Talk:Protoscience

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Accident[edit]

Apologies, I am having a weird font problem and may need to reboot - I was simply trying to add "cognitive science of mathematics" as a protoscience, but doing so mangled string theory and I can't fix it.

This may be a Freudian slip but I assure you it isn't intentional...

Rm protoscience[edit]

I fixed the link; I also removed "homeopathy" as an example--it's not anything like a legitimate protoscience, or even half-legit. It's total pseudoscientific nonsense, and not taken seriously as many protosciences are. I'm willing to tolerate a sympathetic and historical treatment of it on its own page, but pages about real science shouldn't be littered with frauds. --Lee Daniel Crocker

What's fraudulent about homeopathy (not that I believe in it)? --Anonymous
Ummm... homeopathy is a protoscience in that many traditional remedies of indigenous peoples are later discovered to have real provable medical properties - so it's more proper to say that a constant stream of claims have been passed through a a medical filter, and some have passed... many more than a random sampling would admit.
there are a lot of definitions of "homeopathy" as well... maybe this just needs to be framed a bit?
Based on the homeopathy article alone, I'd have to call it protoscience rather than pseudoscience. I personally strongly disbelieve it, but the article looks okay.
One comment is that homeopathy might work by a means other than that espoused for it, just as aspirin "worked" even when no one knew why. Our task as scientists: to discover the real means by which homeopathy works -- or prove that it doesn't work.
If homeopathy is proven, it will be promoted from protoscience to science. If it is disproven, but its adherents keep promoting it, then the wikipedia will demote it to pseudoscience. Even Lee Crocker would agree to this, I'm sure.
Homeopathy has been tested, hundreds of times, and has utterly failed every test (except for few it passed by barely measureable margins as might be expected by pure chance). We know exactly how homeopathy works: the placebo effect. We've known it for decades. There's no mystery here. There's no unexplanied effects, because there are no effects at all. It's just plain water, and everyone with even a basic medical education knows that. Anyone who wants to support homeopathy has to willfully and dishonestly ignore these decades of failed tests and evade the placebo issue. Real protoscience doesn't demand strong proof, but it does demand the basic personal and scientific integrity that homeopathy utterly lacks.
I left the "accupuncture" example in place, because that's a different story. It deserves to be called protoscience because honest, reputable scientists have shown real results from it that we have yet to explain, so even though we know the "chi" explanation is nonsense, there's still something going on here worth investigating. But homeopathy is different. Homeopathy is well-tested, well-understood, useless, and fraudulent. --Lee Daniel Crocker
I wouldn't have any problems with Lee's comments if he didn't get into fraud and dishonesty. A person who sincerely believes weird things despite strong evidence to the contrary may be deluded, but that doesn't mean he's fraudulent. --Eclecticology
I imagine your small-time health food store homeopath might actually believe in it, and honestly think he's helping people. But even so, it doesn't take an M.D. or Ph.D. to know that testimonials are bad science, and the people producing and selling the stuff continue to use testimonials and pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo to make profits out of people's gullibility and vulnerability. If calling them frauds is rude or uncouth, I'll still take my moral values over theirs any day. Rudeness doesn't kill people. --Lee Daniel Crocker


How to define a Protoscience?[edit]

How young does a science need be to be described as a 'protoscience'? Exobiology is at least forty years old, the same age as the study of DNA! Surely that's too old/well-established to be a protoscience? --Dan100 17:35, Dec 14, 2004 (UTC)

