Are we erasing the distinction between science and pseudoscience?

A silent crisis is unfolding in research, especially in certain areas of physics. The parallel universe hypothesis (multiverse) is one of many theories that cannot be tested.  Illustration: NASA:

The natural sciences now create abstract and complex theories that can no longer be critically tested.

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In December 2015, leading scientists and philosophers met at Maximilian University in Munich. The topic of the meeting was the “Scientific Method,” and was about how researchers could approach scientific facts in the future, as it turns out that research is now pushing the boundaries to the point where it needs new rules. out of the game.

Since the early twentieth century, the “correct” scientific method has been the hypothetical deductive method. The method is closely related to the philosopher Karl Popper, and according to him, one must deal with objective truth by making so-called fallible hypotheses (assumptions about the world) which must be followed by rigorous and critical testing. This critical testing of hypotheses will advance scientifically by debunking erroneous hypotheses and replacing them with new, falsifiable ones.

In this way science must clearly distinguish between pseudoscience and religion. In many respects, it must be said that Popper’s method has worked, particularly in the natural sciences, there is no doubt that new knowledge has come through Popper’s method.

At least for now.

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far-fetched theories

Science has now reached a point where it challenges the physical possibilities of observation and testing. The hypotheses of quantum physics and cosmology simply began to grow beyond the reach of scientists. Within these areas, theories are now being developed that cannot be tested and may be rejected. So some of this research risks falling into the category of pseudoscience in the hypothetical deductive way.

The Munich meeting came after a request from George Ellis and Joe Silk through their comments in nature : The scientific method: defending the integrity of physics.

There they express concern that some physics researchers will set aside the test requirement and justify the validity of theories with the elegance of the theories and the ability to explain what is observed. Ellis and Silk believe that scientific activity should still follow the hypothetical deductive method, which means that some theories, for example about the “multiverse” (parallel universes), cannot be categorized in the strict sense as valid science.

Another and more famous theory in this regard is the theory of evolution. Here it is not the magnitude of what is observed that is the problem, but rather the very long horizon required for critical testing of the theory. Evolutionary changes are too slow to be detected within a reasonable testing period. Therefore, evolutionary biology has long used elegance and explanatory power as criteria for objective science. The problem is that any new results that do not agree with the existing theory do not lead to a rejection of the theory, only a modification of the theory.

Recently, theories in cosmology have been criticized on the same basis in nature Written by Princeton Professor Paul Steinhardt in the commentary The mistakes of the Big Bang led to the explosion of the bubble of the multiverse.

Attack or defense?

In Munich, some have argued that Popper’s current method is being largely replaced by the Bayesian method – reinforcing belief in the theory as long as new observations do not conflict with it. The main problem against Bayesianism is personality. Over-belief (a good gut feeling) in a hypothesis is often the result of a lack of alternative hypotheses, and quickly ends up in a situation where the hypotheses are defended rather than attacked, which is against Popper’s recommendation.

Is science ready for such a complete transformation? Or is it perhaps inevitable?

In this case, it seems that the sharp distinction between science and pseudoscience is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish.

Read more about the discussion Ha.

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