A Biologist And A Psychologist Square Off Over The Definition Of Science
    By Hank Campbell | July 17th 2012 04:33 PM | 68 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    Is psychology a science?  

    Increasingly, the respect of science (and scientists) by the public has been dropping and a part of that reason is because the line of what science is has become fuzzy. If economics calls itself science, well, the public knows they don't know what they are talking about, so maybe it applies to climate science too. Is sociology science?  What about parapsychology?

    If the definition of science becomes relative, then so does acceptance of science, in a slippery slope world, so we can't expect people will accept FDA findings as science if political science is funded by the National Science Foundation and the public knows that isn't scientific at all.

    Writing in the Los Angeles TimesTimothy Wilson,  professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, says the other sciences are using an artificial metric - and being mean.   He wrote, "There has long been snobbery in the sciences, with the "hard" ones (physics, chemistry, biology) considering themselves to be more legitimate than the "soft" ones ( psychology, sociology)."

    Well, his irritation is understandable. He cites an anecdote where a biologist dismissed the social sciences but, like science itself, 'hard' science has become colloquialized, almost as if they mean 'difficult' rather than physical.  When I graduated college no one considered biology a 'hard' science, those were limited to just the physical fields.

    Wilson knows it isn't just scientists who dismiss the social fields. Charles Lane, writing in the Washington Post, says the move by Congress to eliminate political science from the National Science Foundation doesn't go far enough.  It should eliminate all social science funding.
    Though quantitative methods may rule economics, political science and psychology, these disciplines can never achieve the objectivity of the natural sciences. Those who study social behavior — or fund studies of it — are inevitably influenced by value judgments, left, right and center. And unlike hypotheses in the hard sciences, hypotheses about society usually can’t be proven or disproven by experimentation. Society is not a laboratory.
    Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, writes in the New York Times 
    While the physical sciences produce many detailed and precise predictions, the social sciences do not. 
    Given the limited predictive success and the lack of consensus in social sciences, their conclusions can seldom be primary guides to setting policy. At best, they can supplement the general knowledge
    We all knew those things, of course.  It's not to say they don't have value, obviously they do, but engineering also has value. It is not science.  Teaching has terrific value.  It is not a science.  Same for mathematics and economics.  Lots of fields have applied benefits and consumer marketing shows that applied psychology is darn rigorous, even though it isn't science.  Why are psychologists so touchy if their offices are not in the science buildings?

    Wilson seems to confuse surveys and statistics with science.  Why stop there if that is all it takes to be a scientist? I write about science every day, I know a decent amount of science, one of my degrees is in psychology, yet I have never once called myself a scientist. In 1987, psychology was not considered science the way people commonly regard science.  It was a social science and even then I considered it a proper name rather than a definition - like String Theory or Military Science.

    I love military science.  Like learning Latin, it is rare enough today that should I choose to get a Ph.D., it would be in that.  But would that make me a scientist?  No, it would mean I am studying how people behave(d) and I am using data, but in a real-world condition it would be foolish for a General to listen to a Ph.D. in military science. War is a poor laboratory, just like society is.

    Wilson lists examples like cognitive behavioral therapy and says those have helped people - and he is right,  the efforts of Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck to modernize thinking 50 years ago have done wonderful things for untold people, but so have self-help books.  Are the people writing self-help books scientists?   His other claims, like claiming benefits of the stereotype threat hypothesis, are instead the subjective nonsense that critics are talking about when they dismiss psychology today - he would have been better off leaving out that one.  Same with the "Scared Straight" program, which he says psychologists showed did not work.  What he leaves out is that psychologists were the ones who said it would work in the first place.

    Dr. Alex Berezow, a microbiologist by degree, says it is not bullying that causes other fields to lump social sciences outside science, it is intellectual frustration.  He doesn't contend the field has no important insights
    Making useful predictions is a vital part of the scientific process, but psychology has a dismal record in this regard. Just ask a foreign policy or intelligence analyst.

    To be fair, not all psychology research is equally wishy-washy. Some research is far more scientifically rigorous. And the field often yields interesting and important insights.
    it just is not science in the way that scientists and the public recognize science.
    Why can we definitively say that? Because psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.
    We can all pick nits about how much of biology satisfies those criteria, and physics also. Generally, science is about explaining (most of) the world according to natural laws and psychology cannot really do that.  I can't find a fundamental theory of psychology the way I can evolution in biology and gravity in physics. I certainly understand there are mysteries in those fields that those theories cannot explain but they explain the world as we know it; I am not too concerned with the Higgs boson when I go home at night but I know jumping off a cliff is bad.

    Dave Nussbaum, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago, is as insightful and impartial about psychology as you are going to find in a psychology insider.  He sees the flaws and he sees the solid work being done.  For some reason, the critiques of social sciences by the people outside science did not seem to bother him enough to write a response but a biologist being critical did.  He used terms like 'absurd' and 'misinformed' and 'ignorance' and then does a decent job of making the case for psychology as important - certainly better than Wilson, with his business about stererotype threat and how to rig a jury for a court case;
    Psychology uses scientific methods to help us better understand and predict things about the world. To me that makes it a science. Not a perfect science — Wilson acknowledged this too — but then again the “hard” sciences got a few centuries of head start.
    Well, what can psychology help us predict about that world from a science sense?  I certainly agree that from an applied sense, like marketing, it can tell us that within a range of error, X people will buy more of something if you put it in the center of a display.  But does that mean the display people in a supermarket are scientists?

    Berezow believes attempts to broaden the net to include social sciences instead looks somewhat like another flavor of relativism.
    But to claim it is "science" is inaccurate. Actually, it's worse than that. It's an attempt to redefine science. Science, redefined, is no longer the empirical analysis of the natural world; instead, it is any topic that sprinkles a few numbers around. This is dangerous because, under such a loose definition, anything can qualify as science. And when anything qualifies as science, science can no longer claim to have a unique grasp on secular truth.
    It's a fine point. It's hard to be critical of the public when it picks its definitions of science a la carte if we let academics do the same thing.  We already have cultural  'scientization of politics', where people rationalize their agendas with cherry-picked data and those like-minded voters are rationalized by fellow politicos as everything but anti-science (anti-corporation, morality, whatever) if they don't accept vaccines or food science or climate science.

    I wrote Dr. Mark Changizi, who has been in both the hard and the soft sciences, in academia and the corporate world, to get his take. He replied
    The smartest experiments EVER are, in my experience, found in psychology. Cleverness is at a premium, in finding ingenious ways to control for seemingly uncontrollable things.
    I *have* complained in my writing that, although psychology is filled with lots of brilliant experiments (and, like any field, a bunch of bad ones), the interpretations of them are often ambiguous. ...which is what makes cognitive science / psychology / neuroscience enjoyable -- the furniture is easier to move around. Not because it's not science, but because it's hard -- as in "difficult to conquer" -- science. Theory is much more difficult, because it's so damned complicated.
    Which is terrific insight.  With all of the parameters Berezow laid out, scientists at least have a roadmap to follow.  In psychology, a lot more parts are moving because they are forbidden ethically and legally from being more laboratory-like.   If you want to read more on Changizi's insights, check out How To Put Art And Brain Together in his column here on Science 2.0.

    I don't believe it is as cut and dried as Berezow laid out - we just had a Higgs particle discovery that did not have four of those five criteria in 1964 and it's difficult to claim those physicists were not scientists.  But claiming the entire science world are 'bullies' if it hurts the feelings of psychologists by lumping them in with the humanities, as Wilson did, is not really very convincing because it appeals to emotion rather than evidence. Which is a very social science thing to do.


    If you observe, record your observations, examine them and perceive pattern, define that pattern in such a way that you can then use it to predict future observations and then record those observations and analyse the results

    you are doing science - even if the patterns all turn out to be illusions

    it is when people doing science forget this that the problems emerge

    after all, if you spend your life looking for patterns and always come up empty handed, even you are likely to grasp at straws and declare low quality results as meaningful

    the real difference is the human element

    the physical scientists have it easy - their patterns are more likely to be simple and their success at being able to apply them to relatively simple situations more likely to result in marketable commodities and services

    much of the social science we do is unlikely to bear such easily picked fruit in the lifetime of the researchers doing it

    hence social science needs to be looked at with a bigger time frame in mind

    given enough time even the silliest of studies will bear fruit of some kind


    That was Mark's point also and I agree - I have said in other articles that while modern psychology has tried so hard to look like science that it has led to high-profile frauds, the fact that young researchers are the ones ferreting that out is a very good sign for the future of the field. They're not circling the wagons around people who are deceptive, they are cleaning up their backyard.

