law of gravitation is appraised a science. Evidently Popper’s falsificationism criterion would have in fact delayed crucial scientific progression due to its strict paradigm as opposed to Thagard’s neglect of the intrinsic features of a theory. And hence promotes a more alsificationism as demarcation criterion. The history of science from Kuhn’s view paints a picture very different from that of positivists like Karl Popper, he criticises Poppers idea and states that his falsifiability criteria fails to characterise science as it is actually practice.

Kuhn’s proposed thesis suggests that true scientific practice consists of puzzle solving with the current accepted theory, by contrast pseudoscience do not provide this framework for progressive research. There are more difference between Popper and Kuhn’s ideologies on the methods of alsificationism, where Popper argues that the hallmark of science is its decisive approach and thus always trying to falsify itself. Kuhn on the other hand asserts quite the opposite it is when everybody agrees on the basic theories that the scientific discovery will rise from the ground.

For instance, Kuhn and Popper are critical of whether or not astrology is a science. From Poppers perspective it cannot be, since the claims astrologers present are very vague and nothing can be refuted. Kuhn on the other hand suggests that astrologers have actually acknowledged many ailed predictions and that these failures were much explained. “The exact configuration of constantly moving stars and planets as well as the exact time of a person’s birth is too difficult to calculate perfectly. [5] If this was viewed in a much simpler analogy, the factors that contribute to lung cancer are too complex to determine, that we can’t actually predict with uttermost certainty that smoker will definitely get cancer, however it is still correct to say that smoking causes cancer and that medical studies of smoking and lung cancer are scientific. For that reason is it’s lear that Poppers demarcation of science and pseudoscience is not effective.

Imre Lakatos attempted to explain Kuhn’s work in falsificationist’s terms by arguing that science progresses by the falsification of research programs rather than specific universal statements of naive falsification. In Lakatos’s approach a scientist’s works in a research program which corresponds to Kuhn’s paradigm. Whereas Popper rejected the use of ad hoc hypothesis as scientific, Lakatos acknowledged their position in the development of new theories. Furthermore the discovery made by

Thompson that all matter presents both wave and particle like features”[6] is another scientific discovery that has created conflict between the views of Popper and Imre Lakatos. Light was always believed to delineate wave like characteristics, however when Thompson first revealed that in fact matter could exhibit both types of properties the original theory was considered a pseudoscience. The stringent standard of falsification does not allow for any error to occur within theories.

In fact falsificationism does not question the reliability and validity of the experimental ethods and whether or not they were carried out correctly, but rather objects to the theory itself. Additonally if we were to examine Lakatos’s proposal on the demarcation issue, he states that “scientists do not give on a theory because some counter evidence is found. Instead either the evidence is put into question or the same ad hoc hypothesis is appealed to for rescue. [4] From Lakatos thesis of separation, Thompsons claim is considered a science for the reason that he not only made an ad hoc hypothesis but rather was able to further prove that light also xhibited particle features. All through his paddle wheel and Maltese cross experiments and wave like features thoroughly through the use of a magnetic field. proven false based on observation and experimentation indicates its inadequacy as a demarcation criterion as it does not adhere to the wave particle scientific theory.

Popper’s ideologies suggest that a theory is a pseudoscience if it cannot be refuted. The demarcation that separates the two sciences is built on a very distinctive basis for the remaining philosophers. Analysis of Newtonians ideas suggest that the latter iscoveries would have been delayed since there were many attempts to falsify Netwon’s theories. Which in turn would have belated the findings of Neptune and prevented the progression of the kinetic theory of gases.

Consequently the establishment of the quantum theory would also have ceased to exist since the understanding of mechanics would have been disregarded had Poppers idea of falsificationism and demarcation were taken into account. All these scientific revelations have led to great inventions and further scientific advancements. The quantum theories through mathematical laws were in fact able to provide scientists he “reasons for the way in which a black body radiates heat”[6]. According to Popper the only way that science can advance is when one conjectures then another refutes.

If there is no refute or it is considered insufficient then it is not taken into consideration as scientific progression. If this approach was to be followed a great deal of knowledge would be lost as Popper doesn’t allow time for a theory to prove its accuracy. It is there evident that falsificationism is not adequate as a demarcation criterion. Scientists will go to great lengths to defend their paradigm against alsification, by the addition of ad hoc hypothesis to existing theories.

Paul Thagard, Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos are the strongest adversaries of the theory of falsificationism which provides the indication that there is still much philosophical work to be done on the demarcation between science and pseudoscience. Falsificationism is inadequate as a demarcation criterion as it hastily disregards theories presented without giving them the time to prove their validity. Also it has been criticised for disregarding Justifiable science and for giving pseudoscience the status of being science.

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