It is easy to define a protoscience. Take a random sample of professional scientists, and a control group, preferably in a double blind tests. Ask them about any topic with no great level of consensus between scientists, philosophers and religious leaders. The protoscientists are the ones that the professional scientists will talk with positive voices about in great detail for a longer length of time. Everything they talk down on, is a pseudoscience. - --mugwumpjism 12:13am, Aug 12, 2005 (NZST)
Exobiology (or astrobiology) is a verifiable hypothesis that has not been verified, according to its own article. Are other similar hypotheses considered true science or protoscience? The only ones I can think of are protoscience. I don't think it has anything to do with how old they are... - --Omegatron 21:56, Dec 14, 2004 (UTC)
I don't think it has to do with how old it is either, maybe this article should be rewritten to get away from a time-based definition. As I understand it, a protoscience is usually used to define the time of a historically developing field before it had developed its methodologies and modes of thought which later defined it as a discipline. For example, early psychology was an offshoot of 19th century philosophy of the mind, and looks very little like the modern variations of it (or even the variations which came 50 years later). The initial ideas were all present but the sensibility of how to set up an experiment, what could/should be tested for, what could/should be quantified, what valid hypotheses were, etc. had not developed. We can compare this with string theory now, which has not yet developed (m)any testable options, but may in the future (or may not). The "proto" in protoscience would thus refer not necessarily to chronological duration but to epistemic space: a protoscience has not yet developed the conceptual tools for becoming a full-fledged science. The demarcation between a protoscience and a pseudoscience might then be that a pseudoscience has claimed to develop said tools, but they are not recognized as valid, or something like that. The question of "establishment" is another one alltogether -- how much does investment by traditional forms of authentication designate the philosophical value of a field of inquiry? Does research on parapsychology done by the CIA/KGB make it any less pseudoscientific? If they practiced iridology at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory would it make it any less suspicious? How much is "status" determined by the spaces in which a field is advocated, communicated with, and practiced? How much is it the other way around (is iridology non-science because scientists don't study it, or do scientists not study it because it is non-science), or both? Anyway obviously these are large questions, my point is just that time and establishment may not necessarily bear down on such things. --Fastfission 02:40, 15 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Let me just add to Fastfission: A protoscience grows up when it gets solid evidence that modifies the theory considerably; ex. evolution grew up when it moved beyond Darwin and started adding things like kin selection and genes, which Darwin had only inklings of (if that.) So exobiology seems to me to be largely where it started, with some changes based solely on advances in other fields; it hasn't really changed much. So on that basis I'd classify it as 'proto-'. --maru 18:17, 8 May 2005 (UTC)

Scientific Method: Yes or No?[edit]

Paragraph one: "not yet been tested adequately by the scientific method"

Paragraph two: "its adherence to the scientific method"

Hello? Which is it? --User:Stevenkrivit 2100 PST, 24 Apr 2005

Doesn't seem contradictory to me: One refers to how much it has been tested, and the other graf refers to whether it would be testable. Ex: Theology is not testable, but alchemy is, and so on. One could become a protoscience (though with hindsight we can see that alchemy would not be able to- it would be disproven when it tried), and the other couldn't. --maru 18:17, 8 May 2005 (UTC)
Alchemy = turn lead into gold or make an immortality syrup. You can't disprove either. Maybe one day it will be possible to do one of these.... The beliefs of Alchemy are untestable just like Theology. Just like you can't disprove that watermellons can't fly, sure they can, they just don't want to. Is that a protoscience? hmmm...

Agree. Quite often someone comes up with a thought experiment that could prove some hypothesis (or at least discriminate which of two hypotheses is closer to reality). But the experiment isn't actually conducted until years later. To me, the hypothesis becomes "scientific" as soon as the experiment is devised (see falsifiability). Protosciences are ones where people still haven't actually done the experiments, for one reason or another. --DavidCary 08:37, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

Simply a concept that is not yet falsifiable because of limited physical abilities. (A test would needs more time, a better photo, a larger accelerator, faster processors... than we have now.) --Ollj 13:27, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Memetics, a protoscience?[edit]

It remains up in the air whether memetics is protoscience or a pseudo-science.

On many other pages I have argued that any memetic terminology violates the NPoV as memetics is still hotly debated as both it's accuracy and usefullness is still yet to be seen. For a perfect example of such an exchange see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Meme

For a philosophical discussion regarding meme theory see: http://www.ephilosopher.com/phpBB_14-action-viewforum-forum-4.html

In fact, even Wikipedias page of a list of alternative, speculative and disputed theories correctly places memetics alongside other controversial subjects such as Intelligent Design and Bible codes.

Therefore, as I have argued, any memetic terminology used unnecessarily on pages not directly concerned with memetics contstitute a violation of the NPoV, not to mention the idea of saying memetics is definitely a protoscience.

