Indicators of Theory Scientificity
What are the historical indicators of a theory’s scientificity? How can observational scientonomists establish that such-and-such a theory was indeed considered scientific/unscientific by a certain epistemic agent at a certain time?
It is unclear whether traditional indicators like textbooks, encyclopedias, conference proceedings, and journal articles can be used to determine if evaluation by the demarcation criteria took place, because scientists presumably may not keep track of those theories that are unscientific and those that are scientific but are unaccepted. Despite this quandary, it appears likely that we may find solid indicators of conclusive assessments, while it seems more difficult to locate indicators of inconclusive assessments. In the most fortuitous cases of the former, there may be publications by professional societies providing the 'scientific opinion' about a theory's status. For the scientificity and acceptance of Lavoisoir's chemistry, for instance, the experimental evidence led the Académie des Sciences to conclude that "if we doubt of a truth established by experiments so simple and palpable, there would be nothing certain in natural philosophy".1 For the case of inconclusive assessment, however, very detailed archival research alone would shed light on such cases, for most of them may never receive attention from the scientific community, thereby making it difficult to find evidence of their existence. Furthermore, it is unclear whether a theory's status is reflective of the overall community or of a particular sub-community. In any case, these are important questions for observational scientonomists in historical investigations of the demarcation criteria.
There is currently no accepted answer to this question.
- Wisniak, Jaime. (2004) Phlogiston: The rise and fall of a theory. Indian Journal of Chemical Technology 11 (5), 732-743. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/9538.