    Nussbaum makes the great point that science has a big head start - but I think progress can also be made if psychology stops having science-envy and just sticks to what they do best.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Great article Hank and beautifully written.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at
    Hi Hank, thanks for your thoughts, a few quick things:

    My problem with Berezow's article is that I don't think that he understands a lot of what psychologists actually do. There are some parts of psychology that are not scientific, and there is research in psychology that is not scientifically rigorous, that's true. But there is an enormous amount of psychology research that fits the criteria of science that Berezow enumerates perfectly well. I used the term misinformed because I believe he should have taken the time to inform himself before dismissing an entire field on the basis of a single example that he readily admits is not a shining example of rigorous psychological research. For what it's worth, you should also be aware that psychology research goes well beyond using statistics to analyze surveys.

    There are dozens of examples to list, but let me take one from the University of Chicago where I work. Take a quick look at the research the John Cacioppo has done on loneliness and social isolation. There's no question that loneliness is a psychological construct and can't be understood without a fundamentally psychological approach. And yet Cacioppo has integrated that research with work in neuroscience and biology to create a remarkable interdisciplinary research program. You can read about it in his book, Loneliness, or here's a synopsis:

    It's not wrong to say that psychology has a lot of work left to do, it's a science that is in its early adolescence, but it's very clearly a science.

    misinformed because I believe he should have taken the time to inform himself before dismissing an entire field
    Not so much misinformed as politically biased. The more psychology matures into a science, the more certain people who delude themselves to be in the middle and sciency rather than clearly on the right (or left) wing of the spectrum, cannot accept that science (via fields like evolutionary psychology) is telling us that relativity is not just found in physics. If cultural relativism is evil, the science that reveals it must be excluded from the sciences. If science leads to social engineering that stabilize societies in "communist" ways, they refuse to call it science, because they have come to support modern science as that thing that helped to make and now is vital part in defending the world order that keeps them well, not "post-modern" science, the reflective new-enlightenment where science looks at itself scientifically.

    Some right wing people delude themselfes to have written a sciency book about left/right issues that transcends the arbitrary lines in the sand, others actually do such things.
    Your premise is false. Behaving systematically is not all there is to science. The subject matter is critically important - illusions won't do - and CONTROL of variables are essential. Even if we were to accept your criteria, social sciences fail to qualify - they don't lead to the discernment of REPRODUCIBLE patterns and don't lead to accurate predictions.

    Just for clarity, your complete definition of Science : IS : "science is about explaining (most of) the world according to natural laws" "with five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability."

    Hank, your definition of Science: "science is about explaining (most of) the world according to natural laws,” is centered around the word: “Explaining”:.

    However, an “explanation” can only be ‘offered: after “Research”: so your definition of Science, is not inclusive enough, since it leaves out the “process of discovery” which is ‘nested’ in the PRACTICE of Science.

    Science is the Study of What: IS: And sometimes it’s the Study of What Might Be: IS -- the Higgs Boson is a good example of this.

    Thus, your definition of Science is incomplete, whereas mine is exacting or complete, to my Standards, and is once again, Science is the Study of What: IS:.

    Now onto, “The five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: Firstly, “clearly defined terminology”, to which I would add, “Though not necessarily accepted by all scientists”.

    OK: let’s say that my research is “Alternative Energy”, and I have, for the sake of argument discovered some previously unknown relationship between: Matter and Energy: such that, with the proper tools and techniques I can induce matter to “Flow with Energy”, now this energy is not Electromagnetism, it’s something altogether different, it’s novel, it’s new, It’s RADICAL.

    The point of ‘induction’ is referred as ‘The Abraxus Point’. Now, had I merely used the phrase, “The Abraxus Point” without defining: IT: you would have no idea what I was talking about, yet in my research, a term was needed to describe ‘the point of initiation’, and so I ‘coined one’.

    What am saying is this: The Study of What: IS: involves two fields, on one ‘playing field’, say that of a Historian or a Field Biologist the known’s are known, though the relationships are unknown or concealed and Science will reveal them, on the other level, that of Pure Research into What Might be: IS: The known’s are Unknown or concealed, though the Relationships are SUSPECTED.

    So, clearly defined terminology only applies to the first park or field; whereas, in the second game or field, original research, the terms are clearly defined, though maybe false or non-real, and Science is required to determine or prove this, yet Science can’t limit the terms to what is already “known” without ‘preventing’ Future Research into the unknown or uncertain.

    Point Two: “Quantifiability”: Yes, what matters is the matter defined.

    Point Three: “highly controlled experimental conditions”: I think a better ‘term’ than “control” would be ‘order’, and the phrase under my care would read, “under highly ordered experimental conditions”, and the phrase, “is everything in order? OK, let’s proceed!” Would suit me.

    Point Four: “reproducibility”: Sure, all fine and good here!

    Point Five: “predictability”: I disagree with the use of the term “predictability”, and that’s because a ‘predictable outcome’, or ‘a prediction’ is a part of “Gamesmanship or Gambling” and the oft-hear phrase is used, “predict the odds”. The Scientific term for “predictability” is “Forecasting” as in “Forecasting the weather”, since forecasting begins with experience and is guiding by understanding, whereas to predict something, is not to submit your predictions to previous knowledge.

    Let me say by analogy and fact: “Every day on Planet Earth, one-hundred lighting Strikes occur per second.”* Ok, I’m speaking to the world’s expert on lighting and I ask them, “Provide a prediction for me, on December 21st, 2012, at High Noon Pacific time, and for the next one second, PREDICT with one-hundred-percent accuracy, Where all one-hundred lighting strikes will occur on Earth, from within one kilometer?”

    They wouldn’t even try, and that’s because “Science is not a tool of prediction”. Science can “Forecast” yes, but predict? No!


    Point Five: “testability”: Well, here’s where you can educate me; What are the finer distinctions between: reproducibility and testability? I suspect this means, can I monitor what I reproduce, in other words; “Do I know with equipment monitoring the event, what is going on in Superconductivity”, as opposed to, “Can I simply reproduce Superconductivity, yet can’t moniter it, or explain it”.

    If so, then yes, testability is fine, though, I ask: “Is that what is meant by ‘Rigorous Science’, that full understanding or explanation is required for something to be ‘Rigorous Science’, as opposed to simply ‘Scientific Research without understanding’, which would not be ‘Rigorous Science’?

    Gerhard Adam
    Let me say by analogy and fact: “Every day on Planet Earth, one-hundred lighting Strikes occur per second.”* Ok, I’m speaking to the world’s expert on lighting and I ask them, “Provide a prediction for me, on December 21st, 2012, at High Noon Pacific time, and for the next one second, PREDICT with one-hundred-percent accuracy, Where all one-hundred lighting strikes will occur on Earth, from within one kilometer?”
    Interesting, but irrelevant.  The physics of lightning has nothing to do with WHEN lightning strikes, but rather it deals with HOW lightning strikes occur.  Therefore, it's predictive capabilities deal with providing explanations of how lightning behaves during every one of those 100 strikes, but says nothing about specifically where they will occur.

    However, the physics of lightning can make some general predictions about the conditions that give rise to lightning, so there is a predictive quality there and, of course, when the variables are strictly controlled, then it can reliably [and predictably] create lightning on demand. 

    Your analogy is flawed, because it presumes that the data available from the planet is sufficiently detailed and collectable to make such a prediction.  The lack of such precision is not the fault of science, but simply the scale of what is being measured.  If you were to provide sufficiently accurate and detailed data, I'm confident that your "world's expert" would have no difficulty in making the prediction you asked for.  However, since you can't provide that level of data, then you can't complain that no predictions are being made.
    Mundus vult decipi
    “If you were to provide sufficiently accurate and detailed data, I'm confident that your "world's expert" would have no difficulty in making the prediction you asked for."

    Gerhard, My analogy was not “flawed”, your being piquant(1) – ‘disagreeably provocative’, and thank you for the opportunity to use the word ‘piquant’, I’m forever grateful to you for that, usually, I would have used ‘pedantic’, however, thanks to our relationship, I feel comfortable for the first time using ‘piquantness’(2) to describe your behavior.



    However, if you need more examples, I will provide an unquantifiable number till you get : IT :! And that’s because, Science CANNOT Make accurate predictions, and I will stay with you until you learn this!

    Science is about “Forecasting”.

    And thanks, we demolished point two of the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous : quantifiability, since I will endure to unquantifiable-eternity to explain the obvious, scientifically.

    Yet, I think you should have foreseen in your rational-opinion, that quite possibly, IN My Analogy, My expert on lightening was a Specialist in: “The WHEN and HOW of Lightening”: (id est, IN Both the Physics and Statistics of Lightening) and did posses all the data, on every previous strike on planet Earth as ‘a sign’ or ‘a signal’, as a statistic, and is unrelated to your expert who seeks to understand lightening as a physical phenomena -- -- yet has not progressed educationally -- beyond explanation -- towards ascertaining and asserting; however, since you have INSISTED, that when the data is available, the “"world's expert" would have no difficulty in making the prediction you asked for.”” I will provide several scenarios which prove Science cannot make predictions; The final situation will simply be a once-a-year-event, easy, just one data point per year, and an easy prediction to make!

