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Is there a good way to decide which ideas, theories and practices belong to science and which do not? The so-called demarcation problem is a central issue in the philosophy of science. It is an issue that is much more than an academic debate, as modern societies rely on science, in daily lives as well as in polical decision making: Which kind of evidence should we trust and which kind of research should we spend money on? Should we discard knowledge that does not fulfil the standards of science? Does a demarcation between scientific and non-scientific knowledge say anything about the truth of both kinds of knowledge?
This subject will provide an introduction to the philosophical debate of the demarcation problem, but also study the way science is demarcated in practice - both within science and in the wider public. We will do so by looking at various case studies, ranging from Darwinian evolution and string theory to acupuncture and climate change skepticism.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who have successfully completed the subject will:
- demonstrate a deep understanding of the difference between scientific and non-scientific knowledge;
- possess a good knowledge of central theories in philosophy and sociology of science;
- have developed an understanding of the role the demarcation problem has in modern society;
- be able to analyse and assess arguments made in the scholarly literature;
- create well reasoned arguments about the scientific status of a field of knowledge;
- have developed high level research skills, including the ability to extend their knowledge-base beyond subject materials using web-based research tools;
- have developed effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
- have developed critical reading skills.
Last updated: 20 February 2024