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Is it a simple matter to distinguish a scientific argument from a pseudo-scientific argument?

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Introduction

TOPIC #7: IS IT A SIMPLE MATTER TO DISTINGUISH A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT FROM A PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT? By Jakub Swiatczak February 17, 2003 Theory of Knowledge IB Candidate # 1003 129 Mr. Peglar Word Count = 1,407 TOPIC #7: IS IT A SIMPLE MATTER TO DISTINGUISH A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT FROM A PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT? By Jakub Swiatczak ABSTRACT The purpose of pseudoscience is to justify ideas that already exist, not to uncover new ones. The flaws of pseudoscience - including logical fallacies and non-verifiability - are so great, and the fundamental differences with true scientific method so apparent that it is easy to distinguish a pseudoscientific argument from a scientific argument. It is simple to distinguish a pseudoscientific argument from a scientific argument. Pseudoscientific arguments are views that claim to have a scientific basis when in actuality they do not. This explanation, however, is not helpful unless we know what it means for something to be scientific. For something to be scientific it must involve observation of the physical world and experimentation that is unbiased and reproducible. In order for a claim or explanation to be considered scientific it must have been reached by using the scientific method. ...read more.

Middle

The argument is made that because there have been tens upon thousands of UFO sightings all around the world, they necessarily must be true. It has been demonstrated numerous times that it is erroneous to accept the approval of the majority as evidence for a claim - with the idea of a flat world being another example. One final logical fallacy important to this discussion is that of an Unrepresentative Sample. An example of this type of fallacy is assuming that a drug is safe to use because it had no harmful side-effects in one person. A scientific theory tries to account for all situations and - in the previous case - people. An unrepresentative sample size also allows greater room for bias, because it makes the results more exclusive rather than inclusive. This goes against the idea of unbiased experimentation which is necessary for a successful scientific argument. Another major and very important characteristic that almost all pseudoscientific arguments have is that they begin with a theory, and then gather evidence to support it. This is accentuated by the fact that most pseudoscientific texts and ideas go through very little change. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is an endless process of testing and verifying that allows ideas to change and flow and be modified. The purpose of pseudoscience is to justify ideas that already exist, not to uncover new ones. Most pseudoscientific arguments are also non-falsifiable. Creationism is an example of people trying to use physical science to justify their religious beliefs. Some of them assert, for example, that the Earth was created 10,000 years ago, and when fossils are found that are shown to be significantly older than that, they say that they were placed their by God or Satan. This is an argument that is both non-verifiable and non-falsifiable, and by our standards non-scientific. It is simple to distinguish a pseudoscientific argument from a scientific argument if we know the full story of the development of the argument. If we have detailed information about the way the experiment(s) were conducted, all of the variables involved, then we can reproduce them ourselves. If the theory matches our experiments, and there are no causal fallacies or fallacies of explanation - which can be avoided through careful observation and control of experimental variables - then the scientific process has been kept intact and we are presented with a valid scientific argument. 2 ...read more.

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