Demarcation problem

The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science and epistemology is about how to distinguish between science and non-science,[1] including between science, pseudoscience, and other products of human activity, like art and literature, and beliefs.[2][3] The debate continues after over two millennia of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields, and despite a broad agreement on the basics of the scientific method.[4][5]

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.[6]

Aristotle described at length what was involved in having scientific knowledge of something. To be scientific, he said, one must deal with causes, one must use logical demonstration, and one must identify the universals which 'inhere' in the particulars of sense. But above all, to have science one must have apodictic certainty. It is the last feature which, for Aristotle, most clearly distinguished the scientific way of knowing.[2]

— Larry Laudan, Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis, "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem"

In Charmides Plato discusses a "science of science". Although the subject in the dialogue is epistemological, it is an early version of the demarcation problem.

G. E. R. Lloyd notes that there was a sense in which the groups engaged in various forms of inquiry into nature set out to "legitimate their own positions,"[7] laying "claim to a new kind of wisdom ... that purported to yield superior enlightenment, even superior practical effectiveness."[8] Medical writers in the Hippocratic tradition maintained that their discussions were based on necessary demonstrations, a theme developed by Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics.[9] One element of this polemic for science was an insistence on a clear and unequivocal presentation of arguments, rejecting the imagery, analogy, and myth of the old wisdom.[10] Some of their claimed naturalistic explanations of phenomena have been found to be quite fanciful, with little reliance on actual observations.[11]

Logical positivism

Logical positivism, formulated in the 1920s, held that only statements about matters of fact or logical relations between concepts are meaningful. All other statements lack sense and are labelled "metaphysics" (see the verifiability theory of meaning also known as verificationism).

According to A.J. Ayer, metaphysicians make statements which claim to have "knowledge of a reality which [transcends] the phenomenal world."[12] Ayer, a member of the Vienna Circle and a noted English logical-positivist, argues that making any statements about the world beyond one's immediate sense-perception is impossible.[13] This is because even metaphysician's first premises will necessarily begin with observations made through sense-perception.[13]

Ayer implies that the line of demarcation is characterized as the place at which statements become "factually significant."[13] To be "factually significant," a statement must be verifiable.[13] In order to be verifiable, the statement must be verifiable in the observable world, or facts that can be induced from "derived experience."[13] This is referred to as the "verifiability" criterion.[13]

This distinction between science, which in the view of the Vienna Circle possessed empirically verifiable statements, and what they pejoratively called "metaphysics", which lacked such statements, can be seen as representing another aspect of the demarcation problem.[14] Logical positivism is often discussed in the context of the demarcation between science and non-science or pseudoscience. However, "The verificationist proposals had the aim of solving a distinctly different demarcation problem, namely that between science and metaphysics."[15]


Karl Popper saw demarcation as a central problem in the philosophy of science. Popper articulates the problem of demarcation as:

"The problem of finding a criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as 'metaphysical' systems on the other, I call the problem of demarcation."[16]

Falsifiability is the demarcation criterion proposed by Karl Popper as opposed to verificationism: "statements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable observations".[17]

Against Verifiability

Popper rejected solutions to the problem of demarcation that are grounded in inductive reasoning, so rejects logical-positivist responses to the problem of demarcation.[18] He argues that logical-positivists want to create a demarcation between the metaphysical and the empirical because they believe that empirical claims are meaningful and metaphysical ones are not. Unlike the Vienna Circle, Popper stated that his proposal was not a criterion of "meaningfulness".

Popper's demarcation criterion has been criticized both for excluding legitimate science… and for giving some pseudosciences the status of being scientific… According to Larry Laudan (1983, 121), it "has the untoward consequence of countenancing as 'scientific' every crank claim which makes ascertainably false assertions". Astrology, rightly taken by Popper as an unusually clear example of a pseudoscience, has in fact been tested and thoroughly refuted… Similarly, the major threats to the scientific status of psychoanalysis, another of his major targets, do not come from claims that it is untestable but from claims that it has been tested and failed the tests.[17]

— Sven Ove Hansson, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Science and Pseudo-Science"

Popper argues that the Humean induction problem shows that there is no way to make meaningful universal statements on the basis of any number of empirical observations.[19] Therefore, empirical statements are no more "verifiable" than metaphysical statements.

