'Fringe Science'—A Tautology, Not Pariah

How to Cite

Houran, J., & Bauer, H. (2022). ’Fringe Science’—A Tautology, Not Pariah. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 36(2), 207-217. https://doi.org/10.31275/20222527


This joint Editorial is uncustomary but motivated by the authors’ shared concern about the problem of scientism, i.e., the excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge or techniques (Bauer, 2014; Gasparatou, 2017; Pigliucci, 2018) or what some authors have described as the arrogance of scientific authority (Butler, 2015). On this issue, Frank (2021) noted that

The most important reason [scientism] is a mistake is because it is confused about what it’s defending. Without doubt, science is unique, powerful, and wonderful. It should be celebrated, and it needs to be protected. Scientism, on the other hand, is just metaphysics, and there are lots and lots of metaphysical beliefs. (para. 7)

We further anticipate that scientism involves rigidity about what research topics are branded ‘acceptable’ vs. ‘heretical.’ The implication here being that some issues are offensive to orthodox sensibilities because they presumably (a) have no value in generating new scientific knowledge, or (b) undermine confidence in the evidence for current scientific thought.

To clarify, orthodoxy is simply the majority view of present-day professional experts or what scientific institutions assert; it is not guaranteed to be faithful to Nature’s reality. In criticizing anything contrary to mainstream thinking, the belief is implicitly conveyed that the currently held majority view in science is always to be trusted and used as the basis for important actions. Explicitly, of course, even the most fervent science groupies will admit that scientific process is not infallible. But as everything unorthodox is denigrated and faulted, it is subliminally asserted that the reigning scientific views can always be trusted; thus, a conviction of certainty is expressed even when actual certainty is lacking (Bauer, 2014) and with apparently an overt deniability that this is being done deliberately.   

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