NEWS:SCI: [Fwd: Physicists seek definition of "science"]

Keith Elis (
Thu, 30 Apr 1998 12:09:55 -0400

This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Content-Type: message/rfc822
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Disposition: inline

Return-Path: <owner-stcs-l@YORKU.CA>
Received: from ( [])
by (8.8.7-s-4/8.8.7/(NETCOM v1.01)) with ESMTP id FAA17816;
for <hagbard@IX.NETCOM.COM>; Thu, 30 Apr 1998 05:47:21 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from ( []) by (8.8.8/8.6.12) with ESMTP id IAA00539; Thu, 30 Apr 1998 08:45:36 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from YORKU.CA by YORKU.CA (LISTSERV-TCP/IP release 1.8c) with spool
id 2244893 for STCS-L@YORKU.CA; Thu, 30 Apr 1998 08:45:36 -0400
Received: from
[]) by (8.8.8/8.6.12) with ESMTP id
IAA04638 for <>; Thu, 30 Apr 1998 08:35:35
-0400 (EDT)
Received: from ( [])
by (8.8.7/8.6.11) with SMTP id IAA19691 for
<>; Thu, 30 Apr 1998 08:35:32 -0400 (EDT)
X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Version 1.4.4
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Message-ID: <>
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 08:35:32 -0400
Reply-To: "Science, Technology, Culture & Society discussion list"
Sender: "Science, Technology, Culture & Society discussion list"
From: "Ian Pitchford (by way of ai@YorkU.Ca Adrian Ivakhiv)"
Subject: Physicists seek defintion of "science"

Macilwain, C. (1998). Physicists seek definition of "science". Nature,
392 (30 April, 1998): 849.

[WASHINGTON] The governing council of the American Physical Society
(APS) has rejected the first draft of a statement defining science
for the public, which the society's public affairs panel has been
preparing for three years. According to an official familiar with the
discussion, some members were concerned by a proposed reference to
"other approaches" to understanding nature.
Others are said to have been worried about public misunderstanding
of the statement's references to "falsifiability". The authors of the
draft 200-word statement have been asked to confer with scientific
societies and other interested parties before coming back with a new
version later this year.
The case for such a statement has been recently confirmed by opinion
polls showing that public belief in forms of pseudoscience - such as
faith healing and astrology - is growing in the United States. But
the rejection of the draft, although not unusual for such a policy
statement, illustrates the difficulties that scientists face in
trying to draw a recognizable line between their own work and
The statement, entitled "What is Science?", defines science as "a
disciplined quest to understand nature in all its aspects" and
explains that it demands both "open and complete exchange of ideas
and data" and "an attitude of scepticism about its own tenets".
It stresses that scientific results must be capable of reproduction,
modification or falsification by independent observers. And it closes
by noting that "scientists value other, complementary approaches to
and methods of understanding nature", but that "if the alternatives
are to be called scientific, they must adhere to the principles
outlined above".
Following the drafts rejection by the council at a meeting last week
in Columbia, Ohio, the APS may now draw up two statements - one for
wide public dissemination and the other a more rigorous explanatory
statement for scientists themselves.
The society decided to produce the statement in response to the
concerns of key members that 'pseudoscience' is not only winning
increased public attention but may even be causing confusion among
science students. APS members have been active in criticizing this
trend not just in cases related to physics - such as the alleged
discovery of 'cold fusion' - but also in other fields, such as
alternative medicine.

Ian Pitchford - Email:
Ph.D. Student in Theoretical Psychopathology
Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
University of Sheffield, 16 Claremont Crescent
SHEFFIELD, S10 2TA, United Kingdom.
Tel: 0114 222 2961 Fax: 0114 270 0619
Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies
Online Dictionary of Mental Health
InterPsych: Mental Health Debate on the Internet