    OK Gerhard, Try this, where the data: IS: “available”:.

    The U S Census Bureau maintains a population clock, which has an up-to-the-minute resident population count. They estimate there is one birth every 8 seconds and one death every 14 seconds. You can access it at:

    OK, Predict for me, on December 21st, 2012, at High-Noon Pacific-Time, the precise location within 1-kilometer, of the very-next US birth and the very-next US death. Now, I’m not asking for precise identities (id est, names), just object locations (id est, bodies), based upon previous data collection, since the data is available.

    Or, since you’re so confident, Predict with one-hundred-percent (100%) accuracy, the statistical location of the next 100 births and 100 deaths starting from December 21st, 2012, at High-Noon Pacific-Time.

    Science is not about making accurate predictions; Science is about “Forecasting”.

    Or if, once again, you insist that’s too much data among too many disciplines to be able compute and thus predict, let’s limit it to Cleveland, Ohio, on December 21st, 2012, at High-Noon Pacific-Time, and I ask for you, to provide for me, the statistical location of the very-next birth and very-next death, as a PREDICTION, thus I’m asking for only two predictions.

    Or try this, even simpler:
    “The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The NEIC now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year.”

    “As more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located. However, the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant. See: Are Earthquakes Really on the Increase?”

    Stuart begins here:
    So, since the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant, provide for me, the precise location within one kilometer of the next ten (10) large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater), and the day they will happen.

    Or even easier, “According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year.”

    OK, Gerhard, Where will the next one great earthquake (8.0 or above) occur within the next twelve months, and at what precise time within one minute, or ten minutes, or one hour, or on which day, or week, or even month, or better yet, quarter of year?

    Science is not about making accurate predictions; Science is about “Forecasting”.

    I should like to add something to readers at a later date, in my previous comment, i used the phrase that I detest, the “process of discovery”, that was a ‘cosmic joke’, no one got it, and I won’t communicate that way again, using nonsense to convey sense, since some students of science may go away believing that I believe in the ‘process of discovery’, which I don’t!

    Discovery: is not a process, nor is it a practice, and that’s because when you want to discover the North Pole, you need both: ‘effort and investigation’: no one gets to the north Pole by processing their way there, you get there through ‘effort and investigation’, so no, there is NO “process of discovery”, I was hoping someone had learned something from what I had previously written about ‘process’ and would notice the inconsistency in using the term ‘Process’ in tandem with ‘Discovery’ -- -- Oh well, live and learn, teach and grow!

    Now “Hank” : let me explain once-over what is Science: Science is the Study of What: IS:.

    And for the future, since ‘Science’ studies “Life”, replace the word-term: “Life”: with the word-term: “Science”: and notice what you get!

    OK, IS Economics a Science: OF Course!!

    Everything that is noticed, that reaches an “Awareness” is a subject for Science”; Everything!

    And what reaches our Awareness, may not have a physical presence, as in: I love this Wo[man], So, I ask you : “Where is the proof for my love in God’s Green Earth for this ONe Wo[man]?”

    You’re never going to find it, physically! And that’s because Love is in OUR MIND – a subject outside of The Physical Sciences YES, yet the purview of Knowledge, since I: “KNOW”: I love HER, and now your going to tell me without physical proof, I cannot love this WO[man? That’s Blasphemy!

    Though MIND : IS : non-physical :: MIND can be investigated, because Knowledge can be investigated as a Science!! And thus, subjects of the MIND, like Psychology or Parapsychology can be investigated, and are thus ‘Subjects of Science’!

    Now, I know already, your going to say, in my organ : The Brain : you will locate my love for this one Wo[man. You might as well say, that in the organ of my Heart, are located all the emotions that I have ever had, this Brain-Mind Confusion will persist until you have the experience of ‘Shifting’; What can I say : IS : "ISIS IS" : that Reality is only experienced, it cannot be explained and it cannot be defined, yet with experience, you can notice that with your lovers, you can communicate ‘beyond the brain’, and have an experience of MIND’s UNION or GRACe. I cannot with words offer you WHAT IS; WHAT IS has to be experienced. So, What we need is to have “The Experience”, which only comes when you're are no longer afraid of losing your MIND.

    OK : onto Economics!

    Economics : : IS : : ‘The Study of Value’.

    In Economics, ‘Value’ is determined via :“The Price Discovery” :.

    The appropriate ‘terms of Economics’ in simple terms; are : “Value and Worth”, “Price & Pay” , “Loss & Gain”, “Judgement” & “Getting & Return”

    The “Linking Concept” : IS : “The Getting Concept”.

    The following is a direct quote from The Course in Miracles, PDF page 369-370
    Link: :

    “Judgment is :THE SETTING of PRICE. And as you set it, you WILL pay it.”

    “If paying is equated with GETTING, you will set the PRICE low, but demand a high RETURN. But you will have forgotten that to price is to VALUE, so that YOUR return is IN PROPORTION TO YOUR JUDGEMENT OF WORTH. If paying is associated with giving, IT CANNOT BE PERCEIVED AS LOSS, and the RECIPROCAL relationship of giving and RECEIVING will be recognized. The price will then be set high, because of the value of the RETURN.”

    “To price for GETTING is to LOSE SIGHT OF VALUE, making it inevitable that you will NOT value what you receive. Valuing it little, you will not appreciate it, and you will not WANT it. Never forget, then, that YOU have set the value on what you receive, and have priced it BY what you give. To believe that is possible to get much FOR little, is to believe that you can bargain with God.”

    “God’s laws are ALWAYS fair, and PERFECTLY consistent. BY giving, you receive. But to receive is to ACCEPT, NOT to get. It is impossible not to HAVE, but it IS possible NOT TO KNOW YOU HAVE. The recognition of HAVING is the willingness for GIVING, and ONLY by this willingness, can you RECOGNIZE what you have. What you give is therefore the value you put on what you have, being the exact measure of the value you PUT upon it. And this, in turn, is the measure of HOW MUCH YOU WANT IT.”

    OK : Psychology : as you say, Hank, “one of [your] degrees is in psychology”, which means, your aware that the derivation of Psychology is : ‘Psyche’ : or SOUL : and ‘ology : means, “the Study of” : Thus, psychology, your degree, is in the Study of God’s Soul.

    Now, I for one, find this hard to accept about you, that with every breath you offer gratitude to GOD, so I suspect, while in Academia, you studied not God, but “EGO”, and thus your degree was in “Abnormal Psychology”, since the study of Psychology would have included courses in ‘God’s Timing’, which based upon your behavior and speech towards me, I’m going to conclude did not occur.

    So, I would suggest you take a good hard look at your degree to discover if the word, “Abnormal” has been placed alongside “Psychology” or maybe check near your name, or in some box by your name near : gender or sexual orientation. And if the word “Abnormal” is not on your degree, well and good, since my opinion of you, is that your worth is unquantifiable, it’s infinite, as mine IS, and thus both you and Gerhard have helped us to discover that, point two of the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous : quantifiability, is un-necessary when dealing in Science with subjects that are non-physical, and of MIND.

    Now, to suggest that some quantity of MIND is physical is a nonsensical approach, since no sense can reach our MIND, it is also a debased approach to knowing, since there is no BASIS for MIND to be physical, since a MIND thinks thoughts and “Thought is NON-Physical” in other words, to place the mind in the body is a sick interpretation and this will produce sickness in the body, since the Mind is SICK or sickened by your attitude.

    Now, there is much discussion today about the MIND-BODY connection. This is False-psychology, since NO CONNECTION EXISTS between the MIND and the body. What does exist is a CO-RESPONDENCE. Thus the body responds to the wishes or desires of the MIND.

    Now, I for one, am quite aware that many spooks and kooks go on Oprey Winfrey after having just written a book on the ‘MIND-body connection’. This does not provide me any EVIDENCE that these individuals are anything other than Charlatans of the First ORDER, since if a “connection exists” that would imply that some part of MIND is Physical, at least at the connecting link, and since MIND is non-physical, I can understand why HARD-physicalists like yourself would object when someone like myself begins to speak of MIND, I am however, totally aware that my MIND is located outside of my body, and one day, with psychedelics, we can all Research this subject experientially, since the TRUTH cannot be explained and cannot be described, except by experience.

    The best approach to discover that our MIND is outside of our body, is to prolong-intercourse, or keep the dialogue going, which we are attempting to do, as we seek a Unification OF MIND OR PURPOSE on What Precisely is the Definition of Science. And that’s because, as I communicate with you @Science2.0. your beginning the get the idea, that your communicating not to the body of Stuart Harlan Dobin, but to the MIND OF Stuart Harlan Doblin, as I am communicating to the Mind of Gerhard and Hank, and eventually, your going to notice me inside your MIND, which is a physical impossibility; thus our MINDs our UNITED, which can only mean, our MINDS our non-physical entities.

