When I consider the question of “what is science?” , I remember a poster depicting the steps of the Scientific Method that hung on the wall of my 6th grade Biology classroom.

It listed: Observe -> Research -> Hypothesis -> Experiment -> Analysis -> Conclusion. Without going into detail on each of these steps, the poster was actually crucial in forming my early and ongoing perceptions about science, a subject of accuracy and discipline. In our Monday lecture, we considered Karl Popper’s stance on the third step, Hypothesis, as he claims that a theory that cannot be refuted cannot, then, be valid.

Image result for scientific method poster

This declaration reminds me of a certain logical fallacy known as “Argument from Ignorance”. It occurs when someone makes a claim without providing any evidence to support it, and instead places the burden of providing evidence on anyone refuting that claim. This is a fallacy because the scientific method (as well as rational thought) would argue that nothing is true unless it can be tested and proven to be true. However if we assume that an unbacked claim is true unless we disprove it, then we would also, illogically, be allowed to say that any other claim that can possibly be made is true until proven otherwise. As an example, one could make the claim, without any evidence, that there is currently a teapot in orbit around Jupiter. Aside from the glaring impracticality of it, the biggest problem with this statement is that it cannot, technically, be disproven as there is no way to conjure up evidence that there is not a teapot somewhere–anywhere within a three dimensional space–around Jupiter. According to Popper, this “Jupiter-Teapot” argument is automatically discredited since it cannot be proven wrong. What defines science is the accumulation of every falsifiable hypothesis and theory necessarily without logical fallacies such as “Argument from Ignorance”. Restrictions on what constitutes as scientifically valid that are based in rationale are essential to keeping the scientific field free of absurd and unreasonable “litter” that can serve to muddy the facts to observers.

One real world and recent example of fallacious pseudoscience is the “anti vax” campaign that has been all too pervasive throughout our nation ever since a highly misleading and inciendary “study” was released in the 90’s which suggested a link between vaccines and other diseases, most notably autism. The doctor who performed this study was later found to have been paid by a law firm which had an interest in proving a link for one of their cases and had his medical license revoked. Even though the credibility of his study has been condemned by most scientists, and countless more valid studies have been conducted finding no link between vaccines and autism, misinformed parents all over the nation are still refusing to vaccinate their children and are thus contributing to potential outbreaks and spreading of preventable diseases. It is at this point that not understanding the difference between science and non-science actually poses a very real and palpable threat to our society, endangering the health of children and further generating skepticism of actual scientists. Furthermore, if we want to truly understand what science is, we need to realize that we cannot bend science to our beliefs and claim any science against us is wrong, but instead base our beliefs around what scientists tell us because science relies on peace and trust, not chaos and fear.