Philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods, implications of science, and with the use and merit of science.
The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science is about how to distinguish between science and nonscience, and more specifically, between science and pseudoscience (a theory or method doubtfully or mistakenly held to be scientific). The debate continues after over a century of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields, and despite broad agreement on the basics of scientific method.
The demarcation problem is the philosophical problem of determining what types of hypotheses should be considered scientific and what types should be considered pseudoscientific or non-scientific. It also concerns itself with the ongoing struggle between science and religion, in particular the question about which elements of religious doctrine can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny. This is one of the central topics of the philosophy of science, and it has never been fully resolved.
The Purpose of Demarcation
Demarcations of science from pseudoscience can be made for both theoretical and practical reasons. From a theoretical point of view, the demarcation issue is an illuminating perspective that contributes to the philosophy of science. From a practical point of view, the distinction is important for decision guidance in both private and public life. Since science is our most reliable source of knowledge in a wide variety of areas, we need to distinguish scientific knowledge from its look-alikes. Due to the high status of science in present-day society, attempts to exaggerate the scientific status of various claims, teachings, and products are common enough to make the demarcation issue pressing in many areas. The demarcation issue is therefore important in many practical applications such as the following:
Healthcare: Medical science develops and evaluates treatments according to evidence of their efficiency. Pseudoscientific activities in this area give rise to inefficient and sometimes dangerous interventions. Healthcare providers, insurers, government authorities and – most importantly – patients need guidance on how to distinguish between medical science and medical pseudoscience. Expert testimony: It is essential for the rule of law that courts get the facts right. The reliability of different types of evidence must be correctly determined, and expert testimony must be based on the best available knowledge. Sometimes it is in the interest of litigants to present non-scientific claims as solid science. Therefore courts must be able to distinguish between science and pseudoscience. Environmental policies: In order to be on the safe side against potential disasters it may be legitimate to take preventive measures when there is valid but yet insufficient evidence of an environmental hazard. This must be distinguished from taking measures against an alleged hazard for which there is no valid evidence at all. Therefore, decision-makers in environmental policy must be able to distinguish between scientific and pseudoscientific claims. Science education: The promoters of some pseudosciences (notably creationism) try to introduce their teachings on school curricula. Teachers and school authorities need to have clear criteria of inclusion that protect students against unreliable and disproved teachings Ancient Greek Science
An early attempt at demarcation can be seen in the efforts of Greek natural philosophers and medical practitioners to distinguish their methods and their accounts of nature from the mythological or mystical accounts of their predecessors and contemporaries.
Medical writers in the Hippocratic tradition maintained that their discussions were based on necessary demonstrations, a theme developed by Aristotle in his “Posterior Analytics”. One element of this polemic...