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Lecture One The Demarcation Problem

Jeremiah Joven Joaquin Science, Technology and Society 1 2T 2011-2012

What makes natural sciences special?

Is it that these sciences (even in their infancy) has given us useful technologies? Laptops and air conditioners come to mind here. Or, is it that these sciences are more wellfunded than other disciplines? More funding means more interests. More interests means that the discipline is worthwhile to pursue!

You could fill in the blank here:

Science is special because

One thing to note though:

Science is special, among other things, because of its claim to knowledge. It is special because of how it seems to give the right answers to questions! Lets call this sciences epistemic claim.

A bit of philosophy
Sciences most intriguing success is epistemic. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy which deals with our knowledge of things and how we justify it. Thus, in being epistemically successful, science has able to justify our knowledge of everything around usmore so than any other discipline.

For example
Science has given us a deeper understanding of how things move than, say, poetry has. Science has given us a good explanation of how our bodies work than, say, a painting has. And, science has given as a plausible story of how the universe began than, say, a creation myth has.

Now we wonder
Is there anything which unites the disciplines we call scientific and explains this distinctive epistemic success? What, if any, is the special mark which distinguishes science from other disciplines? This now is what is known as the demarcation problem.

The Demarcation Problem

Can we distinguish, in a principled way, between sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) and non-sciences (literature, history, etc.) and pseudosciences (astrology, alchemy, teleology, etc.)? If we could, then we could have so-called marks of science. I.e. If we could have a way of distinguishing science from non-science and pseudosciences, we could have a list of the essential features which make science science.

Any ideas?
Lets think for a while of what makes a particular discipline scientific. Lets make a list of their characteristics.

Lets test our ideas

John Somerville, Umbrellaology

Ask yourself:
Is umbrellaology a science? Does it fit in our conception of what science is? Why or why not?

Next meeting
Well try to assess what the experts say about the nature of science. Specifically, well look at the Rational Reconstruction Programa program about the nature of science devised during the 1920s to answer our question: What makes science science?

Note: For the discussion next meeting, you may want to read about how Karl Popper and the Logical Positivists answered the demarcation problem.