Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Separating the Pseudo From Science - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Shadows are also an inevitable consequence of light. Carl Sagan and
other anti-Velikovskians believed that greater scientific literacy
could "cure" the ill of pseudoscience. Don't get me wrong—scientific
literacy is a wonderful thing, and I am committed to expanding it. But
it won't eradicate the fringe, and it won't prevent the proliferation
of doctrines the scientific community decries as pseudoscience.

Nevertheless, something needs to be done. Demarcation may be an
activity without rules, a historically fluctuating marker of the
worries of the scientific community, but it is also absolutely vital.
Not everything can or should be taught in science courses in school.
Not every research proposal can or should receive funds. When
individuals spread falsehood and misinformation, they must be exposed.

We can sensibly build science policy only upon the consensus of the
scientific community. This is not a bright line, but it is the only
line we have. As a result, we need to be careful about demarcation, to
notice how we do it and why we do it, and stop striving for a goal of
universal eradication of the fringe that is frankly impossible. We
need to learn what we are talking about when we talk about

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