Anti-Science and Pseudo-Science

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Anti-Science and Pseudo-Science

We hear about science every day in the news, but few of us stop to consider what it is — both at its best and at its worst.

Science is the practice of discovering what is true by using the scientific method. According to the scientific method, researchers make an observation that uncovers a gap in our knowledge. They devise a hypothesis to explain that gap. Then they design an experiment to test the hypothesis.

If the hypothesis can be proven false through the experiment, it is rejected. If, on the other hand, it can be verified beyond a reasonable doubt, then it becomes a law. In this system, everything is open to testing and validation.

Anti-science, by contrast, is the uncritical reliance on some sort of received wisdom or revelation, such as that found in the Bible, the Koran, or the Hindu Vedas. Anti-scientific people refuse to test their beliefs, and they persecute anyone who calls those beliefs into question. This is what Galileo faced in 1633, when he was interrogated by the Inquisition because he had written that the Earth revolves around the sun and was not the center of the universe.

On the other hand, pseudo- science is a different way of sidestepping real science by using what appears to be the scientific method to create the impression that something has been rigorously validated, when in fact it merely represents the beliefs and biases of those presenting it. In spite of these impediments, true and honest use of the scientific method has proven so effective in improving our quality of life that it’s now the universal standard. It has improved our health, extended our lifespan, increased our standard of living, and helped us to work more effectively at those tasks that sustain life and society.

Yet even as it has advanced, a deep understanding of science has been available only to a small fraction of the population. Even many accredited scientists are so steeped in their narrow specialties that they are ill-prepared to evaluate important work in other fields.

As the popular press frequently points out, the dominance of Western culture by scientific experts — whose methods and assumptions are little understood by the general public — has encouraged a growing anti-science backlash. This backlash fits the historical pattern that we see going back to Galileo. However, because it’s so well understood, this movement is manageable. It represents a genuine threat today only in rigid theocracies, such as modern-day Iran.

On the other hand, it’s precisely because the general public now typically accepts almost everything that’s said by accredited scientists — or people posing as scientific experts — that pseudo-science poses such a big threat...

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