This creates a problem for the line of demarcation the positivists want to cleave between the empirical and the metaphysical. By their very own "verifiability criterion," Popper argues, the empirical is subsumed into the metaphysical, and the line of demarcation between the two becomes non-existent.

The Solution of Falsifiability

In Popper's later work, he stated that falsifiability is both a necessary and a sufficient criterion for demarcation. He described falsifiability as a property of "the logical structure of sentences and classes of sentences," so that a statement's scientific or non-scientific status does not change over time. This has been summarized as a statement being falsifiable "if and only if it logically contradicts some (empirical) sentence that describes a logically possible event that it would be logically possible to observe."[17]


Thomas Kuhn, an American historian and philosopher of science, is often connected with what has been called postpositivism or postempiricism. In his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn divided the process of doing science into two different endeavors, which he called normal science and extraordinary science (which he sometimes also called "revolutionary science"). "In Kuhn's view, 'it is normal science, in which Sir Karl's sort of testing does not occur, rather than extraordinary science which most nearly distinguishes science from other enterprises'…"[17] That is, the utility of a scientific paradigm for puzzle-solving lies in its suggesting solutions to new problems while continuing to satisfy all of the problems solved by the paradigm that it replaces.

Kuhn's view of demarcation is most clearly expressed in his comparison of astronomy with astrology. Since antiquity, astronomy has been a puzzle-solving activity and therefore a science. If an astronomer's prediction failed, then this was a puzzle that he could hope to solve for instance with more measurements or with adjustments of the theory. In contrast, the astrologer had no such puzzles since in that discipline "particular failures did not give rise to research puzzles, for no man, however skilled, could make use of them in a constructive attempt to revise the astrological tradition"… Therefore, according to Kuhn, astrology has never been a science.[17]

— Sven Ove Hansson, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Science and Pseudo-Science"

Popper criticized Kuhn's demarcation criterion, saying that astrologers are engaged in puzzle solving, and that therefore Kuhn's criterion recognized astrology as a science. He stated that Kuhn's criterion leads to a "major disaster…[the] replacement of a rational criterion of science by a sociological one".[17]

Feyerabend and Lakatos

Kuhn's work largely called into question Popper's demarcation, and emphasized the human, subjective quality of scientific change. Paul Feyerabend was concerned that the very question of demarcation was insidious: science itself had no need of a demarcation criterion, but instead some philosophers were seeking to justify a special position of authority from which science could dominate public discourse.[20] Feyerabend argued that science does not in fact occupy a special place in terms of either its logic or method, and no claim to special authority made by scientists can be upheld. He argued that, within the history of scientific practice, no rule or method can be found that has not been violated or circumvented at some point in order to advance scientific knowledge. Both Imre Lakatos and Feyerabend suggest that science is not an autonomous form of reasoning, but is inseparable from the larger body of human thought and inquiry.


Paul R. Thagard has proposed another set of principles to try to overcome these difficulties, and believes it is important for society to find a way of doing so. According to Thagard's method, a theory is not scientific if it satisfies two conditions:[21]

  1. The theory has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; and...
  2. The community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and disconfirmations.

Thagard specifies that sometimes theories will spend some time as merely "unpromising" before they truly deserve the title of pseudoscience. He cites astrology as an example: it was stagnant compared to advances in physics during the 17th century, and only later became "pseudoscience" in the advent of alternative explanations provided by psychology during the 19th century.

Thagard also states that his criteria should not be interpreted so narrowly as to allow willful ignorance of alternative explanations, or so broadly as to discount our modern science compared to science of the future. His definition is a practical one, which generally seeks to distinguish pseudoscience as areas of inquiry which are stagnant and without active scientific investigation.

