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What makes Science, Science November 17, 2006

Posted by Al in : interesting,science , trackback

This is an interesting short article by James Randi, who’s a well known magician who likes to expose tricks and cons. In this article he describes why science has an element of truth to it, whereas pseudoscience cannot produce this inner truth. Science involves work, dedication, discipline, intelligence and a little luck. Pseudo science involves work, dedication, discipline, application if not intelligence and a lot of luck. Science is provable, whereas pseudoscience proves itself, or relies on faith to accept it will work next time. Pseudoscience can be recognised by these feature:


It is illogical, violating one or more of the basic rules of inference, definition, argument, or proof; think of homeopathy and extreme dilution.

Pseudoscience is unsystematic in that its various parts do not necessarily relate to and support each other. It has no consistency; think of astrology vs. astronomy.

It begs for suspension of some basic rules of reason and established modes of examining theories and ideas, claiming exemption from those “outmoded” procedures because of its own far-reaching assumptions; think cold fusion and basic physics.

It is usually subjective rather than objective, often relying on unique personal interpretations of phenomena made by a particular authority — a dogma, a Bible or its equivalent, some sort of oracle, or a charismatic leader, one perceived by his or her followers as having god-like qualities; think of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, and of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.

Pseudoscience is “fixed” or “closed” rather than accumulative and progressive; its statements are not changed to agree with new evidence. The Church taught that the Sun was perfect and unblemished, and condemned a real scientist such as Galileo when he found it was marked with spots. They could not incorporate this discovery into their view of their God’s creation.

One sure test of any truly scientific statement is its ability to predict the future — to say what will happen under given circumstances. When subjected to valid and objective measures of prediction, pseudoscience performs no better in this respect than does random guesswork alone, in contrast to real science; think of history as predicted by astrology, compared to gravity and s = ut + ½at2.

And this is worth a watch too. Mainly because it knocks Uri Geller, who I’ve always despised, completely flat.


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