The metalaw problem of the institutional view of science

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The metalaw problem of the institutional approach to science is a demarcation problem facing the view that scientific methodology can differ between scientific fields and that it is expertise in the specific field that determines what is science. The problem is about determining whether or not a field is scientific.

The problem explained

The institutional approach to scientific research gives no clue to how someone who is not in a particular field can address the question of whether or not that field is scientific. How could it be possible, within the context of the institutionalistic view of science, to distinguish the debunkal of another "field" as unscientific from a simple difference in methodology between "different scientific fields"?

The non-solution of academic classification

Is it even a solution to say that "a field is scientific if it is on the academic list of scientific fields"? To answer that question, it is first necessary to look at how fields are listed at such a list. The listing of many fields on a list, by necessity, requires that people who are not experts in every field judge fields that they are not experts in as being scientific or not scientific.

In the absence of an objective standard of scientificness, one that transcends field classification and expert classification, there is no way to create such a list of scientific fields. And the attempt therefore falls on its incompatibility with its own premise.


Actual examples

There are examples of "fields" that claim to be scientific, such as astrology, creation "science" and psychology. It is often claimed in academia that psychology stands out among the three as being "scientific", but on what grounds? Psychology ignore modern research on evolutionary genetics and on the incompatibilities of different computational systems just as blatantly as astrology ignore modern astronomical and risk research and creation "science" ignore modern biology and geology. The research that debunks the pseudoscience is in the same state, solid but outside the "field", in all three cases.

Hypothetical examples

Imagine that textbooks on metabolic biology stated that cells produced energy out of nothing. Imagine, then, that someone said that it is impossible, and that a biologist replied "you are a physicist not a biologist, stay on your side of the expertise line". Apart from the fact that declaring all research that is classified as "biology" to be pseudoscientific would be overkill, there is also the fact that doing so would be to classify a field from outside the field.

Other approaches

There are other approaches to science that are not based on field classification and institutionalism, and therefore do not have these problems.


Falsifiability is the approach to science that this wiki is all about. Falsifiability is about the predictions that a hypothesis or theory makes and the possibility to disprove them without being labelled in a way that explains the criticism away. It has nothing to do with institutions or lists of institutions.