Some historians' perspectives

Many historians of science are concerned with the development of science from its primitive origins; consequently they define science in sufficiently broad terms to include early forms of natural knowledge. In the article on science in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the scientist and historian William Cecil Dampier Whetham defined science as "ordered knowledge of natural phenomena and of the relations between them."[22] In his study of Greek science, Marshall Clagett defined science as "first, the orderly and systematic comprehension, description and/or explanation of natural phenomena and, secondly, the [mathematical and logical] tools necessary for the undertaking."[23] A similar definition appeared more recently in David Pingree's study of early science: "Science is a systematic explanation of perceived or imaginary phenomena, or else is based on such an explanation. Mathematics finds a place in science only as one of the symbolical languages in which scientific explanations may be expressed."[24] These definitions tend to focus more on the subject matter of science than on its method and from these perspectives, the philosophical concern to establish a line of demarcation between science and non-science becomes "problematic, if not futile."[25]


Larry Laudan concluded, after examining various historical attempts to establish a demarcation criterion, that "philosophy has failed to deliver the goods" in its attempts to distinguish science from non-science—to distinguish science from pseudoscience. None of the past attempts would be accepted by a majority of philosophers nor, in his view, should they be accepted by them or by anyone else. He stated that many well-founded beliefs are not scientific and, conversely, many scientific conjectures are not well-founded. He also stated that demarcation criteria were historically used as machines de guerre in polemical disputes between "scientists" and "pseudo-scientists." Advancing a number of examples from everyday practice of football and carpentry and non-scientific scholarship such as literary criticism and philosophy, he saw the question of whether a belief is well-founded or not to be more practically and philosophically significant than whether it is scientific or not. In his judgment, the demarcation between science and non-science was a pseudo-problem that would best be replaced by focusing on the distinction between reliable and unreliable knowledge, without bothering to ask whether that knowledge is scientific or not. He would consign phrases like "pseudo-science" or "unscientific" to the rhetoric of politicians or sociologists.[2]

Others have disagreed with Laudan. Sebastian Lutz, for example, argues that demarcation does not have to be a single necessary and sufficient condition as Laudan implied.[2] Rather, Laudan's reasoning at the most establishes that there has to be one necessary criterion and one possibly different sufficient criterion.[26] Other critics have argued for multiple demarcation criteria suggesting that there should be one set of criteria for the natural sciences; another set of criteria for the social sciences, and claims involving the supernatural could have a set of pseudoscientific criteria. Massimo Pigliucci wrote that science generally conforms to Ludwig Wittgenstein's concept of family resemblances.[27]


Concerning science education, Michael D. Gordin wrote:[28]:220

Every student in public or private takes several years of science, but only a small fraction of them pursue careers in the sciences. We teach the rest of them so much science so that they will appreciate what it means to be scientific – and, hopefully, become scientifically literate and apply some of those lessons in their lives. For such students, the myth of a bright line of demarcation is essential.

Discussions of the demarcation problem highlight the rhetoric of science and promote critical thinking. Citizens thinking critically, and expressing themselves with reasoned argument in policy discussion, contribute to enlightened democracy. For example, Gordin stated

Demarcation remains essential for the enormously high political stakes of climate-change denial and other anti-regulatory fringe doctrines.[28]:225