    So I'm a bit confused by all this 'debate' over whether psychology is a science. Is Pavlovian conditioning not a scientific method? Is the Rescorla-Wagner model (1972) not a scientific theory of learning? Are prediction-error signals in the brain not evidence enough that psychological concepts, like surprise and attention exist in biological systems? It seems to me the debate on both sides is dominated by people who don't know enough psychology.

    You're introducing semantical distractions. Are studies of brain signalling psychology or neurophysiology? Psychologists are always creeping in through the back door of biology.

    And here I though biologists were creeping in through the back door of chemistry while chemists creep in through the back door of physics.

    It's not a distraction to point to the methods and theories of psychology. Pavlovian conditioning, the laws of reinforcement, learning and prediction-errors are all psychological (not neural or biological) phenomena. You might object that Pavlovian conditioning occurs in the brain, but it is instantiated in so many different forms and in so many different regions that a complete neural theory of conditioning would be unwieldy and not very predictive. On the other hand, the psychological principles we use to understand Pavlovian conditioning (surprise, attention, learning) provide testable predictions and well-established theories (e.g., Rescorla-Wagner). And because these methods are so reproducible, neuroscientists have adopted them to study the brain. It's really neuroscientists creeping in the back door of psychology.

    Nonsense! DESCRIBING phenomena (psychology) has value, but it's not science. Science is EXPLAINING phenomena.

    What is the difference between explaining and describing? Is it explaining when you have a nice math formula? It’s possible to explain things in many different levels but it’s impossible to get to the bottom.

    There have been many novel predictions of psychological models, which EXPLAIN learning, attention and associative memory in pigeons, rats and people. For instance, the Rescorla-Wagner model predicted features of learning such as conditioned inhibition, overexpectation, superconditioning, and protection from extinction. These features are explained by prediction-error rather than the power of the reinforcer.

    See for more details.

    I win.

    This blog post is so full of unsupported assertions and assumptions that it is almost impossible to comment. Indeed, the whole thing is US-centric, as though science is something that only takes place in the USA. Let's start at the beginning - the opening sentence claims that "the respect of science (and scientists) by the public has been dropping". It would have been nice if at least one survey could have been mentioned in support of this statement, but nothing is given. Now I don't know what happens in the US, but here in the UK there has been an annual survey since 2000 of Public Attitudes to Science. The last survey (2011) reported: "Compared to the first PAS study in 2000, and to the 2008 study, more now agree that the benefits of science are greater than any harmful effect, and that scientists want to make life better for the average person, indicating a society more at ease with science than a decade ago" (executive summary). In other words, at least so far as the UK is concerned, the opening sentence of your blog post is not just wrong, but the opposite of the truth that things are getting better, which means there is no malaise that requires explanation (let alone an explanation that attempts to pin the blame on psychology). Indeed, I could quite easily posit that the improved public trust in science is *because of* the greater prominence of psychological research in the media, although I'm not going to posit that because there could be various other reasons that are just as feasible.

    Even if it is the case that Americans' distrust of science is increasing, what is the evidence (other than a couple of talking heads) that this has anything to do with psychology, sociology, or economics? I would have thought a more obvious target for blame is a combination of religion, corporate influence, biased media (e.g. Faux News), and all the motivated reasoning that goes along with these. But at this point I, too, am in danger of trying to explain something which may not need explaining. Give some evidence of the malaise.

    More generally, I suggest that any attempt to divide disciplines into those that are real science and those that aren't is entirely misconceived. For example, when DNA 'fingerprinting' was first announced to the world, it was seen as a triumph of 'hard science', a foolproof way to determine the guilt or innocence of crime suspects. Only it turned out not to be so foolproof, for reasons that would not surprise any psychologist - the analysis depended on perceptual judgments of analysts, who often would know the source of the DNA and the nature of the crime. The result - miscarriages of justice. The lesson - hard scientists can often be naive and overoptimistic about their work.

    In another area, biological evolution and behaviour are inextricably linked, and the basis of understanding behaviour often requires an economic analysis, e.g. the distance that animals will travel for food, and the amount of food they will carry back to their home base. Likewise, psychological research is also intertwined with biological and economic analyses, a linkage that is increasingly strong given the resurgence of interest in evolution and behaviour.

    Finally, it may be the case that ethical and practical considerations can make true experimentation difficult in psychology and economics, especially as it relates to creating predictive models that will influence public policy, but removing public funding for these areas is no solution at all. That is simply replacing limited knowledge with complete ignorance.

    Gerhard Adam
    You make some good points, but I fail to see how that elevates psychology, economics, or sociology to the level of "science".  My concern derives from the fact that too many people in these disciplines want to use the mantle of "science" to cover up sloppy thinking and lack of rigor.

    There is no dispute with people that have done exhaustive work, but even that, doesn't necessarily make something science.  The whole point being the production of a result that isn't subject to individual interpretations.  Some people will jump on that and say ... well, then physics isn't science because of 'x' or something else.  In those cases, that is absolutely correct, if the topic under consideration isn't capable of being described by a theory and subject to verification.

    It's as if we wanted to define everything artistic as also being musical.  While some artists may be musicians, it doesn't denigrate other artists that are not musicians.  Similarly there are many disciplines that can produce useful results without being formally acknowledged as being "science".

    However, more telling to me was this statement:
    Finally, it may be the case that ethical and practical considerations can make true experimentation difficult in psychology and economics, especially as it relates to creating predictive models that will influence public policy, but removing public funding for these areas is no solution at all.
    I find all manner of difficulty with this statement, because it illustrates precisely what the problem is in considering these disciplines "science".  The first requirement should be the establishment of an overarching theory on which these disciplines are based, which has been verified and rigorously tested/verified.  This isn't to place some undue burden on these disciplines, but rather to ensure that they offer anything resembling a "solution" when they are being embraced as an influence on public policy.

    All too often, they award themselves the title of being "scientific" when their public policy implementations are little more than speculation and opinion.  Until they can demonstrate a real scientific basis for their theories and ideas, they are simply dangerous projections of the political process and should not be trusted.  Useful information isn't always correct information in the scientific sense.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You seem to impugn entire fields just on the assertion that some research is poor. That's true in any field. (Or, do you honestly think that all research in physics and chemistry is unassailable? Do you think all research in psychology is unscientific, merely because SOME psychological research is poor?) Caveat emptor.

    That's not a supply-side problem; it's a consumption problem. Perhaps we just need to educate people to be better consumers of information, so that they can determine what is and is not good research--no matter the field.

    You also stated, "The first requirement should be the establishment of an overarching theory on which these disciplines are based, which has been verified and rigorously tested/verified." What are you suggesting? That all psychologists have to agree on an overarching theory before it can be called scientific? That's absurd, and it doesn't apply to any field. The overarching theory of any scientific field is the epistemological theory of science (which, at its heart, is one form or another of empiricism). The validity of the findings of science is contingent on the merits of the epistemology and methods, not the content area of the particular research question.

    Gerhard Adam
    That all psychologists have to agree on an overarching theory before it can be called scientific?
    Yes, and the fact that you find it absurd is why psychology isn't science.  Without such an overarching theory, there is no basis for even deciding what constitutes psychology except a bunch of interpretive opinions.  I don't care how much information it may provide, it isn't science.
    The validity of the findings of science is contingent on the merits of the epistemology and methods, not the content area of the particular research question.
    Of course it matters.  You must first establish that the area being examined is capable of being scientifically investigated.  If it isn't, then it makes no difference what you do.  It isn't science and can never be science.

    That's precisely why every whack job with a degree thinks they can just call creationism - science, or parapsychology is science.  Studying UFO's is science and it's little wonder that the public thinks that personal opinion and majority rule should also be applied to science.  After all, it's a kind of relativism that says that as long as we ask "scientific" questions and act like we're interested in examining results [and perhaps even toss out a periodic prediction] then we're engaged in science.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes, and the fact that you find it absurd is why psychology isn't science. 
    Right, biology was not a respected science before evolution, homonculi were valid hypotheses for how people came about.  The notable people were taxonomists, they catalogued plants, they didn't do science.

    Psychology is still in its homonculus phase.  
    You are still only providing caricatures of my point, which I find odd, given the very straightforward, simple nature of my point.

    What allowed biology to gain credibility was the shift to testing falsifiable hypotheses with empirical evidence, something taxonomists do not do... but something many psychologists do.

    I hope--at long last--you finally understand and, if you don't, that perhaps you can move past the caricatures.

    This is a brilliant response. I wish I'd thought of it myself.

