Every scientist that makes some kind of a research knows that his/her investigation should be based on facts and results that can be proved with a number of experiments. “We are familiar with a large number of scientific claims, for example, that water freezes at 32°F and hydrogen is composed of one proton and one electron” (Grim 371).
However, there are also claims called unscientific or pseudoscientific. There is a number of features that help us distinguish scientific and unscientific claims. In this work, I am going to explain the differences between two types of claims and explain the key features of genuine science.
Before providing a scientific claim, the scientists should observe a phenomenon, explain in using a theoretical and practical basis, predict possible results and test them. Scientific claim should be based on the hypothesis. Another important feature of a scientific claim is empirical falsifiability.
It does not mean that the claim should be wrong, but if the claim is false, then it should be proved and demonstrated. According to Arthur L. Caplan, a scientific claim has the following features: “it should be either true or false; scientific claims to knowledge are justified by scientific procedures; the reliability with which scientific claims are made can often itself be reliable determined.” (129).
In addition, there are different types of scientific claims, such as methodological claim, theoretical hypothesis and factual claim. A factual claim is based on facts, a theoretical hypothesis is also based on factual facts, but it includes possible facts as well. Thus, a scientific claim should be scientifically proved.
Summarizing all mentioned above, we can conclude what the features of a genuine science are. One of the most important features of a scientific claim, thus, a genuine science as well, is empirical falsifiability which provides that scientific claim can be either false or true.
The next feature is testability based on the empirical research. The research should be tested in order to discover possible evidence (possible falsifying) that the research hypothesis faces. Every genuine scientific claim should be peer reviewed by the specialists in the given field of science.
After reviewing, the research can be published in a scientific journal. A very important feature of a genuine science is reliability, thus a research can be duplicated. Finally, there should be cultivated alternative scientific explanation of a scientific research and alternative hypothesis can be provided.
As opposed to a scientific claim, there is an unscientific or pseudoscientific claim which results from the differences between genuine science and non-science. A pseudoscientific claim “exhibit the superficial trappings of science but precious little of its substance” (Lilienfeld 2). As an example of the unscientific claim, the astrological cusp can be taken.
Astrological researches refer to “fortune-telling” qualities of the movement of the sun, earth and other planets. However, it is not proved that the movement of planets can influence somehow one one’s life. Thus, there are no clear evidences for such claims. In addition, such claims cannot be tested and an alternative hypothesis cannot be provided.
Thus, the unscientific claims is different from the scientific one according to its features that follow: it cannot be proved with scientific methods, it does not follow a logical order, it cannot be tested as it has no scientific background and they are not peer reviewed.
Thus, scientific and unscientific claims differ according to several features. Among these features is falsifiability, testability, peer reviewing, absence or presence of the alternative hypothesis.
Caplan, Arthur L. Scientific Controversies: Case Studies in the Resolution and Closure of Disputes in Science and Technology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Grim, Patrick. Philosophy of Science and the Occult. New York: SUNY Press, 1990
Lilienfeld, Scott O. “Teaching Psychology Students to Distinguish Science from Pseudoscience: Pitfalls and Rewards”. PsychTeacher Electronic Discussion List. Jun 2004. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.