The demarcation problem

Posted on Oct 31, 2022

Science is not so much a fixed set of beliefs (e.g. the Earth is a sphere, the stars are distant suns etc.) but rather a process for gaining knowledge using reasoning (in the form of mathematics, simulations etc.) and data to support certain claims. Quoting Boudry, Maarten (2020) Diagnosing Pseudoscience – by Getting Rid of The Demarcation Problem. URL:(accessed 2022-10-31).

…as Thomas Paine put it, because their theories have nothing to do with reality. Science makes progress by taking bold risks and learning from mistakes, while pseudoscience dig in their heels and stick to their guns.

In the traditional Bayesian framework, one would merge their prior beliefs with data; the main problem I see with this is really strong beliefs or horrible data can make you come up with more nonsense. Even assuming deterministic beliefs (and hence easy falsification), it’s still not trivial. We need our beliefs in be held in such a way that would allow testable truths in domains outside the exact phenomenon under study – and this is not trivial. There is some kind of unity in knowledge, without it nothing makes sense.