The demarcation problem has been compared to the problem of differentiating fake news from real news, which rose to prominence in the 2016 United States presidential election.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Resnik, David B. (2000). "A pragmatic approach to the demarcation problem". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. 31 (2): 249–267. doi:10.1016/S0039-3681(00)00004-2.
  2. ^ a b c d Laudan, Larry (1983), "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem", in Cohen, R.S.; Laudan, L. (eds.), Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 76, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 111–127, ISBN 90-277-1533-5
  3. ^ Lakatos, I.; Feyerabend, P.; Motterlini, M. (1999). For and Against Method: Including Lakatos's Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence. University of Chicago Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780226467740. LCCN 99013581. The demarcation problem may be formulated in the following terms: what distinguishes science from pseudoscience? This is an extreme way of putting it, since the more general problem, called the Generalized Demarcation Problem, is really the problem of the appraisal of scientific theories, and attempts to answer the question: when is one theory better than another?
  4. ^ Gauch, Hugh G., Jr. (2003). Scientific Method in Practice. pp. 3–7. ISBN 978-0-521-81689-2.
  5. ^ Cover, J. A.; Curd, Martin, eds. (1998). Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. pp. 1–82. ISBN 978-0-393-97175-0.
  6. ^ Lloyd, G. E. R. (1983), Science, Folklore and Ideology: Studies in the Life Sciences in Ancient Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 79–80, ISBN 0-521-27307-2, Faced with ... competition from a variety of more or less exploitative rival healers, the doctors responsible for many or most of the Hippocratic treatises unite, at least, in their desire to turn the practice of healing into a τἐχνη.... [N]ot only do they reject interference in most cases from priests and prophets, they also criticise many current practices and assumptions.
  7. ^ Lloyd, G. E. R. (1983), Science, Folklore and Ideology: Studies in the Life Sciences in Ancient Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 215, ISBN 0-521-27307-2
  8. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1986), The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science, Sather Classical Lectures, 52, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 117–118, ISBN 0-520-06742-8
  9. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1986), The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science, Sather Classical Lectures, 52, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 141–147, ISBN 0-520-06742-8
  10. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1986), The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science, Sather Classical Lectures, 52, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 213–214, ISBN 0-520-06742-8
  11. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1979), Magic Reason and Experience: Studies in the Origin and Development of Greek Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–27, ISBN 0-521-29641-2
  12. ^ Watling, John (January 1967). "Classics of Analytical Philosophy. By Robert R. Ammerman. (McGraw-Hill. 1965. Pp. 413. Price £2 12s.)". Philosophy. 42 (159): 95. doi:10.1017/s0031819100000954. ISSN 0031-8191.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Ayer, A.J. (1936). Language, Truth, and Logic. pp. 13–29.
  14. ^ Grayling, AC., Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 67-68.
  15. ^ Hansson, Sven Ove (2008). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Science and Pseudo-Science". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 ed.). 4.1 The Logical Positivists.
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference :1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ a b c d e f Hansson, Sven Ove (2008). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Science and Pseudo-Science". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 ed.). 4.2 Falsificationism.
  18. ^ Popper, Karl (2005-11-04). "The Logic of Scientific Discovery". doi:10.4324/9780203994627.
  19. ^ Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. ISBN 9788027246601. OCLC 1055285629.
  20. ^ Taylor, C.A. (1996). Defining Science: A Rhetoric of Demarcation. Rhetoric of the Human Sciences Series. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780299150341. LCCN 96000180.
  21. ^ Why Astrology Is A Pseudoscience, Paul R. Thagard, In Philosophy of Science Association 1978 Volume 1, edited by P.D. Asquith and I. Hacking (East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1978).
  22. ^ Dampier Whetham, William Cecil (1911), "Science", Encyclopædia Britannica, New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  23. ^ Clagett, Marshall (1963), Greek Science in Antiquity, New York: Collier Books, p. 4
  24. ^ Pingree, David (1992), "Hellenophilia versus the History of Science", Isis, 83: 554–563, doi:10.1086/356288
  25. ^ McCluskey, Stephen C. (2005), "Different Astronomies, Different Cultures and the Question of Cultural Relativism", in Fountain, John W.; Sinclair, Rolf M. (eds.), Current Studies in Archaeoastronomy: Conversations Across Time and Space, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, p. 71, ISBN 0-89089-771-9
  26. ^ Lutz, Sebastian (2011), "On an Allegedly Essential Feature of Criteria for the Demarcation of Science" (PDF), The Reasoner, 5 (8): 125–126, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-09
  27. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (2013). "The Demarcation Problem: A (Belated) Response to Laudan" in Pigliucci, Massimo; Boudry, Maarten, eds. Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem chapter 1. ISBN 978-0-226-05196-3. Pigliucci's chapter is available online at
  28. ^ a b Michael D. Gordin (2015) "Myth 27. That a clear line of demarcation has separated science from pseudoscience", in Newton’s Apple and other Myths about Science, Ronald L. Numbers editor, Harvard University Press doi:10.4159/9780674089167-029
  29. ^ LeVine, Michael V (2016), "Science has experience fighting fake news — and Facebook should take note", Mic

In physics and mathematics, an ansatz (; German: [ˈʔanzats], meaning: "initial placement of a tool at a work piece", plural ansätze ; German: [ˈʔanzɛtsə] or ansatzes) is an educated guess that is verified later by its results.


In science studies, boundary-work comprises instances in which boundaries, demarcations, or other divisions between fields of knowledge are created, advocated, attacked, or reinforced. Academic scholarship on boundary-work has emphasized that such delineations often have high stakes involved for the participants, and carries with it the implication that such boundaries are flexible and socially constructed.