Wikipedia's theoretically objective articles shouldn't be tainted by this ideological slant which favors one side of a controversial issue. Maprovonsha172 12:50, 8 May 2005 (UTC)

Incidentally, that link doesn't even go to a discussion of memes. And you *may* have a point w/r/t to terminology, but that is irrelevant here. --maru 18:04, 8 May 2005 (UTC)
Another thing: Protoscience is a term sometimes used to describe a hypothesis which has not yet been tested adequately by the scientific method, but which is otherwise consistent with existing science or which, where inconsistent, offers reasonable account of the inconsistency. Memetics is indeed consistent with known science, and offers explanations that fills gaps. Seems like an excellent protoscience candidate to me. --maru 18:19, 8 May 2005 (UTC)


No, memetics is not a protoscience. It's not falsifiable, and it's not even empirically testable. A key characteristic of a proto-science (as appose to a pseudo-science) is it's "willingness to be disproven by new evidence (if and when it appears), or supplanted by a more-predictive theory." (Protoscience) Memetics is so malleable and vague any anecdotal justification can be shoehorned into to defending the theory. It's not justified scientifically, or logically. And anyway, how are we to believe an article entitled protoscience which includes acupuntcure!?! (see http://www.skepdic.com/acupunc.html) I'm deleting memetics again because it isn't a protoscience.Maprovonsha172 22:49, 9 May 2005 (UTC)

Maprovonsha, you yourself said at the top of this discussion "It remains up in the air whether memetics is protoscience or a pseudo-science." Now you're unilaterally declaring it's not. So which is it? Is it up in the air or isn't it? You're contradicting yourself. Reverted, again. --FCYTravis 04:49, 10 May 2005 (UTC)

Converting Lead to Gold was a metaphor[edit]

Fields such as astrology and alchemy prior to the invention of the scientific method can also be regarded as protosciences. With the advent of the scientific method, they rapidly produced the scientific fields of astronomy and chemistry respectively,

This is based on a widely held misconception that alchemists were people trying to add wing of bat to lead to boil up gold to make their riches. This sort of person is often surprised to learn that Isaac Newton was an alchemist, and that alchemists were probably closer to the scientists of a time bygone.

Just wondering...[edit]

Would intelligent design be considered as having anything to do with protoscience? Blueaster 00:57, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Most would classify it as a pseudoscience. --Maru (talk) 04:21, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
Actually, most would classify it as a philosophy or theology, as it does not fit into the philosophical framework of a science (it doesn't make any verifiable claims, for instance). I would not classify it as a pseudoscience because it does make claims that could be true - the fact is, the universe might have been designed by a higher order of being; but there's nothing testable about that assertion, so it doesn't rise to the level of a scientific hypothesis (let alone theory). (unsigned)
On the contrary, ID does make testable predictions. Problem is, by those predictions, we either shouldn't believe in ID because of lakc of evidence, or it is disproven- an intelligent designer implies extremely high quality of design, and an intelligent designer to begin with. The quality is amply disproven by all sorts of organisms (look at the blind spot in human eyes, or how pathetically we age, for examples), and we have evidence of no designer, so.... --maru (talk) contribs 02:03, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
ID was classified as philosophy and, to an extent, theology, and the Intelligent design article cites a few examples where this word combination was used in the past. It was one among many phrases used variously to connote the concepts of an underlying creative wisdom or ordering power in the universe.. Once the word was co-opted by the Discover Institute and affiliates, it became famous and controversial in the last decade because of widely publicized attempts in the United States to cast it as a scientific theory and demand that it be used in a mandatory statement to students in science classes in certain school districts. (see Teleological argument) ...Kenosis 14:39, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

definitions?[edit]

This article seems to be trying to define "protoscience" as a couple of mutually-exclusive things, without really differentiating between them:

  • Fields of study which are not themselves scientific, but which later evolve into forms of science (i.e. historical astrology and alchemy)
  • Fields of study which appear to conform to the scientific method but have not been (or can not currently be) sufficiently tested or refined into confirmed scientific principles (i.e. string theory, etc).

Is this a correct interpretation? If so, is one a more commonly accepted definition than the other, or are they equally valid?

