To keep your mind open and to learn how to check the evidence are two critical tasks for developing your skills as scientific critics (or tuning up your BS-meter, as a friend would have said), which is the main goal of our exploration of the science behind the comic heroes’ superpowers.
I believe it’s important to start mentioning that pseudoscience isn’t diabolic stuff, nor a set of evil dogmas designed to mislead the public opinion. Moreover, it is not to be eradicated from modern civilization.
It turns out that real science likes pseudoscience and has received its help many times in the past (being alchemy and astrology the traditional examples of this type of collaboration).
Newton spent as much time (or maybe more time) in testing alchemy as he did experimenting with physics, and Carl Gustav Jung was openly attracted to esoteric ideas (to name two ground-breaking scientists).
Why is science better than pseudoscience? Because it is universal; anyone can replicate it anywhere. Sure some kind of expertise is required to perform an experiment but, what this statement means is that anyone with the same level of expertise can obtain similar results following the same science.
Pseudoscience, on the other hand, often requires special abilities which are unique to the practitioner (and mostly mysterious). In this context, you could say that science is more “democratic”, as it always allows a second opinion.
For instances, if someone tells you that she can read your mind but you must trust her in order to validate her powers, she could be saying the truth (or not), but it’s just not scientific. Science does not require faith of any kind.
This is a very important conditioning and it works likewise (fierce atheists or agnostics that insist in using science to demonstrate that God doesn’t exist are dismissing the basic principle of science).
The other important factor to help differentiate one from another is that real science requires organized skepticism, meaning that science works upon the opinion of a community. Pseudoscience, on the other hand often works secretly.
For the scientific method, the intervention of a community is a requisite that cannot be bypassed; this is very important because is the best proved way that modern science has found to avoid bias.
The last element to differentiate real science from pseudoscience is that the former requires to be quantified; if it cannot be expressed in terms of numbers we are probably not talking about science,
Summarizing, if you want to know if you are dealing with real science or pseudoscience, you have to ask yourself these four questions:
1. – Can it be replicated?
2. – Does it require faith?
3. – Has it been tested by a community?
4. – Can it be quantified?
The scientific method is very strict and requires that all four conditions have to be present in order to accept an idea as scientific.
Likewise, science should be used to prove false only those ideas subjected to those four conditions. For instances: science can prove HOW the universe was made, but science can’t answer WHY it was made.
To end this post, I would like to list a number of science-like disciplines for you to use the four questions to determine whether they are real science or pseudoscience:
Put your opinions about them in the comments box, please.