Mechanism of Theory Demarcation

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How do theories become scientific or unscientific?

Sarwar and Fraser propose the law of theory demarcation, which states that "If a theory satisfies the demarcation criteria of the method employed at the time, it becomes scientific; if it does not, it remains unscientific; if assessment is inconclusive, the theory's status can become scientific, unscientific, or uncertain".1 The fundamental notion is that epistemic agents employ mentods, which include the demarcation criteria used to differentiate propositions that are scientific from those that are not. A theory may become scientific when, after it is subjected to assessment by the demarcation criteria, it conclusively satisfies the criteria. Here, it would be impossible for this theory to be considered by the agent to be unscientific, pseudoscientific, or uncertain. The other mechanism via which a theory may become scientific occurs when, upon initial assessment, its status is determined only inconclusively. Here, it is possible for the theory to then become scientific, turn unscientific, or remain uncertain. These are the two processes via which an unscientific theory may become scientific.

The process via which a scientific theory becomes unscientific also has two mechanisms. First, if the assessment outcome of the demarcation criteria conclusively deems the theory to be unscientific, then it cannot be considered scientific and its status cannot be uncertain. The other mechanism takes place when a scientific theory's assessment engenders the outcome inconclusive, which may lead to the theory being scientific, unscientific, or uncertain.

Among the four pathways, first two explain the possible mechanisms via which an unscientific theory may become scientific and the second two explain how a scientific theory may become unscientific. It may also be observed that in both cases the conclusive assessment outcomes are, as it were, deterministic, whereas the inconclusive outcomes in both cases are stochastic in nature. All four, taken together, delineate the possible means via which an unscientific theory may become scientific and vice versa.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Ameer Sarwar and Patrick Fraser in 2018.

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All Theories

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TheoryFormulationFormulated In
The Law of Theory Demarcation (Sarwar-Fraser-2018)If a theory satisfies the demarcation criteria of the method employed at the time, it becomes scientific; if it does not, it remains unscientific; if assessment is inconclusive, the theory’s status can become scientific, unscientific, or uncertain.2018
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Suggested Modifications

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ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2018-0014Scientonomy28 December 2018Accept the law of theory demarcation as a new scientonomic axiom. Also accept questions concerning indicators of scientificity as legitimate topics of scientonomic inquiry.Open

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Related Topics

This topic is a sub-topic of Mechanism of Scientific Change. It has the following sub-topic(s):

References

  1. ^  Sarwar, Ameer and Fraser, Patrick. (2018) Scientificity and The Law of Theory Demarcation. Scientonomy 2, 55-66. Retrieved from https://www.scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/31275.

Contributors

Ameer Sarwar (74.0%), Hakob Barseghyan (26.0%)