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Demarcation of science and non-science is exceedingly complex because both are integral in generation of scientific knowledge. General definition of science is the study of the physical world using systemic observation and experimentation skills. Thus, key to science is observation and experimentation of infinite manifestations of the physical world to generate scientific knowledge. In contrast, non-science is a field of knowledge that deals with abstract manifestations of the world that science can neither observe nor experiment.
However, these two fields of knowledge seem to be downright separable yet empirically impossible since, one field must exist for the other to exist. In essence, there can be no science if non-science does not exist, and vice versa. According to Callender (2005), science and non-science are inseparable components of knowledge as they depict empirical and rational aspects of knowledge respectively (1).
Science derives its observations and experiments on the non-science world by making hypotheses that are non-science, and eventually, through the process of testing and experimentation, hypotheses become theories that explain scientific facts. Ironically, scientific facts tested using non-science hypotheses seek to differentiate science and non-science, yet they are interdependent. Hence, it is impossible to demarcate science from non-science on a case-by-case basis.
As aforementioned, it is impossible to demarcate science from non-science because they are integrated fields of knowledge in that; one cannot exist without the other. For instance, untested knowledge is non-science while tested knowledge is science.
This means that, for science to exist there must be some untested knowledge that needs testing through observation and experimentation. Scientific knowledge originated from the non-scientific world that is full of facts awaiting experimentation to qualify as scientific facts. Shermer (2001) argues that, scientific study entails the interplay of inductive and deductive reasoning (22).
Inductive reasoning involves the use of observations, experiments, hypotheses, and theories in making general inferences of a certain phenomenon, while deductive reasoning is the application of theories in analysis and extrapolation of a given phenomena. Critically, both inductive and deductive reasoning have non-scientific elements for they both rely on hypotheses and generalization of findings with certain assumptions. Hence, it is impossible to demarcate science and non-science explicitly.
Demarcation of science and non-science is quite impractical because science originates from non-science. Formulation of theories begins from formulation of hypotheses, then experimentation to test and provide evidence of assertions in hypotheses, and ultimately validation of the hypotheses as theories.
If demarcation of science and non-science existed in scientific experiments, then there would be no false hypotheses because they are unscientific. List (1992) argues that, it is ambiguous to consider a given hypothesis unscientific yet it is scientific to falsify it (50). In other words, demarcation of science and non-science will create ambiguities in science. Hypotheses and theories are indispensable elements of science because they act as a bridge between scientific and non-scientific worlds.
Both science and non-science theories have helped human beings to explain the origin of life in the universe. Creation and evolution theories are the leading schools of thoughts that hold plausible explanations about the origin of life. Although both theories seem to be plausible, both have not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, how their assertions are true in modern society.
Creationists believe that life originated from a creator of which science cannot test whether it is true or false. On the contrary, evolutions infer that life originated from basic molecules that evolved throughout the history of the universe and led to the emergence of diverse creatures.
Creation theory is unscientific for its basis is on the belief, while evolution theory is scientific because of its empirical inferences. Forster (2004) argues that, commonality of creation and evolution theory is that they have assumptions and seek to explain the same phenomena (28). Thus, demarcation of science and non-science can severely affect scientific claims of evolution theory for it has failed to prove the occurrence of evolution, even though it is scientific.
Moreover, non-science is an indispensable part of science because people use non-scientific principles of reasoning in ascertaining whether a given assertion or hypothesis is valid and sound. Although mere reasoning is unscientific because no one can test and prove its validity, it is part of the scientific process.
Kabay (2005) asserts that, according to descriptive criteria, assertion should be testable in principle, logic or otherwise, for its hypothesis or theory to be scientific (7). Despite the fact that scientific evidences emanate from observation and experimentation, they must fulfil the principle of testability and logic for them to support a hypothesis or a theory. Since, design of experiments and logic are inseparable in scientific studies, then science and non-science are also inseparable.
Therefore, it is impossible to demarcate science from non-science on a case-by-case basis because they are integrated fields of study and knowledge that are interdependent. Science consists of tested field of knowledge while non-science consists of untested field of knowledge; thus, science relies on non-science to expand its discoveries and increase the tested form of knowledge.
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For scientific field to expand, it must delve into the field of non-science to falsify numerous hypotheses, theories, and assertions. In addition, since science differentiates science from non-science, demarcation of the two will limit the integration of science into other fields of knowledge such as psychology, philosophy, and sociology, which do not need laboratory testing or experimentation, for they are abstract constructs that are impossible to measure experimentally.
Callender, Craig. 2005. Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics. Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 1-24.
Forster, Malcolm. 2004. An Introduction to Philosophy of Science. Philosophy, 1-28. Kabay, Martin. 2005. Science and Non-Science: An Epistemological Conflict. Philosophy of Science, 1-24.
List, Charles. 1992. Science and Pseudoscience; Criteria of Demarcation. Reason Papers 8, 49-58.
Shermer, Michael. 2001. The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense. New York: Oxford University Press.