11 July 2008


The topic of prolonging youth, active longevity and rejuvenation of the body in the life sciences is one of the most relevant, but also the most speculative. In this field, perhaps, you can meet more outright charlatans and sincerely deluded "mad scientists" than in any other.

A lot has been written about the relationship between science and anti-science, about ways to distinguish a new, albeit controversial, scientific hypothesis from obvious obscurantism. We bring to your attention excerpts from the article by B.C. Stepin, academician, Director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences "Science and Pseudoscience" (Science # 1, 2000).

In the question of what is the essence and differences of pseudoscience from science, it is appropriate to distinguish two blocks of concepts that do not just coexist alongside science, but claim scientific status.

The first of these blocks is various esoteric and mystical teachings and practices of magicians, sorcerers, psychics. Today they are trying to interpret them as a kind of scientific knowledge and describe them in science-like terms. At the same time, two different approaches and classes of concepts are constantly being mixed, for example, the concepts of electromagnetic influence on living things (cells, organisms) and the concepts of biofield as a special field that cannot be reduced to fields known to science.

The origins of the second block of anti–scientific concepts are within science itself. Often, many scientists who are passionate about this or that idea claim to radically change the scientific picture of the world, without having sufficient grounds for that. Then an appeal to the authorities begins, an appeal through the media to public opinion, which begin to support this "discovery". There is a struggle for funds, redistribution of money. But many authors of pseudoscientific ideas can be sincerely mistaken, maniacally insisting on their pseudo-discoveries.

Pseudoscience can be attributed not only to cases when untested, experimentally unproven facts begin to be introduced into people's minds and pretend to change the scientific picture of the world. The well–known story of Lysenkoism, its struggle with genetics, is a fairly vivid example of anti-scientific theories. Of course, it does not follow from this that all the facts that Lysenko and his supporters tried to use in their constructions should also be discarded: if these are real facts, then they should be interpreted within the framework of scientific theories. Science is not guaranteed against mistakes and misconceptions. Therefore, a critical attitude to the results obtained, their justification, verification and rechecking are mandatory for scientific creativity.

All the great revolutions in science did not begin with the fact that someone claimed to have created a new science that turns everything from top to bottom and discards the old. When Einstein created his theory, he began by solving a real problem and very modestly titled the article "On the electrodynamics of moving bodies", which outlined the basics of the theory of relativity. Einstein entered science with new results that fit into the scientific tradition, although they broke a lot in the previous picture of the world. This is a very important criterion: if someone claims a new vision, discarding theories tested in science, believing that they are invalid, then most likely we are dealing with an anti–scientific concept.

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