In the philosophy of science, there are several definitions of protoscience. Protoscience is sometimes distinguished from pseudoscience by a willingness to be changed through new evidence. Compare fringe science, which is considered highly speculative or even strongly refuted.[1] Some protosciences go on to become an accepted part of mainstream science.[2]

Philosopher of chemistry Jaap Brakel defines protoscience as "the study of normative criteria for the use of experimental technology in science."[3]

On protoscience Thomas Kuhn said that they "generate testable conclusions but ... nevertheless resemble philosophy and the arts rather than the established sciences in their developmental patterns. I think, for example, of fields like chemistry and electricity before the mid-eighteenth century, of the study of heredity and phylogeny before the mid-nineteenth, or of many of the social sciences today." While noting that they meet the demarcation criteria of falsifiability from Popper, he questions whether the discussion in protoscience fields "result[s] in clear-cut progress". Kuhn concluded that protoscience, "like the arts and philosophy, lack some element which, in the mature sciences, permits the more obvious forms of progress. It is not, however, anything that a methodological prescription can provide. ... I claim no therapy to assist the transformation of a proto-science to a science, nor do I suppose anything of this sort is to be had".[4]

See also


  1. ^ Dutch, Steven I (January 1982). "Notes on the nature of fringe science".  
  2. ^ Reflections on the reception of unconventional claims in science at the Wayback Machine (archived April 19, 2012), newsletter Center for Frontier Sciences, Temple University (1990). Archived from the original in April 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Brakel, Jaap, "protoscience and protochemistry", Philosophy of chemistry: between the manifest and the scientific image, Leuven Univ Pr, December 2000
  4. ^ Kuhn, Thomas (1970). Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, ed. Criticism and the growth of knowledge, Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science [held at Bedford college, Regent's Park, London, from July 11th to 17th 1965]. (Reprint. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 244–245.  

Further reading

  • H Holcomb, Moving Beyond Just-So Stories: Evolutionary Psychology as Protoscience. Skeptic Magazine, 1996.
  • D Hartmann, Protoscience and Reconstruction. Journal of General Philosophy of Science, 1996.
  • R Tuomela, Science, Protoscience and Pseudoscience. Rational Changes in Science.
  • JA Campbell, On artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence Review, 1986.
  • G Kennedy, Psychoanalysis: Protoscience and Metapsychology. 1959.
  • AC Maffei, Psychoanalysis: Protoscience Or Science?. 1969.
  • N Psarros, The Constructive Approach to the Philosophy of Chemistry. Epistemologia, 1995.

External links

  • Questions to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a protoscience (a new science trying to establish its legitimacy). Adapted from "BCS Debates a Qi Gong Master," Rational Enquirer, Vol 6, No. 4, Apr 94