Differences Between Science and Pseudoscience

Differences Between Science and Pseudoscience

A majority of people are very familiar with the word “science”. There is no doubt that science plays a crucial role in our life. However, it seems that not everyone can distinguish science correctly from non-science and pseudoscience. The following essay will present the differences between science, pseudoscience and non-science first, and then discuss three possible responses to the question that what we should do when there is a clash between scientific explanation and non-scientific explanation. The brief discussion related to the correct non-scientific explanation will present finally.

There are some differences between science, pseudoscience and non-science. The goal of science is to discover what there is in the world and explain why it is and how it is (Hammerton, 2010, p.1). Science is helpful to answer some of these questions by presenting what the cause and impacts of different actions (Hammerton, 2010, p. 3). One of the significant characters of science is the construction of theories. Scientists usually want to explain the results of observation and experiment in terms of general theory rather than simply recording the results (Okasha, 2002, p. 2). Physics, biology, geology and psychology are within the domain of science (Hammerton, 2010, p. 1). However, some questions would be better explained by philosophy rather than science, such as evaluative questions, non-empirical questions, normative questions and questions related to personal experiences (Hammerton, 2010, p. 2).

Pseudoscience refers to a theory that belongs to the domain of science, however, it is not scientifically testable. The philosopher Karl Popper thinks that the main differences between science and pseudoscience are whether the theory is scientifically testable. According to Popper, Marxism and Freudian psychology are in the domain of pseudoscience (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). Astrology is within the domain of pseudoscience as well.

Referring to non-science, without any doubt that non-science is very different from science. There are a plenty of examples about non-science, such as history, which is within the domain of arts (Okasha, 2002, p. 1). A moral theory, which tells us what is good and what is bad, is not regarded as a scientific theory due to the reason that morality does not belong to the domain of science (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). Another example of non-science could be the creation-science (Curd and Cover, 1998, p. 38).

As we have seen, science aims to discover what there is in the world and explain why it is and how it is. The scientific explanation sometimes clash with the non-scientific explanation, such as explanation of history or tradition or religion. What should we do when there is a clash between scientific explanation and non-scientific explanation? Which one should we favour? It is not easy to answer these questions and responses would depend on various cases. In general, there might be three possible responses.

First of all, it is obvious that a scientific explanation is preferred than a non-science explanation in some cases. In other words, scientific explanations are more convincing and stronger than explanation of religion, history and tradition sometimes. It could be done by observation directly. The cause of the rain would be a good example. Some people claim that our sacrifices to the Rain God generate the rain. This explanation of cause of the rain is obviously a non-scientific explanation and could be proven as an unconvincing explanation. For instance, we can cease the sacrifices and notice that there is still an existence of rain (Hammerton, 2010, p. 6).

Secondly, in some cases, it is required to consider which explanation fits better with the observed facts because sometimes it is difficult to find a predictive difference between scientific explanation and the non-scientific one. This is usually true when the event to be explained is a one-off historical event. Possible examples might be the creation of species that is described by biologists and the creation of the universe that is described in the Bible. It seems that the former example has scientific explanation and latter one has non-scientific explanation (ibid.).

Moreover, sometimes people may give a response that there is no reason to privilege scientific explanation over non-scientific explanation because they think science and non-science are equivalent in the relevant aspects. For example, some people argued that science is a matter of faith or a religion just like other religion. However, is science really a matter of faith? Is science really a religion?

It is clear that science is not a religion. However, the answer for first question is not that easy to answer. The word“faith”has two meanings. On the one hand, to believe something on the basis of faith that refers to the meaning of to believe something which is out of evidence. In other words, it means that to believe something which lack of evidence to prove its truth. On the other hand, to have faith in something refers to that to rely on or to trust. Some people have both kinds of faith in God. However, some religious people have faith in God only in the second sense. They do not believe in the first explanation of faith which is to believe on the basis of faith. The reason of this is that those people think there has a strong evidence of existence of God provided. In this case, science is not a matter of faith (Hammerton, 2010, p.5). According to science, scientists only believes something which has evidences provided and do not believe something which lack evidence. Therefore, scientists have the second kind of faith in science. In other words, the scientific explanation and non-science explanation (such as the explanation of faith) are equal only in the second sense of faith which is to have faith in something. Scientists present strong evidence that the way the world works has explained by science. For example, scientific theories play a significant role in offering evidence of our increased ability to predict and control things (ibid.). Consequently, it is not correct to claim that science is the same as a matter of faith and there is no reason to privilege scientific explanation over non-science explanation.

Are non-scientific explanations ever correct? In my opinion, the answer would be yes. Explanations of moral theory could be an example. As mentioned before, history and moral theory are a part of non-science. The moral theory is not scientifically generated and not scientifically testable. However, it does not mean that there has something wrong with the theory itself. The moral theory shows us what actions are right or wrong and what things are good or bad (Hammerton, 2010, p. 8). The explanation of moral theory helps us to distinguish right from wrong. Therefore, as far as I concerned, the explanation of moral theory would be correct. In other words, there should be some correct non-scientific explanations and not all non-scientific explanations are wrong.

In conclusion, there are differences between science, non-science and pseudoscience. In general, science is helpful to answer some of these questions by presenting what the cause and impacts of different actions. It is noticeable that main differences between science and pseudoscience are whether the theory can be test scientifically. It is clear that non-science is not within the domain of science. Examples of non-science could be history, moral theory and creation-science. From my point of view, there must be correct non-scientific explanations exist. People might have three main responses if a scientific explanation clashes with a non-scientific explanation. There is no accurate answer to say that we should exactly support scientific explanation or non-scientific explanation due to different cases. It is important that we should support each one of the explanation according to various cases, evaluating the evidence and forming our own belief.


Curd, M. and Cover, J.A. (Ed.) (1998) Philosophy of Science : the Central Issues, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, p. 38.

Hammerton, M. (2010) Lecture 9: Science, Pseudo-Science and Non-Science, the University of Sydney, p.1-8.

Okasha, S. (2002) Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, pp. 1-2.