This course exceeded my expectations. The course covered several interesting themes associated with the revolution in science in the 17th century. There was source material setting out some of the ...
This course exceeded my expectations. The course covered several interesting themes associated with the revolution in science in the 17th century. There was source material setting out some of the opposing views and learners were also encouraged to do their own research. There were informative videos and interactive exercises to encourage discussi High Quality on and check understanding. I felt it was at a good level not too demanding but certainly it is a course where the more you put in the more you get out of it. I learned a lot.
This course is extremely well-planned and presented. It is much more than a dry history of science, as it takes you into the minds of the pioneers of Enlightenment science. ...
This course is extremely well-planned and presented. It is much more than a dry history of science, as it takes you into the minds of the pioneers of Enlightenment science. You can see how their understanding progressed, as they relentlessly purged mysteries and dogma from the growing knowledge base of our world, setting it on a solid foundation.
This has been my best course on Future Learn to date. This was a field that I never considered learning till I ventured on this course. It has more rewarding ...
This has been my best course on Future Learn to date. This was a field that I never considered learning till I ventured on this course. It has more rewarding as we had to think hard before answering the quiz questions. Comments from other participants on the course were very much appreciated.
You have been trying to formulate ways of distinguishing between scientific disciplines, such as astronomy, and pseudoscience such as astrology. One difference between the two that you might have noted, is that science typically makes (i) concrete predictions that (ii) can either succeed or fail, whereas pseudosciences typically do not. To see this, consider again the caes of astronomy and astrology.
Astronomy will make concrete predictions about, a future solar eclipse. For instance, astronomers may predict that there will be a solar eclipse on a certain date and time. And clearly, that sort of prediction is testable: we can see whether a solar eclipse does indeed take place on that date and time. If it does, the prediction will have been successful. If it does not, the prediction will have failed.
Zodiac woodcut from the sixteenth century. Via Wikimedia Commons
Matters are different, however, when an astrologer comes up with a horoscope that tells you that ‘something special will happen to you in the next few weeks, even though it might go unnoticed to you and your environment’. The prediction here is vague (‘something special’ is vague, and ‘the next few weeks’ is not very specific either). Also, even though this prediction might succeed (if something special does indeed happen to you in the next few weeks), it is hard to see how it might fail. After all, if you find that something special has indeed happened to you, it will have succeeded. But if you don’t notice anything special, it won’t have failed either. After all, it says that the special event that it predicts ‘might go unnoticed to you and your environment’. The way in which the prediction is formulated, then, immunises it against critique.
In the words of the Austrian philosopher of science, Karl Popper (1902-1994), it cannot be ‘falsified’, or shown to be wrong. According to Popper, it was a hallmark of scientific claims that they can, in principle, be falsified. Pseudoscientific claims, like the claims made in horoscopes, often cannot.
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