Paul Smith | What Makes “Scientific” Evidence Scientific?

Demarcating between science and pseudoscience often appeals to what is broadly called “scientific evidence.” Presumably, true science is justified by evidence that scientists widely agree counts as “scientific.” Pseudoscience, on the other hand, allegedly fails to meet those standards. “That particular discipline is clearly pseudoscience,” we might hear in objection to some claim outside the consensus view of science. “It doesn’t meet the standards of scientific evidence.” But this demarcation is notoriously hard to draw. Karl Popper famously considered both astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis to be pseudosciences, because both failed his falsifiability standard. Arguments can be made that certain “pseudosciences” meet or exceed the same expectations made of other, more accepted science. The fact that there seems no clear specification of what counts as scientific evidence fuels the ambiguity. When research is rejected as not producing evidence that is sufficiently “scientific,” we can challenge that judgment with questions. “What, then, constitutes scientific evidence?”, we might ask. Or, “How should we define scientific evidence?” A search of the literature turns up few hard and fast criteria. This presentation will attempt to fill the gap by offering seven qualities which could reasonably be expected of a body of evidence to consider it “scientific,” along with discussion as to why these should count as defining characteristics of scientific evidence and how they may apply to examples of parapsychology evidence.

Bio: Paul H. Smith, Ph.D. (Major, US Army, ret), is an alumnus of seven years with the Department of Defense’s Star Gate remote viewing (RV) program. A Desert Storm veteran, he retired from the Army in 1996 and is an author, a frequent conference speaker and interview guest. President of Remote Viewing Instructional Services (a commercial RV training company), he is also a founding director and past president of the non-profit International Remote Viewing Association. His book “Reading the Enemy’s Mind” was a Readers Digest Book Bonus Feature and Editors Choice selection. He is also author of “The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing” (Intentional Press, 2015) and has co-produced two home study courses. His Ph.D. is from the University of Texas at Austin in philosophy, focusing on philosophy of mind, consciousness, philosophy of science and philosophy of parapsychology. He also has a BA from Brigham Young University and an MS from the National Defense University (both in Middle East studies).

Recorded at the Society for Scientific Exploration Conference in Broomfield, Colorado 2019.

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Published on November 22, 2019