    Kudos, Gerhard. But don't get used to me giving you such high praise. ;)

    Gerhard Adam
    ...and just as I was getting used to it :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    What makes the whack jobs whack jobs is that they claim to present evidence without meeting the requirements of scientific inquiry: empirical tests of falsifiable hypotheses. It's not the fact that they "study" screwball theories; it's HOW they present and test those theories. Studying ghosts sounds silly to me, but it is indeed something that could be studied scientifically IF those "researchers" were to use empirical evidence to test FALSIFIABLE hypotheses. Many currently popular theories--e.g., germ theory--were once considered similarly preposterous. What allowed it to gain credence was that empirical evidence supported and failed to contradict FALSIFIABLE hypotheses. Most crackpots fail to present falsifiable hypotheses, use non-empirical methods, etc.

    What makes something scientific is the method of inquiry, not the subject-matter being investigated. Again--and I'm not sure how this fundamental concept continues to elude you--all scientific inquiry is underpinned by the SAME epistemological philosophy. Therefore, any arbitrarily designated "field" of scientific inquiry, by definition, has a framework.

    It is depressing to me that so many posters here are so wholly and egregiously ignorant of the philosophy of science. Never the less, you seem convinced that "science" is a moniker awarded or withheld for entire fields and subject matter (no matter the quality of methods within the field or the methods of individual investigations). It's low-level categorical thinking. Thus, to you, all research in the field of chemistry is science (even with poor methods), but all research in the field of psychology, economics, etc. is NECESSARILY NOT science. That sort of understanding of science is what leads people to think that some areas are outside the realm of scientific inquiry. (E.g., science can't study art, music, phenomenological experience, religion, etc.). I won't continue to try to disabuse you of your ignorance, and instead will hold out hope for better science education in the future.

    Once more, for what it's worth, if any researcher in any field can pose a hypothesis that is falsifiable with empirical evidence, they have established the preconditions for scientific inquiry of that hypothesis--irrespective of the subject matter. If people like you are then incapable of establishing the merit of the research on its own (e.g., by determining it's adherence to scientific methods), that's your problem, not theirs.

    Gerhard Adam
    Thus, to you, all research in the field of chemistry is science (even with poor methods), but all research in the field of psychology, economics, etc. is NECESSARILY NOT science. That sort of understanding of science is what leads people to think that some areas are outside the realm of scientific inquiry.
    First of all, science is a noun which you then use to mean "scientific method", "scientific inquiry", and whatever forms you choose.  No one is disputing that there is good science and bad science which deals with the methodology you're describing.

    No one disputes that some areas of investigation are decidedly unscientific, even if they occur within a scientific discipline.  Chemistry is a science, because it has demonstrated over time the traits necessary to be considered as such.  There are certainly areas within chemistry that may be bad science, but the field itself has earned the right to be called "science".  Similarly with many other fields, which doesn't make every hypothesis scientific, nor does it render every piece of work scientific.

    The problem with economics, psychology, and sociology, is that there doesn't seem to be any "there" there.   Again, this isn't to say that there isn't some potential for science, and there may even be scientific queries taking place, but the fields themselves aren't sufficiently defined and rigorous to be considered scientific.

    What is a far more interesting question to me, is why that should matter? 

    In my view, the problem in the social "sciences" and what they're trying to circumvent is the stigma of being interpretative.  I'm sure economics, psychologists, and sociologists, would love to make some statement and have it regarded as "scientific", such that it represented a kind of "truth".  However, it just ain't so.  I haven't seen anything that could survive such a standard in any of these areas. 

    But, I'm game.  Give me just one example out of any of these disciplines that makes some scientific claim that isn't subject to contextual interpretation.  Something that could be pointed to as a kind of "law" that would allow us to be unequivocal predictions and that has been tested/verified.  Even if a finding is context dependent, is the context sufficiently well-defined so that we can use it for experimentation?

    All of these conditions give rise to your point regarding falsifiable hypothesis.  So let me unambiguously state that the issue here isn't one of prejudice against a particular discipline because it may perform bad experiments, or support crackpot ideas.  Instead the point is that there is nothing that has emerged from these disciplines that resembles anything that we would recognize as science.  So, give me something from these disciplines that indicates otherwise.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Based on what you've written here, I think you and I agree on many more issues in this realm than we disagree. I read your last post as a more nuanced and reasonable rendition of your views--namely that it is the research within a field that either earns or fails to earn the "science" label. Personally, I'm even less binary than you seem to be about it, but that's perhaps a minor issue. Likewise, I don't agree with the idea of labeling entire fields as "science" or "not science", but I see what you're getting at... which seems to be a concern for colloquial use and the role of the label in public perception.

    My understanding is that you're using what I'd consider a stipulated (perhaps colloquial) definition of science as applying to any field that tends in great majority to use scientific methods (especially those in which rigorous methodological controls are possible). I don't think that definition is particularly useful in gaining an understanding of science from an epistemological or methodological perspective, but I see why it's common... and I see why you'd be concerned about the misappropriation of the "science" label--a problem I would rather solve with better education vs. label protection, but the latter has its merits.

    It also seems to me that perhaps your impressions of social sciences are based more on pop consumption than on a close familiarity with social science research journals. Many people's idea of social science is based on crap published in "US Weekly" or "People", or derived from film and television caricatures: the Freud-based psycho-babbling therapeutic navel gazers with pipes, sweaters, and couches--folks whose notion of research is "case studies", introspection, and dream interpretation. Gag. That's not social science any more than Lamarck is a modern biologist.

    For example, the role of different types of feedback mechanisms on numerous forms of performance has been studied extensively (over time, across cultures, etc.). Behavioral studies informed cognitive studies, which then led to neuropsychological studies (e.g., MRIs), such that we now understand many of the behavioral, cognitive, and biological underpinnings of the effects of feedback. Obviously, as with any predictive model, these models are more accurate in accounting for variance in a population than for predicting what a single individual will do in a specific circumstance. Social sciences don't have the methodological controls to put people in the equivalent of a weightless vacuum chamber to study psychological phenomena in the absence of other factors. Instead, they measure as many of the relevant factors as possible, assign randomly when possible, and isolate the distinct effects statistically at first. Those statistically derived ancillary effects are then modeled in subsequent hypotheses to see if they too can be accurately predicted.

    In the end, social scientists typically report confidence intervals for the effects of different phenomena, such that the measurement uncertainty is factored into the interpretation of results (something not often seen in chemistry and physics). It's a bit like estimating individual vectors in a complex environment that involves numerous interaction effects (of multiple orders). Social sciences have made admirable headway in isolating many of those vectors and describing how many interact, but the sheer number and variability of vectors between individuals and circumstances makes perfect prediction of individual actions quite difficult. So, social scientists explain variance of phenomena (i.e., the range of resultant vectors), not entire phenomena (i.e., 100% prediction of resultant vectors). Even so, the method is clearly scientific, and good social science researchers are very mindful about the need for mutli-method replication and appropriately cautious interpretation of data, given whatever methodological limits they encountered... as should be the case with any scientist (though I've found that few physicists are comfortable with that sort of humility and caution; perhaps from too much ego stroking).

    As for examples, I should have also listed the extensive--and extremely useful--findings (thanks to scientific methods) describing, predicting, and explaining the effects of control and predictability on affective, cognitive, and behavioral stress reactions. Those findings (and associated predictions) are incredibly consistent and robust.

    Gerhard Adam
    It also seems to me that perhaps your impressions of social sciences are based more on pop consumption than on a close familiarity with social science research journals. Many people's idea of social science is based on crap published in "US Weekly" or "People", or derived from film and television caricatures: the Freud-based psycho-babbling therapeutic navel gazers with pipes, sweaters, and couches--folks whose notion of research is "case studies", introspection, and dream interpretation. Gag. That's not social science any more than Lamarck is a modern biologist.
    I completely understand what you're saying, but let me get right to the point.  If you can find anyone from the general public that knows who Lamarck is [and what his theories were], then I'll concede the distinction you're trying to make.

    My point is that the public is being fed all the bad science right along with whatever might be good and absolutely no distinction or "cry of alarm" is going up from the ranks.  When physicists announced faster than light neutrinos, the whole internet was buzzing about alternative ideas as well as a large segment indicating that they thought it was nonsense.  In other words, there was a large vocal contingent warning about crackpots.  Unfortunately similar claims are routinely made by the social sciences within popular magazines and yet there is little controversy raised.  Any that is is often dismissed as matters of interpretation.  This leads directly to the public's perception that science is frequently a matter of opinion.

    When economists are little more than cheerleaders for corporations or government policies, then whatever "scientific" work may be taking place is lost.  When psychologists are out promoting their latest voodoo techniques of "recovered memories", then legitimate scientific work is lost.  When sociologists clearly are clueless regarding the impact and methods for dealing with abused children and the foster care system, then legitimate science is lost.

    These are the realities of these "social sciences" because they are poorly managed and yet try to utilize the aura of "scientific credibility" in order to create public policy.  As a result, I would rather see them publicly called to task as being unscientific until such time as the methodologies become better and more rigorous, than to grant them the free pass to generate such societal impacts as they routinely do despite being unqualified to do so.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Lamarck may have been more right than wrong, that's what epigenetics tells us.

