Electric Monk

Previous Page | Back to Index | Next Page

Dr. Ray Hall - Science and Pseudoscience

The second paper was presented by Dr. Ray Hall on the topic of science versus pseudoscience, and how to tell the difference. Dr. Hall presented the first paper at TAM 1, on the age of the Earth.

Dr. Ray Hall
Dr. Ray Hall On Science Vs. Pseudoscience

Prof. Hall asked if there was a sharp line between science and pseudoscience. Philosophers of science have been asking this question for centuries now. Philosopher Karl Popper rejected the notion of "verification", popular in his day, which held that scientific theories could be verified as true by amassing enough evidence in their favor.

Popper proposed instead that theories could only be conclusively falsified, and must otherwise be considered to be corroborated and held as provisionally true.

Since then, falsificationism has been critiqued, holding that there is no clear demarcation point between science and pseudoscience, but instead there is a continuum from bad science to good science. Four criteria for identifying pseudoscience were proposed by Paul Thagard. A theory is pseudoscientific if:

  1. It is less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems.
  2. The community of practitioners make little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of these problems.
  3. It shows no concern for attempts evaluate the theory in relation to others.
  4. It is selective in considering confirmations and disconfirmations.

To this, Hall proposes adding a fifth: A theory is pseudoscientific if it has a "lack of proper use of safeguards against self deception and other pitfalls of human perception".

Hall called Young Earth Creationism (YEC) "the poster child of pseudoscience," and closed with a quote from Bertolt Brecht:

The aim of science is not to open the door to everlasting wisdom -- but to set a limit on everlasting error.

Previous Page | Back to Index | Next Page