Science, Quasi-Science and Pseudo-Science

· philosophy of science
Authors

Continuing from the preceding post we are led to classify science as follows:

  1. Science: Basic assumptions directly falsifiable.
  2. Quasi-Science: Basic assumptions not directly falsifiable, but certain consequences of the basic assumptions falsifiable.
  3. Pseudo-Science: Basic assumptions not directly falsifiable, nor any consequence of the basic assumptions.

Examples:

  1. Solid Mechanics based on Navier’s equations expressing equilibrium of forces and a constitutive relation such as Hooke’s law, which are directly falsifiable.
  2. Statistical Mechanics with basic assumption of molecular chaos, which is not directly falsifiable.
  3. Astrology and Marxism with basic assumptions unknown and thus beyond falsification.

Reading Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery shows that Popper is deeply troubled by the presence of statistics in modern physics represented by statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics with its statistical interpretation formed by Born and forcefully propagated as the Copenhagen Interpretation by Bohr. Popper is troubled because the basic assumptions are not falsifiable, and thus threatens to put modern physics into the camp of quasi-science.

It is instructive to compare with a legal case: If A has a shotgun, then A has the ability to shoot B. Now, suppose that B is found with a bullet through his head. Can we then conclude that A is likely to have shot B?

No, of course not, unless the basic assumption that A has a shotgun can be verified or at least be made likely.

Conclusion: To observe the consequence of an assumption does not validate the assumption and its consequence.

Suppose the basic assumption that A has a shotgun cannot be falsified, only the consequence that B is alive. Then A may be in trouble without having anything to do with the death of B.

This argument hopefully exhibits the problematic aspect of quasi-science with basic assumptions impossible to falsify: If the assumption that A has a shotgun cannot be directly falsified, then A may have to go to prison even if A is fully innocent.

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