I have exactly zero dogs in this fight, and no time to do any real research and form a proper opinion in the matter, but in the recent astrology thread, James Carey posted the following and I think it does merit some discussion, especially divested from the rest of the comments.
Having my e-mail box continuously filled with comments ranging from the snotty and condescending to the just plain rude and vulgar I did a little research on pseudo sciences on wikipedia (which is going to be my online standard) and they say that the definition of pseudo science is any scientific process that does not follow the scientific method, who’s definition, if you will forgive me, i am going to cut and paste here:
“Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.
Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methodologies of knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable in order to dependably predict any future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. This in turn may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.
Among other facets shared by the various fields of inquiry is the conviction that the process must be objective to reduce biased interpretations of the results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established.”
So I am pretty much in agreement with Jason that Astrology is a pseudo science. That being said, however, by this definition I am not convinced that Economics isn’t a pseudo science either…
George W followed up with this:
O.K. James, I’ll bite.
As I am sure we are both aware, Economics is a Social Science, and by it’s very definition cannot be directly compared to a Natural Science. The “science” in social science is more an allusion to it’s foundational methodology where data is collected by observation, hypotheses are postulated, more data is collected, hypotheses are tuned, more data collected, etc.
Economics weaknesses lie in the control of variables and the limitations of experiment. This is no different from Political Science or Anthropology… or Paleontology for that matter.
To make the claim that astrology can be lumped into a broad category with economics is fatuous and misleading to the point of being deceitful. Astrology does not collect data in a scientific matter, it tautologically serves to prove itself by cherry picking correlations without any proof or reasoning for causality.
By your own “online standard”, pseudo-science is a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status. (emphasis mine)
I wonder, James, why you so carelessly abbreviated that definition and concentrated on the definition of the scientific method? Why leave out the part about an “appropriate scientific method”?
Further down in the wiki article, you will note that the National Science Foundation contrasts Micheal Shermer’s definitions of science and pseudoscience.
Science-“a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation”
Pseudoscience-“claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility”
I would argue that economics fits best under the first definition and less under the latter.
So what of the rest of you folks? What’s your opinion?