Boundary problem (spatial analysis)

A boundary problem in analysis is a phenomenon in which geographical patterns are differentiated by the shape and arrangement of boundaries that are drawn for administrative or measurement purposes. This is distinct from and must not be confused with the boundary problem in the philosophy of science that is also called the demarcation problem.


Demarcation is the act of creating a boundary around a place or thing.

Demarcation may also refer to:

Demarcation line, a temporary border between the countries

Demarcation problem, the question of which practices of doing science permit the resulting theories to lie within the boundaries of knowledge

Demarcation dispute, may arise when two different trade unions both claim the right to represent the same class or group of workers

Demarcation point, in telephony, the point at which the telephone company network ends and connects with the wiring at the customer premises

Demarcation transactions, starting and ending database transactions using begin, commit, and rollback methods

Early adopter

An early adopter (sometimes misspelled as early adapter or early adaptor) or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations (1962).

Economics of scientific knowledge

The economics of scientific knowledge is an approach to understanding science which is predicated on the need to understand scientific knowledge creation and dissemination in economic terms.The approach has been developed as a contrast to the sociology of scientific knowledge, which places scientists in their social context and examines their behavior using social theory. The economics of scientific knowledge typically involves thinking of scientists as having economic interests with these being thought of as utility maximisation and science as being a market process. Modelling strategies might use any of a variety of approaches including the neoclassical, game theoretic, behavioural (bounded rationality) information theoretic and transaction costs. Boumans and Davis (2010) mention Dasgupta and David (1994) as being an interesting early example of work in this area.

Fringe theory

A fringe theory is an idea or viewpoint which differs from the accepted scholarship in its field. Fringe theories include the models and proposals of fringe science, as well as similar ideas in other areas of scholarship, such as the humanities. The term fringe theory is commonly used in a narrower sense as a pejorative, roughly synonymous with pseudo-scholarship. Precise definitions that distinguish between widely held viewpoints, fringe theories, and pseudo-scholarship are difficult to construct because of the demarcation problem. Issues of false balance or false equivalence can occur when fringe theories are presented as being equal to widely accepted theories.

History of monorail

The term monorail or industrial monorail is used to describe any number of transport systems in which a chair or carrier is suspended from, or rides on, an overhead rail structure. Unlike the well-known duo-rail system, there are many rail-guided transport options which have been described as monorails, so that tracing the history presents a demarcation problem regarding what should be included and what should be omitted.

Common usage appears to define a monorail as any rail guided vehicle which does not employ the coning action of conventional adhesion railways to achieve directional stability. This would exclude rack railways and funicular railways.

Bearing in mind the pattern of development of conventional railways, different criteria and measures of effectiveness were relevant at different times, and alternative design solutions were proposed. Hence, a monorail of the early 19th Century bears little resemblance to current

designs, and were optimised for different performance objectives, within different technological constraints.

Immanuel Velikovsky

Immanuel Velikovsky (; Russian: Иммануи́л Велико́вский, IPA: [ɪmənʊˈil vʲɪlʲɪˈkofskʲɪj]; 10 June [O.S. 29 May] 1895 – 17 November 1979) was a Russian independent scholar who wrote a number of books reinterpreting the events of ancient history, in particular the US bestseller Worlds in Collision published in 1950. Earlier, he had played a role in the founding of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, and was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Velikovsky's work is frequently cited as a canonical example of pseudoscience and has been used as an example of the demarcation problem.His books use comparative mythology and ancient literary sources (including the Old Testament) to argue that Earth suffered catastrophic close contacts with other planets (principally Venus and Mars) in ancient history. In positioning Velikovsky among catastrophists including Hans Bellamy, Ignatius Donnelly, and Johann Gottlieb Radlof, the British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier noted "... Velikovsky is not so much the first of the new catastrophists ...; he is the last in a line of traditional catastrophists going back to mediaeval times and probably earlier." Velikovsky argued that electromagnetic effects play an important role in celestial mechanics. He also proposed a revised chronology for ancient Egypt, Greece, Israel, and other cultures of the ancient Near East. The revised chronology aimed at explaining the so-called "dark age" of the eastern Mediterranean (c. 1100–750 BC) and reconciling biblical history with mainstream archaeology and Egyptian chronology.

