There Is No Science

Eric Falkenstein:

I like listening to journalists talk about science … most of the translation to outsiders comes from non-scientists simply because there are more of them, and some write very well.  Yet, I find many times, when these journalists digress from a specific subject, to science in general they are extremely naive or duplicitous. If you go to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, you invariably hear a bunch of caricatures of those who disagree with conventional wisdom on science—most of which truly are quacks, but not always—and they pedantically emphasize how these alternative views are ‘not science’: they have beliefs that do not have peer-reviewed tests supporting a falsifiable hypothesis. …

When journalists talk about science in general this is usually a pretext for saying those who disagree with their favorite idea are wrong, because they are unscientific. … They then caricature their opponents, taking the most inarticulate advocates from the other side, and skewering their illogic. They then sit back and take take inordinate pride in their scientific pretensions, as if their selective discussion was objective. The fact is, most ‘big’ scientific issues do not conform to the scientific method, where one puts out testable hypotheses, rejecting ones that are falsified.

He’s right: “science” basically means “study”, and there just is no simple way for outsiders to tell who is studying something well.  The best way to study a subject depends a lot on the details of that subject.  We have a few rough guides to expertise, such as careful language, formalism, attention to detail, years of study, IQ, cleanliness, endorsement by respected folks, etc., but there is no surefire ‘science’ checklist that can tell outsiders if research is good.

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