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Fake science or pseudoscience is a collection of practices, claims, or beliefs that comment on real science and related scientific information through claims that represent the latter as being subjective rather than objective. In this regard, fake science sets the stage for a critical evaluation of the assertiveness of the state of real science. Through fake science, skeptics raise counter-arguments that seek to correct facts as stated in real science.
They support their counter-arguments using subjective opinions or real scientific facts. A good case in point is the case of solar panels where real science presents these sun-powered devices as being more environmentally friendly in comparison with other forms of energy such as coal, petroleum, and wind among many others, even though this perspective may not hold. Solar panels have a very low energy conversion rate (less than 30 percent) relative to other forms of energy.
Also, the little amount of convertible energy sourced from solar panels can only cover a limited area. This situation makes the use of solar panels in large production firms redundant. Moreover, this form of energy consumes many resources to make it available. As a result, it leads to the production of considerable toxic waste products. Such evidence or information makes the power provided by solar panels insufficient to make up for the pollution and energy consumption it creates.
Since the arguments from my survey do not represent or support ideas put up by real science, they can be regarded as part of fake science. Although real scientists regard fake science as being unconventional or exerting a negative or bad influence on the society and the scientific world in general, this paper argues that it may serve to offer a basis for an objective reflective review of facts claimed by real science through challenging its accuracy and genuineness with the intent of its overall improvement.
History of the Concept
Since its detection, fake science has sparked enormous criticism due to its claim of scientific authority where science does not apply as purported. Pseudoscientists have speculated science through a conjuncture of its proclaimed authority and misguided their audience through the selective use of scientific or non-scientific evidence. Historically, scientists, science teachers, and science believers have relentlessly promoted real science through the creation of awareness to protect society from adopting the concepts derived from fake science. For instance, Schutte affirms that fake science contributes to unreasonable stereotypes and false conjectures of how real science works (381).
Science promoters and educators have historically tried to antagonize such stereotypes or misconceptions. For example, in the context of solar panels, the notion that the devices are not environmentally friendly as they have always been thought to be or promoted to be may be regarded as quite farfetched, misconstrued, or false and hence dismissed as fake science. As a result, the ideology may spark counter-arguments by promoters of solar panels to defend the concepts that the society already believes in. As a result, they will claim to be trying to adopt a friendlier source of energy.
According to Schutte, the problem of demarcating between real science and fake science has not only historically been a philosophical issue but also a social and political subject (65). Moreover, fake science brings with it misconceptions that threaten to divide religious beliefs, political convictions, families, and other fundamental social structures. In this sense, pseudoscience exerts a negative influence by threatening the current political and social stability.
Consequently, it needs to be antagonized. To apply this concept in the current geopolitical world, developed countries have continuously pushed forward the adoption of affordable and environmentally friendlier sources of energy, including solar panels in Sub-Saharan Africa, to aid in fueling economic and social development in the region (Labordena et al. 52). They have accomplished this goal through political bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations.
Therefore, an argument against the known science of solar panels would be highly alienated by the political class since it would jeopardize the opinionated and social campaign towards the adoption of sun-generated energy in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Gordin describes fake knowledge as a doctrine of non-science that is falsely represented as methodical (2). As a result, it intrudes into the knowledge of science and hence the reason why it should be regarded as a bad idea. For instance, my argument that solar panels are not environmentally friendly may be perceived as being an intrusion to the development of sun-powered energy. Historically, the term fake science or pseudoscience has metamorphosed in its intended meaning, from being initially used to refer to alchemy, later blazonry, and currently ‘pretended science’ as per the Oxford English Dictionary.
Yet, one thing that is common to all definitions is that both the society and scientific class have shunned the concepts of pseudoscience and declared them incorrect or inaccurate scientific theories. A common premise that has been used to ostracize fake science is the claim that it lacks substance.
Despite claims that fake science is misconceived or stereotypic, most arguments levied against it lack a concrete scientific or factual backing. Contrary to such beliefs and notions, fake knowledge only seeks to validate real science by providing a basis for objective evaluation of the issue or subject at hand (Essien and Umotong 31). Such validation can be done through the identification of any inadequacies in the concerning science, including performing a re-examination of the set of indigenous analogies such as the existence of scientific backing that solar panels are not environmentally friendly or efficient, as they have been promoted to be.
For example, through my survey, I have come to identify how solar panels can be detrimental to the environment through the discharge of toxic wastes. My survey and pseudoscientific argument against the general science of solar panels may shed more light on the subject that may even be used to improve the efficiency and environmental friendliness of solar panels by providing a platform for further scientific research.
On the argument that fake science is non-scientific or not factual intrudes into the knowledge of science since such a view is not universal. The term “fake science” may not have a unified doctrine at all. Historically, certain scientists have subjectively and selfishly used it as a tool to express hatred towards fellow experts in the field. To such extent, the term fake science is highly dogmatic (Gordin 2).
