MadSci Network: Science History

Re: What criteria unambiguously distinguishes 'science' from 'non-science'?

Date: Tue Jan 18 07:17:31 2000
Posted By: Dan Berger, Faculty Chemistry/Science, Bluffton College
Area of science: Science History
ID: 946315555.Sh

One frequently encounters statements or conclusions that claimed to be "scientific". What are the specific defining criteria one should expect to be met for the term "scientific" to be legitimately applied? That is, what criteria when present uniquely and unambiguously differentiates "science" from all other terms -- as speculation, conjecture, etc.

While there are many contextual variants for the word "science", the one most generally understood is "empirical" science ... observable and verifiable by the five senses, etc. ... is the one intended here. Any other (lesser?) contextual meaning to be responsibly identified by the user.

Words in science must be precisely defined and clearly understood by all parties. Indeed, if one cannot unambiguously define a term, he should not (be allowed to) use it. I have been surprised at how many widely ambiguous and broadly misleading definitions for the term "science" are in use today ... and only the scientific community can correct this.

Dear Dr. Bradbury,

I almost sent your question back to you... not that it's a bad question, but there are very many answers on our site which pertain to it. You might want to use our Circumnavigator page.

The full answer to your question is not only beyond the scope of our site, but highly debateable. Well-respected philosophers have given answers ranging from crude realism to near-Dadaism. Jack Smart is, well, too smart for this, but Daniel Dennett contends that whatever is not science is not only non-science but non-sense. On the other hand, Paul Feyerabend contends that there are NO criteria which unambiguously distinguish science from non-science.

Simple answers to your question, most of which fall into what Philip Clayton, after Frederick Suppe, calls "the Received View," of science (see this article from Zygon), can be found broadcast over our site. My own answer to "what criteria unambiguously distinguish science from nonscience?" may be found here.

Dan Berger
Bluffton College

Current Queue | Current Queue for Science History | Science History archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Science History.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2000. All rights reserved.