In general, Velikovsky's theories have been ignored or vigorously rejected by the academic community. Nonetheless, his books often sold well and gained an enthusiastic support in lay circles, often fuelled by claims of unfair treatment for Velikovsky by orthodox academia. The controversy surrounding his work and its reception is often referred to as "the Velikovsky affair".

Index of philosophy of science articles

An index list of articles about the philosophy of science.

List of unsolved problems in philosophy

This is a list of some of the major unsolved problems in philosophy. Clearly, unsolved philosophical problems exist in the lay sense (e.g. "What is the meaning of life?", "Where did we come from?", "What is reality?", etc.). However, professional philosophers generally accord serious philosophical problems specific names or questions, which indicate a particular method of attack or line of reasoning. As a result, broad and untenable topics become manageable. It would therefore be beyond the scope of this article to categorize "life" (and similar vague categories) as an unsolved philosophical problem.

Loki's Wager

Loki's Wager is the unreasonable insistence that a concept cannot be defined, and therefore cannot be discussed.According to the Prose Edda (Skáldskaparmál ch. 35), Loki once made a bet with the dwarf Brok, and wagered his head. He lost, and in due time the dwarves came to collect. Loki had no problem with giving up his head, but insisted they had absolutely no right to take any part of his neck. Everyone concerned discussed the matter; certain parts were obviously head, and certain parts were obviously neck, but neither side could agree exactly where one ended and the other began. So Loki kept his head indefinitely, although his lips were stitched shut as punishment for getting out of the bet with tricky wordplay.


Mainstream is current thought that is widespread. It includes all popular culture and media culture, typically disseminated by mass media. It is to be distinguished from subcultures and countercultures, and at the opposite extreme are cult followings and fringe theories.

This word is sometimes used in a pejorative sense by subcultures who view ostensibly mainstream culture as not only exclusive but artistically and aesthetically inferior. In the United States, mainline churches are sometimes referred to synonymously as "mainstream."

Mapping controversies

Mapping controversies (MC) is an academic course taught in science studies, stemming from the writings of the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. MC focuses exclusively on the controversies surrounding scientific knowledge rather than the established scientific facts or outcomes. Thus, it helps sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists get insights not into scientific knowledge per se, but rather into the process of gaining knowledge. Thus, MC sheds light on those intermediate stages corresponding to the actual research process and pinpoints the connections between scientific work and other types of activities.

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmassimo piʎˈʎuttʃi]; born January 16, 1964) is Professor of Philosophy at CUNY-City College, formerly co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and formerly the editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon. He is an outspoken critic of pseudoscience and creationism, and an advocate for secularism and science education.

Michael Ruse

Michael Ruse, (born 21 June 1940) is a British-born Canadian philosopher of science who specializes in the philosophy of biology and works on the relationship between science and religion, the creation–evolution controversy, and the demarcation problem within science. Ruse currently teaches at Florida State University.

Normal science

Normal science, identified and elaborated on by Thomas Samuel Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is the regular work of scientists theorizing, observing, and experimenting within a settled paradigm or explanatory framework. Regarding science as puzzle-solving, Kuhn explained normal science as slowly accumulating detail in accord with established broad theory, without questioning or challenging the underlying assumptions of that theory.


Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; and absence of systematic practices when developing theories, and continued adherence long after they have been experimentally discredited. The term pseudoscience is considered pejorative because it suggests something is being presented as science inaccurately or even deceptively. Those described as practicing or advocating pseudoscience often dispute the characterization.The demarcation between science and pseudoscience has philosophical and scientific implications. Differentiating science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, and science education. Distinguishing scientific facts and theories from pseudoscientific beliefs, such as those found in astrology, alchemy, alternative medicine, occult beliefs, religious beliefs, and creation science, is part of science education and scientific literacy.Pseudoscience can be harmful. Antivaccine activists present pseudoscientific studies that falsely call into question the safety of vaccines. Homeopathic remedies with no active ingredients have been promoted as treatment for deadly diseases.

Society for Scientific Exploration

The Society for Scientific Exploration, or SSE, is a group committed to studying fringe science. The opinions of the organization in regard to what are the proper limits of scientific exploration are often at odds with those of mainstream science. Critics argue that the SSE is devoted to disreputable ideas far outside the scientific mainstream.


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