Philosophy of Science - Demarcation

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Can scientonomy as a descriptive empirical science of science be applied to solve the problem of demarcation?

The problem of demarcation in the philosophy of science refers to the normative distinction between science and non-science and what specifically separates them. In effect it asks: what should be considered science? While there have been attempts to answer this question, can the historical, descriptive findings of the theory of scientific change contribute anything to this distinction?

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2018. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community.

Broader History

The question of what separates science from any other field of inquiry has been a persisting problem with a variety of solutions, with the first dating back thousands of years. Aristotle held that science consists of what is self-evident (or necessarily true) and that which addressed the “why” rather than the “what” of a phenomena.1pp. 112-113 While this rigid conception of science would hold for many years, as the supposed infallibility of science came into question so did its demarcation criteria. This would lead to a great influx of theories attempting to salvage a distinction between science and non-science.

In the early 20th century, logical positivists like Rudolf Carnap attempted to work around the purported fallibility of science. They would argue that phenomena must be verifiable to be considered scientific – that in principle a theory must have the potential to be tested and confirmed.2p. 420 A theory that suggested that imperceptible fairies were responsible for the pushing the earth around the sun would be non-science as it could never be proven true or false.

Later, Karl Popper would argue for a standard of falsifiability: a theory should be, again in principle, the possibility of being found untrue. While a theory may posit a testable hypothesis, it is only scientific if the outcome “false” is possible. Theories were sometimes guilty of post-hoc explanations for any number of phenomena, resulting in them never being proven false, and therefore being non-scientific according to Popper. 3p. 17 In a similar vein, Imre Lakatos argued that theories should be assessed as progressive and degenerative “research programs,” with the latter classified as unscientific.4 Research programs that increased in predictive power were progressive, while those whose theories gradually weaken in available evidence and predictive power were considered degenerative. For his part, Thomas Kuhn argued that within periods of “normal science” (where basic concepts and practices are free from radical change), puzzle or problem solving is what qualifies as science.5

However, this wide array of prospective theories has failed to materialize a consensus. Partially, this is a consequence of the apparent inconsistency in the historical record of science. As Paul Feyerabend would say, there is no rule in the sciences that appears to be inviolable, including the purported demarcation between science and non-science.6pp. 9-10 As such, among philosophers of science the question of demarcation remains open, much to the chagrin of philosophers such as Larry Laudan. Laudan saw this failure, along with the social factors that inflamed debate surrounding the status of pseudoscience, as proof that the problem of demarcation was useless.1p. 112

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy18 January 2018It was acknowledged as an open question by the Scientonomy Seminar 2018.Yes

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Related Topics

This question is a subquestion of Application of Scientonomy to Philosophy of Science.

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  1. a b  Laudan, Larry. (1983) The Demise of the Demarcation Problem. In Cohen and Laudan (Eds.) (1983), 111-127.
  2. ^ Carnap (1936a) 
  3. ^  Popper, Karl. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson & Co.
  4. ^  Lakatos, Imre. (1970) Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. In Lakatos (1978a), 8-101.
  5. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1970) Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research? In Lakatos and Musgrave (Eds.) (1970), 1-20.
  6. ^  Feyerabend, Paul. (1975) Against Method. New Left Books.