    So perhaps Freud will make a comeback.  He is the most famous psychologist in history, after all.  He is their Newton, their Darwin.

    If Lamarck turns out to be right, it will have been for the wrong reasons, and it still would not meet the modern criteria for science. Once again, I think it is the methods that are relevant here (in awarding the "science" label), not the outcomes. After all, I could drink a 5th of whiskey and blurt out some new theory about the basis of cell differentiation, but neither my rightness nor wrongness would make it science. (Could be worth a try, though.)

    Gerhard Adam
    After all, I could drink a 5th of whiskey and blurt out some new theory about the basis of cell differentiation, but neither my rightness nor wrongness would make it science.
    If you could drink a fifth of whiskey and blurt out anything coherent ... you're right.  It wouldn't be science, it would be a miracle.  At that basis alone, you would have instant credibility.
    Mundus vult decipi
    So perhaps Freud will make a comeback. He is the most famous psychologist in history, after all. He is their Newton, their Darwin.

    I can't tell if you're joking or not, but just in case you're serious, Freud has little-to-nothing to do with the science of psychology. For starters, he obviously wasn't a psychologist, and the methods of psychology had already been outlined by scientists that preceded him - Helmholtz, Wundt, James, Pavlov, Watson, etc, who developed objective ways to measure and study behavior and various aspects of psychophysics.

    Freud rejected the principles of psychology, and science of course, and instead went on to form his own field of psychoanalysis. This field was never really popular with psychologists, and Freud is rarely even mentioned in most modern day psychology classes because he was so irrelevant. His only real contribution was the formalisation of psychotherapy, but a lot of psychologists aren't interested in mental illness, or even humans and society, so there's not much point in mentioning him.

    In other words, Freud obviously is not comparable to physic's Newton or biology's Darwin. A better example would be either Wilhelm Wundt or B.F.Skinner - both of which were clearly scientists practicing scientific methods. The idea that psychology is focused on surveys and descriptions, with no universal laws and underpinning theories, (as mentioned above) would have been a ridiculous notion 100 years ago to Wundt and Skinner, and these days it's not a comment that deserves to be written on a blogsite dedicated to science.

    Gerhard, I agree with everything you just wrote.

    I would add one caveat: I get that mad any time ANY scientist makes a bogus claim and soils the "science" label. I don't differentiate between the arbitrary fields. Bad science is bad science, and it makes all of us look bad. I'll concede, of course, that it's easier for me to criticize the bad science that falls within my areas of expertise, but I can recognize errors in the method across many disciplines.

    Again, my hope is that we can address this issue from both sides: information producers and information consumers. There will always be mountebanks looking to trade on the prestige of "science", so I think we have a better chance of educating the information consumers. Let's hope.

    If we can get to a point where most people in this country could have the discussion you and I just had, I'd be more than satisfied. I don't think the minutia over which we might disagree are the source of any appreciable problems in the world--and, in any case, the more we discuss, the more it seems we agree.

     I would have thought a more obvious target for blame is a combination of religion, corporate influence, biased media (e.g. Faux News), and all the motivated reasoning that goes along with these. But at this point I, too, am in danger of trying to explain something which may not need explaining. Give some evidence of the malaise.
    I obviously can't speak for your country but in the US it isn't religion and Fox News and corporations leading the anti-science charge, it is advocates (okay, they are another kind of corporation) and a fundamental anti-science mentality brought on by just the relativism you introduce here. It isn't Fox News viewers who are anti-vaccine, the vaccination rate in states that are heavily left wing are shockingly high while in states with more right wing voters, vaccines are universal. Ditto with anti-food-science groups, anti-energy and a whole lot more.  If you think the only anti-science positions are evolution and global warming, it just tells us you how you vote.

    Some of the resentment from psychology seems to be vanity - and you show it by resenting that the article is US-centric.  Both the psychologist and the biologist are in the US and the newspaper is in the US, none of them can speak to how psychology is regarded in France or anywhere else. 

    Finally, you say canceling funding will not help.  I can't find anyone who suggested psychology not be funded.  The debate is whether or not social sciences should be funded by the National Science Foundation and if funding were cut for social sciences, it most surely would be a solution - there are a dozen other funding agencies, including education and foreign affairs, which can and do fund the social sciences. Letting the NSF just fund science means (no more 'studies' of Everquest II or whether or not Facebook friends are friends in real life) that taxpayer money is spent wisely.  Just for clarity, the NSF should also stop funding energy, since the Department of Energy spends 10s of billions of dollars annually there.
    Gerhard Adam
    I think your opening statement introduces an interesting problem that is much harder to interpret than these simple surveys indicate.  Here's one for the U.S. and it fundamentally agrees with your own assessment in the U.K.

    However, my problem with the surveys goes back to a different issue I have regarding the definitions of science and what is "anti-science".  In this way we can have people that may be rabidly "anti-science" while still claiming to support science.  The problem being simply that they don't think they're being anti-science. 

    In fact, if you examine most of the issues surrounding climate change, anti-vaccines, GMO foods, etc. you'll find people that are attempting to provide all manner of "scientific" links to support their position.  So, these people aren't being arbitrarily "anti-scientific".  Essentially, they've got a particular bias or rationale, and they find evidence to support it.  Quite frequently this involves exactly the same credentialed individuals that the opposing view has.

    This ultimately accelerates into arguments about credentials and qualifications. 

    As a result, this draws me to my own conclusion in that much of the controversy isn't between those that support science and those that don't.  Rather it is about the availability of data, interpretation of data, and the consensus supported by the data.  It is those elements that need to make their way into the public domain.  While the public may be better informed, they aren't necessarily more scientifically/technically literate, so having publications behind pay walls, and having an unreliable intermediary like journalists, simply complicates the issue.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It's also about funding. I'm an undergraduate Psychology Major, and we discussed this in one of my classes (what's the importance of regarding Psychology as a science?). Most of my peers agreed that it doesn't really matter, but the professor made a good point: Psychology departments grouped within the sciences tend to be much more well-funded.

    That's interesting.  Do you go to a newer university? In established universities the social sciences are in the humanities buildings. Like I say in the article, this was no issue 25 years ago and the NSF can bear part of the blame.  40 years ago they started funding everything, no idea why, other than government groups do that to increase power, so now arguments about no longer funding political science or any social field is met with 'but you have funded it for decades'.

    Now I'm curious to see how much work it would be to determine funding differences between schools where psychology is in humanities buildings versus in the science buildings.
    Perhaps the location has more to do with the method of inquiry in use when the location was assigned.

    The modern definition of scientific inquiry is largely a function of work in the 1950s and 1960s--ironically, by philosophers (in humanities departments), such as Popper and Kuhn. Prior to that, the notion of science had as much to do with attire (lab coats) and equipment (beakers) as with epistemology. Moreover, improved technologies (e.g., MRI, statistical computing) have enabled many researchers to investigate hypotheses that were previously out of reach. Psychologists who might have largely been relegated to introspection, inference, and strained quasi-experimental methods in the early part of the 20th century now have much-improved tools available for measurement and analyses. That technological shift might also account for the shift you've asserted.

    Just because a particular field poses methodological challenges does not mean that the field is unscientific. In many ways, those fields seem to me more challenging than ones in which conditions are easily randomly assigned. (Incidentally, how many people here are arguing that astronomy and astrophysics aren't sciences due to those fields' limited capacity for random assignment and manipulation?)

    " In established universities the social sciences are in the humanities buildings."

    Perhaps in your university, but not in any of the universities in which I've taught. Social Science departments are either in their own building, or in 'social science' buildings. I don't have the time to track it down, but I'd be willing to wager that you would not find the social science departments in "humanities" buildings in the vast majority of AAU campuses.

    David Taylor, MD, PhD

    The gov funding agencies started funding pseudoscience because of democratization and politicization of the science enterprise.

    A Biologist And A Psychologist Square Off Over The Definition Of Science

    A good one. It's like "A deaf man and a mute one argue about the best way to sing".
    Science is a method-it does not depend on the subject matter.

    Gerhard Adam
    Of course it depends on the subject matter.  No matter how "scientifically" you wish to investigate parapsychology, it isn't a science.  Similarly with UFO's, or the Loch Ness monster, etc.

    No matter how scientific the approach is, the subject matter itself hasn't been established as being scientific.  In short, the subject matter itself must be capable of measurement, repetition, verification, and experimentation.  These specific elements don't necessarily have to occur at every turn, but the purpose is to provide predictability, which is the beginning of something we can consider a theory.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Nonsense. Any subject matter can be subjected to the scientific method provided that the process of inquiry tests falsifiable hypotheses with empirical evidence. Those are the two criteria. That's it. There's no need for some ex ante appeal to a board of white-smocked lab jockeys to establish the subject matter as being scientific (to paraphrase). The subject matter is fit for scientific inquiry the moment that a hypothesis is posed that is falsifiable with empirical evidence.

