Pseudoscience and Paranormal



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Q. What is a Theory?
Q. Can Science Prove Anything?
Q. What is Occam's Razor?
Q. What does Paranormal mean?
Q. What is Skeptic?


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Q. What is a Theory?

Ans. In scientific terms, a "fact" is an observation, such as "the sun rose today". This fact is explained by the "theory" that the earth is round and spins on its axis.

Many times, theories are so widely accepted that they are treated as fact. The "theory of gravity" and the "theory of evolution" are accepted as fact by virtually all scientists.

A theory that has not yet been tested is called a "hypothesis".

Some "theories" are untestable, and are therefore unscientific. You assert, for example, that you are the only person in existence, and that all reality is but a product of your imagination. This is the theory of solipsism. There is no way that anyone can prove that your theory is false. Therefore it is unscientific.

The solipsist theory may be true, but it falls into the realm of philosophy, not science.



Q. Can Science Prove Anything?

Ans. Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by "prove".

Suppose you have a theory that when you throw something into the air, it will fall back down. You test your theory by throwing many objects into the air, and they all fall down.

Have you proven your theory beyond doubt? No. The next object you throw might hover, or go off into orbit. But the theory is "proved" for most practical purposes.

Theories and facts (even everyday ones, not scientific ones), can be thought of on a scale of certainty. Your theory that things fall down is near the top. Down near the bottom is "the Earth is flat". Near the middle might be "I will live to be 80."

On this scale, no scientific theory can ever get all the way to the top (or the bottom), but reasonable people accept those that are near the top.



Q. What is Occam's Razor?

Ans. This is the scientific principle that says we should look for the easy explanations first.

If you have 2 theories that both explain the facts, take the simplest one. You won't always be right, but that's where the smart money is.

Example:

Your friend calls you and says he's in Miami. Moments later, he knocks on your door.

Theory 1: You're friend teleported from Miami.
Theory 2: You're friend was lieing about being in Miami.

Occam's razor says to select Theory 2. It doesn't require belief in an unproven mode of travel (teleportation).



Q. What does Paranormal mean?

Ans. "Paranormal" means anything that cannot be proved by science. "Paranormal phenomena" are things like UFO abductions, psychic healing, and mind reading. Most scientists are skeptical of the paranormal.



Q. What is Skeptic?

Ans. A skeptic is someone who doubts, someone who is hard to convince. A scientific skeptic is someone who withholds judgement until the facts are clear.

For example, most skeptics do not believe in mind reading, astrology, or that people get abducted by space aliens. These things have not been proven using the scientific method.

Skeptics say that skepticism is nothing but common sense.



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