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To illustrate my position, I will use a historical example in the era when the Catholic Church enjoyed political and social supremacy. During this time, the church taught the scientific notion that the earth was the center of the universe. Thus, it was very antagonistic when Copernicus disputed this argument using his theory. The implication here is that what people regard as scientific maybe only true within a particular context such as the complexity of scientific tools that are used to verify the claims. In other words, with the advancement of technology and knowledge, many concepts that had been viewed as scientific, even though quantum physics, maybe proven as fake or wrong science.
The church even went ahead to ban the theory through claims that it was fake. Therefore, in this regard, despite Copernicus’ theory being highly scientific, factual, and true based on today’s scientific knowledge, during the 17th Century it was regarded as pseudoscience. To this extent, the term “fake science” is skewed to the extent that it may lack a unified or universal doctrine. Additionally, my argument towards solar panels not being environmentally friendly could be pseudoscience in today’s world but a realistically applicable science in tomorrow’s world.
Using the example of Copernicus theory, the realization of the veracity of the presumption against previous convictions as taught by the Catholic Church sparked a scientific revolution that has positively influenced the modern world. The scientific revolution ignited several ambitious individuals to begin to observe their surroundings in a more liberal, scientific, and secular way. This revelation led to the development and the adoption of many fake technical ideas by scientists, including Isaac Newton’s law of gravity. Newton is also said to have been a devoted Christian whose creative and scientific mind was independent of the Church (Keizer 14).
It suffices to regard the impression that fake science exerts a negative influence on society as biased and untrue (17). On the contrary, fake science opens up a Pandora’s Box for the improvement of the existing scientific ideas. Similarly, if in any case it is found that indeed solar panels are not environmentally friendly or are detrimental to the environment, the argument could save humanity and the society the probable harm that may result from solar panels.
In this segment, I will embark on illustrating how fake science occupies an essential role in society contrary to what is portrayed by the defendants of real science. My survey-backed argument reveals that solar panels are not environmentally friendly, as they have been depicted by science. To support the claim that solar panels are inefficient, Jacoby highlights that despite the progress in the technology of solar panels, the conversion rate or efficiency measured from the ratio of light or solar energy to electricity remains considerably low, between 12 for dye-sensitized solar panels and 46 percent for arsenide-based panels (30).
This figure is relatively low compared to 95 percent for electric oil generators, 90 percent for large electric motors, 65 percent for small electric motors, 85 percent for steam boilers, 90 percent for batteries, and 100 percent for electric heaters (Kanoglu et al. 55). Therefore, in this regard, it would prove uneconomical to use solar panels to generate energy for large production firms that consume enormous amounts of energy. Such firms would rather opt for more efficient and practical sources of energy, as opposed to solar panels.
Concerning environmental pollution, Zehner points out that the manufacture, maintenance, and disposal of alternative clean energy sources such as solar panels amount to the pollution of the environment (1). This pseudoscientific spectacle creates a conflict among environmental scientists who believe and advocate solar panels as being exclusively clean renewable sources of energy. To have a better grasp of the extent of pollution caused by solar panels, one can review their manufacture and production in detail. The science of solar panels recommends them to be constructed through the spread of layers of silicon (both n-type and p-type) onto substrates.
The complex process involves the polymerization of organic silicon materials to form silicon sandwiches that allow the flow of electricity. However, when these materials are disposed to the environment in their unnatural polymerized form, they do not decompose. Thus, they are potentially harmful to the environment. Moreover, waste products containing such polymers are also detrimental to the environment. This factual argument alone is enough to dispute that solar panels are exclusively friendly to the environment (Zehner 7).
Based on the expositions made in the paper, fake science plays a more positive and essential role in society and hence not a bad idea as Gordin (2) claims. However, it should be embraced and/or used positively to seal any gaps that may exist in real science. For instance, rather than dismissing the idea that solar panels are not environmentally friendly, scientists can use this information to improve its products through finding more environmentally friendly ways of manufacturing and disposing of toxic wastes that result from solar panels. Such a move would be beneficial to society. Fake science can also be seen to evolve following the advancement of technology and consequently knowledge.
Additionally, from a historical perspective, shunning fake science may be regressive towards scientific progress as witnessed in the Post-Roman Catholic Era. Therefore, scientists should aim at objectively evaluating criticisms about fake science rather than dismissing it. In conclusion, counterfeit science should be viewed as a positive force aimed at challenging and validating current scientific ideologies to fill in the inadequacies or gaps that exist in real science.
Essien, Ephraim-Stephen, and Niobong Umotong. Elements of History and Philosophy of Science. Lulu Press, 2013.
Gordin, Michael. The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe. University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Jacoby, Mitch. “The Future of Low-cost Solar Cells.” Chemical and Engineering News, vol. 94, no. 18, 2016, pp. 30-35.
Kanoglu, Mehmet, et al. Efficiency Evaluation of Energy Systems. Springer, 2012.
Labordena, Mercè, et al. “Impact of Political and Economical Barriers for Concentrating Solar Power in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Energy Policy, vol. 102, no. 1, 2017, pp. 52-72.
Schutte, Peet. How to Swindle by Faking Science. Author House, 2012.
Zehner, Ozzie. Green Illusions. University of Nebraska Press, 2012.