    All research suffers to some degree from limited methodological controls (and the associated threats to validity). Some areas of inquiry are more susceptible than others--resulting in a greater need for cautious interpretation and multi-method replication--but that hardly disqualifies them from consideration for scientific inquiry.

    Gerhard Adam
    That's not what you said though.

    Your comment was whether it could be considered science, and the answer is no.  A subject can be subject to scientific inquiry and the scientific method, but until it passes that control, it isn't science and can't be considered science.

    Mundus vult decipi
    You seem to be one of many people who thinks "science" refers to subjects. I've tried to explain in my other posts why that view is mistaken.

    Your version of science makes it a farce.

    Only for people incapable of assessing methodological rigor. Are you raising your hand?

    For example, neuropsychologists study the biological underpinnings of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral phenomena. Perhaps you think their work doesn't count as "science" (a term you employ as a categorical blunt object). If their methods were to poke and shock randomly in the brain, looking for correlated phenomena, that would not by itself constitute science... even if they were to wear white lab coats and use things like microscopes and MRIs. However, if they use those tools to gather empirical evidence in an attempt to falsify (not prove or support) falsifiable hypotheses, then they would be conducting science. The specific nature of their methods would then indicate the quality of the research.

    I'm sorry if that notion confuses and scares you. However, you present a caricature of my point if you merely continue to claim that "crackpots exist". Yes, they do... and that has nothing to do with my point, nor does the definition I've offered further their cause. Of course, you may continue to pretend otherwise if it soothes you.

    It's a dire sign of the desperate need for better science education in the U.S. when people seem ignorant of the nature of science.

    Science is an epistemologically derived method, not a content area. It can be pointed at any area of inquiry, as long as the process meets the basic requirements of scientific inquiry--i.e., testing falsifiable hypotheses with empirical data (Popper). The outcomes of those inquiries can be prioritized as progressing from description, to prediction, to explanation, but the nature of science remains independent from the arbitrary content areas of the research questions. Those who confuse science with its tools or targets have been poorly educated and place arbitrary limits on their own understanding of the method and its underlying epistemology. (E.g., a twit who asserts that quantification is epistemologically necessitated, when the underlying need is for objectivity, which might have other forms. Or, a ninny who thinks perfect prediction is required to substantiate a theory rather than a significant portion of explained variance.)

    Gerhard Adam
    So we wrap up our ignorance in appeals to authority, while making the ever popular claim that Popper rules.

    It's precisely why psychology, sociology, and economics aren't science and never will be.  I can see exactly where the educational lack is occurring.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Indeed, perhaps in someone who thinks a reference to a body of work is merely an appeal to authority. I hope someday you'll be able to see the difference.

    You are an exemplar of those ignorant of the nature of science.

    What do you mean by 'science education'? Science education for persons with an IQ below about 115 is a complete waste of time and attempting to make scientists out of persons with an IQ below about 135 is counterproductive.

    I disagree. I don't think the efficacy of education--scientific or otherwise--is binary. I think a decent scientific education can help all sorts of people be more critical consumers of information, by enabling them to assess evidential quality and methodological rigor. A scientific mindset isn't used only in conducting research, but also in evaluating research and making decisions. For example, a scientific education can be used by a mother trying to decide how much weight to give to research on vaccination side-effects, a farmer deciding what to believe about pesticides or global warming, etc.

    It would indeed be sad if I were the exemplar you accuse me of being, especially after having been a professor of scientific methods and the philosophy of science.

    By the way, those IQ scores you suggest we use as cut-offs for science education eligibility were concocted and are still measured by psychologists.

    Popper is missing how scientists come up with relevant hypothesis to test. I think the subject must be to describe/explain reality (Nature in broad sense) to be science. For example if the matter is elves or other fantasy things they must look at how it sprung from humans minds to get a connection to reality.

    I don't think that's true. I'm pretty sure Popper and Kuhn had an extensive exchange in which Popper argued specifically against the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which is what you seem to be describing.

    we love the scientific method ;-)

    An interesting article, Hank.

    What you call it (science or not science) isn't that interesting in itself, but when it will have consequences in terms of competing for resources then it matters a lot.

    I'm used to distinguish between (serious) fields by using the term exact sciences for those fields that meet the requirements of being science. The wishy-washy fields are then excluded. ;-)

    As a representative of the exact sciences I am used to either not even listen to some of the too subjective studies, or just apply a huge uncertainty perspective. Even if you know it is not science but merely intelligent speculations, the knowledge found/produced can be both interesting and useful. But not science.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    From the conclusion of a very thorough essay by Paul Lutus arguing that neither psychology nor psychiatry are sciences:

    When psychologists perform research, some of the results pass muster as legitimate science, but unless those results address and potentially falsify the core theories of psychology, the research cannot confer a scientific status to psychology itself. To summarize, for criterion (A) to be satisfied, psychology must have a theoretical core of testable, falsifiable theories, and ongoing research must address and potentially falsify those theories. 

    Just so you know, Lutus is to psychology as Kent Hovind is to biology or Deepak Chopra is to physics. He's not exactly someone you want to cite as supporting your position.

    He constantly misrepresents the field, quotemines professionals in the field, and generally doesn't know what he's talking about. His paper is used in many psychology courses, as he mentions in his opening paragraph, but only as an example of some of the wild misconceptions of the field which are held by laymen. To demonstrate how little he knows of the field, just look at how he attempts to deal with the scientific nature of psychology, yet spends his time discussing clinical psychology - this is like attempting to attacking physics, and focusing your essay on engineers. He then claims that psychology is to be blamed for things like 'repressed memories' and 'facilitated communication', despite the fact that neither of which have ever been proposed or supported by psychologists, and the only role psychology played in either idea was to reject it (through the use of science).

    The idea that psychology doesn't make testable and falsifiable theories is easily disproved by looking at any psychology journal.

    Gerhard Adam
    Good, then you should have no problem providing such links.  I'm personally getting tired of the perpetual claims that psychology is testable and falsifiable and  yet every journal and magazine comes up with ever more preposterous claims that are unsubstantiated.

    Instead of alluding to them, provide the links to demonstrate this.  Despite everything the public gets wrong, a field doesn't develop a reputation as psychology has because it is rigorous.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Good, then you should have no problem providing such links.

    The problem is that every single article in practically every psychology journal presents testable and falsifiable claims, so there are literally so many examples to choose from that it would just be easier if people would flick through themselves. My favourite, and freely accessible, is the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior ( - if anyone could find a single paper in there that doesn't present testable and falsifiable claims, then I'd be very surprised.

    But if you want specific examples, I'll just pick a few of the core theories from various areas:

    - Rescorla-Wagner model ( this is the equation that, to put it simply, allows us to predict what factors result in a stimulus acquiring associative power.

    - Weber-Fechner law ( this is the equation which describes how the just-noticeable difference is proportional to the magnitude of the stimulus.

    - Law of effect/Generalised Matching Law ( The GML is the quantification of the law of effect which essentially states that behaviors which are followed by a reinforcer will increase in frequency. The equation explicates the proportional relationship between behavior and reinforcement, and includes weighting variables to account for other relevant factors.

    - Hyperbolic discounting ( as a derivative of the matching law, we find that when we account for the variables of 'delay' and 'magnitude', we get a hyperbolic decay in self-control experiments. This allows us to quantify and predict when a phenomenon called 'preference reversal' will occur in any given subject.

    I can go on if you like, but these are some well-known theories and laws which make explicit and clear predictions, which could easily be proved wrong if their predictions do not hold up in a given situation.

    I'm personally getting tired of the perpetual claims that psychology is testable and falsifiable and yet every journal and magazine comes up with ever more preposterous claims that are unsubstantiated.

    I'm not sure why you'd include "magazines" there, as the descriptions of science in magazines is traditionally incredibly poor, and this seems to go doubly so for psychology where everybody seems to believe they're a psychologist and can use the label to promote whatever new age crap they believe in. If you're referencing something like "Psychology Today" there, then be aware that most psychologists view that as the equivalent of reading some generic gossip magazine.

    Despite everything the public gets wrong, a field doesn't develop a reputation as psychology has because it is rigorous.

    It's not a good idea to try to determine the rigorousness of a field based on public opinion. Psychology has a clear PR problem, in that the vast majority of people seem to believe that Freud is a relevant figure in the field (or even was at some point), and most seem surprised when psychologists point out that the field has no particular focus or interest in humans.

    And, of course, to determine the rigorousness of a science based on public opinion would lead us to believe that the science behind evolution and climate change is questionable..

    Dear Professor Hank Campbell:

    “Because I will to know myself
    I see you as God’s Son and my brother”

    (Direct Quote from: “The Course in Miracles”*)

    Now Hank, ‘Errors in thinking’ are no more a part of you than they are a part of me; they exist ‘outside’ of us and that’s because -- after “errors in thought’ have been corrected or “undone” they no longer exist; and thus without existence, their ‘previous existence’ must have been illusory: “Illusions are Deceptions”*:

    So I do not seek to ridicule you or intimidate you or “make you guilty” for what I have to say, nor do I seek to punish you for what you believe, for I am a paciFIST, I only seek understanding or Science, I am your brother, and God’s ONE SUN, I seek only to prolong intercourse, the nude interpretation of Plato’s Dialogue’s.

    Now, as I mentioned, I seek not to punish you because of what you think, nor have you punish me, butt merely to have us all learn and grow so that we can move on past this dam of energy & bring back: ‘The Flow”.

    The Phrase: Anti-Science: IS: an OXY-MORON (as defined by William F. Buckley, a contradiction, like Military Intelligence).

    Now, before I definitively define: Anti-Science: as an OXY-MORON, I need some background, I supply this below:

    My father practiced pediatrics for forty-plus years, and thus can speak to having observed “Scientifically through observation” “childhood development”, he was gainfully employed in pediatric practice from 1951 to the mid 1990’s, as well, he has been assisted by my mother, to appreciate the psychological development of children, who still at 83, is a primary-grade-substitute-school-teacher.

    In a recent email my WiSE-FATHER mentioned that the “moronic-STAGE” of development is between the physiological ages of seven and twelve – pre-teen, in other words, when an “adult” utilizes an “oxy-moron” in debate, their informing the Whole Wide World Web Community, that their pre-operational or pre-mature, since their not acting their Physiological AGE, butt are ‘thinking from childhood tragedy or tragedies!

    Now, since this website seeks to inform others, your guidance will be erroneous when outside of your field, which I understand is: Psychology: thus, I’m not saying that your not an expert in your box, butt, that you can’t think “Wholistically” - Scientifically - about problems: outside of your ‘box’: which means, you can teach what you know, butt you can’t generalize what you know to problems you don’t already know outside of your box, your pre-operational or pre-mature.

    This is unfortunate, because it indicates that you have no peers or friends who exceed your psychological development, and can thus offer you correction before offering what you have to the pubic consciousness, which means by implication, the entire contributing staff at Science 2.0 is implicated in this “thinking error” that Anti-Science is an OXY-MORON, and no one knew!

    Before I explain the oxy-moron: ‘Anti-Science’: I need to explain by comparison another one, I have chosen the common oxy-moron, as defined by William F. Buckley, A Conservative Thinker, as you present your self, The William F. Buckley oxy-moron: IS: ‘Military Intelligence’.

    Now, in my own life, I understand that if you want to ‘understand’, as I do you, the hidden or esoteric personality of a moron, and make the claim the writer is acting moronically, or childishly, you need to reverse, twice over the oxymoron: since oxy-morons are corruptions in thoughts, or perversions, and thus need to be inverted back to the Truth.

    OK, Oxy-Moron: ‘Military Intelligence’.

    First, the word “military” becomes “civilian”.

    And the word “intelligence” becomes “incompetence”.

    Thus, the oxymoron: ‘Military Intelligence’: becomes: “Civilian Incompetence”.

    Now, to bring the oxymoron to Knowledge or Truth requires one more alteration, that: IS: to bring it back once again, and the oxymoron : “Civilian Incompetence” : becomes : “Government Competence”, OR : Government is sufficient or competent without the War Department, when acting Diplomatically with Reason, Thus, we are close LOGICALLY to the END OF WAR!

    Now remember, the word: ‘Competence’ means ‘Sufficient’ (Merriam-Webster definition below):

    Main Entry: competence
    1 obsolete: a sufficient supply: SUFFICIENCY
    2 a: property or means sufficient for the necessities and conveniences of life: sufficiency without excess

    Citation format for this entry: "competence." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. (17 Jul. 2012).

    OK - Now, the title of your book: Hank Campbell: ‘Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left’; defies logic.

    Let Me Explain: to suggest an orientation: A Left, and thus, A Right, and A Center, Leaves out: The Radical; Why choose directions? Left, Right, & Center. Why not choose Reality based upon intent? Conservative, Liberal, & Radical.

    The current social divide between: Conservative, Liberal, & Radical, involves the issue of punishment: Conservatives are happy to use the belt, the whip, and the chain, or the military, Liberals seek to resolve life through diplomacy or dialogue, and Radicals seek to replace punishment, or dialogue with love OR Understanding, by ‘walking in another’s shoes’ MEANINGFULLY!

    In order to understand: A Political Position, we need to bring the issue to the family, and what that brings forth is the Question: “Is Spanking an appropriate response to deal with uncivil behavior?”

    Now, The Conservative says, “Yes, spanking is useful; it changes behavior appropriately”.

    The Liberal position is, “No, spanking is not useful; reason, logic, dialogue are best.”

    And the Radical says, “You have to get off your ass, and walk the shoes ‘meaningfully’ of those who disgust you.” So, by example let’s take 9/11.

    “The attacks of September 11, 2001 in the northeast United States were carried out by 19 hijackers affiliated with al-Qaeda. The hijackers were organized into four teams, each led by a pilot-trained hijacker with four "muscle hijackers", who were trained to help subdue the pilots, passengers, and crew. 15 of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.”

    The Conservative approach is “Collective Punishment”: Everyone in Saudi Arabia must die! Why Saudi Arabia, Well with, “15 of the 19 hijackers citizens from Saudi Arabia,” This was OBVIOUSLY a Saudi Arabian operation utilizing “Military Intelligence” to succeed.

    The Liberal Approach brings forth Diplomacy and initiates the STATE Department of the United States to communicate to the STATE Department of Saudi Arabia asking the Question, “What the FXCK! You’ve got an operation to destroy the symbols of the United States and YOU GUYS HAD NO FXCKING IDEA -- Who’s in Charger HERE! Who’s Responsible for this Fxck UP?”

    The Radical Approach is offered by JESUS, who along with some of the 535 Morons or members of our congress, go to Saudi Arabia to visit the families of those 15 Saudi Arabian Citizens and learn what in their life motivated them to do what they did – Now I speculate, that what would be learned, is that at around age five, their distant-uncle while wearing a lapel with the symbol of the United States, our FaG or FLAG, sodomized these guys, and as these children grew into adults, they denied their Uncle was involved and only remembered the Symbol of the United States, ‘Old Glory’ and thus concluded, that in order to undo the sadistic intent and crime of their distant-uncle, they were going to destroy the Symbols of the United States, The Twin Towers, and thus gain their freedom back.

    Now, our president speculated that it was because of “our Freedoms”.

    Now, what specific freedom was never, as far as I know, determined, yet I can infer by what Americans do with their “FREE TIME”, and as best as I have heard, most of the Internet is “streaming pornography” so, what the Saudi Arabian team hates us for, is that we’re free to watch streaming porn.

    Now, I’m not condemning pornography nor condoning it – I’m simply offering the data.

    OK : Anti-Science IS: An: OXY-MORON!

    Since Science studies life, I can comfortably replace the word-term: ‘Science’ with the word: ‘Life’: and the OXY-MORON: Anti-Science: becomes: ‘ANTI-LIFE’.

    OK<1st Transformation: ‘Anti-Life’: becomes: ‘Pro-Death’: a moniker of both Monsanto’s ‘Ready Round Up’ and the Military approach to life, since both the military and Monsanto are in the business of death and not health.

    And I say this because, in my life, when I am ill, I seek to improve my immune system, yet if I were to listen and follow the approach of a Genetic-Engineering, I would radically alter the DNA in each of my cells to tolerate battery acid, that way, I could live a long, healthy and productive life, increasing daily my tolerance for battery-acid, since me cells would have genetically changed to accept battery-acid and the bug in my system wouldn’t have a chance.

    Now, The 2nd Transformation of: ‘Pro-Death’: becomes: ‘The Anti-Christ’: the perfect description of Genetic Engineers, hobgoblins of the Devil, and their practice, Genetic Engineering: “The Black Arts from Hell”:.

    I won’t comment any longer on Science2.0: My God Given Assignment is over. Long Live LIFE! Bye for GOOD and GOD!! !!

    I won’t comment any longer on Science2.0: My God Given Assignment is over. Long Live LIFE! Bye for GOOD and GOD!! !!
    I didn't realize you had commented yet. This seems to be copy and pasted gibberish one knows what. 
    I quit reading after he wrote "Professor Hank Campbell."

    Maybe he meant it in the nickname way.  Wasn't that a James Bond villain?
    "I certainly agree that from an applied sense, like marketing, it can tell us that within a range of error, X people will buy more of something if you put it in the center of a display. But does that mean the display people in a supermarket are scientists?"

    No, of course not, in the same way that a GP isn't a scientist, but the biology that informs the GP is science.

    I wish I had more time available to contribute to this discussion.