My other question is what exactly constitutes an "area of endeavor"? Does this apply only to large things (potentially whole new branches of science such as memetics), or does it also apply to individual hypotheses within well-established fields (such as proposed new quantum physics theories)? The mixing and matching of examples makes it a little unclear as to where the line (if any) is drawn between "protoscience" vs. "the natural process of an established science" (which arguably always requires proposing new ideas and testing them as a matter of course). -- Foogod 01:24, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

... "area of endeavor" ...
Can it not apply only to large things or apply to minotiry hypotheses within well-established fields both equally?
Is there one line for different proto-scientific fields of study? Psychology vs physics vs meta-physics vs geology ve [etc ...] ... it varies ...
J. D. Redding 19:15, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Foogod's first point;
if astrology and alchemy existed "at a time before invention of the scientific method", then they cannot be "rooted in established scientific principles", which is given earlier in the intro as part of the definition of a protoscience.
Bitbut (talk) 22:41, 27 January 2011 (UTC)

Delete the article[edit]

Protoscience is not a word in the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed) nor the Websters (project guttenberg edition). It appears to be a word favoured by wikipedians defending pseudosciences and unpopular theories. Did Khun ever use the word? I propose we delete the article unless we can provide some evidence. --Mccready 10:51, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Well, Kuhn never appears to have actually used the specific word "protoscience"- I read through a bit of his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the Essential Tension, and a few other works of his, as well as checking the indices, and I found nothing. That said, I disagree with your deletion thesis. It's a good article and topic. --maru (talk) contribs 17:33, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Most of the pages brought up by a google search are Wikipedia or wiki related. If the topic doesn't actually exist outside Wikipedia then we shouldn't keep it. I advice a search for references to verify common usage outside Wikipedia. Jefffire 17:37, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Did you make sure to filter out the Wikipedia related hits with "-wikipedia"? --maru (talk) contribs 17:45, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Good thinking, but even then I can't find much that I would call a reliable source. Deeply vexing, Mccready may be right. Jefffire 19:57, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
That's funny; I get 15,000 hits for protoscience with a "-wikipedia -wiki" filter, some of which are clearly fringe, but a substantial number of which are from quite established mainstream scientific journals, university sites, and encyclopedias (including Brittanica, though embedded in an article rather than being an article of its own).
For a random example, it appears from this review that a book by Catherine Wilson, The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope, published by Princeton University Press, uses the term. It appears that the term is certainly in current and active use, whatever its origin (and I'm quite curious about the latter).Hgilbert 23:19, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
I myself think it comes from the American Skeptics movements like The Skeptics Society- I think I may've first seen it in something of Martin Gardner's, but I don't remember what, and I don't have any of his stuff handy anyway. Some Googling may be in order. --maru (talk) contribs 23:55, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Not rally a reliable source though. It doesn't appear that the word is in common usage nor does it appear to be a commonly discussed topic. The article may be irretrievably OR is that is the case. Jefffire 23:42, 18 May 2006 (UTC)
Though fairly rare, it seems to be a respectable usage. The Encyclopedia Brittanica online has an article called Pre-critical Science under the History of Science. I quote from this article:
Science, in its mature form, developed only in the West. But it is instructive to survey the protoscience that appeared in other areas, especially in light of the fact that until quite recently this knowledge was often, as in China, far superior to Western science.
The British Medical Association journal Quality and Safety in Health Care had an article in the June 2002 issue titled Incident reporting: science or protoscience?Hgilbert 01:38, 19 May 2006 (UTC)


Seems at best we have a dictionary defn and therefore should be deleted. Seems no one has shown any discussion in philosophy of science (so I'll amend that bit for now). There is also the problem referred to above about the mutually exclusive defn's. For info, the usage in the article Quality and Safety in Health Care said We believe that, at this stage, the science of reporting is more of a protoscience than a science. Its data are uncorroborated and its methodology still unsystematic. Not enough researchers work in this area, so the field lacks the give and take that would filter out subjectivity.[1] We could make the same statement, ironically, about protoscience - not enough people working in this area :-) Mccready 03:33, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Dictionary definition is better than nothing, but since it is a rarely used term there may be quite a fair bit of OR in the article. I'm leaning towards keeping the article but with a heafty review. Jefffire 08:42, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

By the way, a search in Google-Scholar shows 146 uses of the word "protoscience" and 389 of "proto-science" or "proto science" in recent academic work, the overwhelming majority respectable mainstream journals (including usages in the philosophy of science). These are not overwhelming numbers given today's standards (2,000,000 hits!), but substantial enough that the word seems to have been taken up into mainstream vocabulary. Still...where did it originate???Hgilbert 14:28, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

To put that into perspective, Scholar gives 4320000 hits for evolution, 15500000 for science and 1610000 for Electron. Jefffire 14:49, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

Kuhn did use the word[edit]

Kuhn is cited as using the word in an essay published in 1974. Retrieved on May 19, 2006 from this page (pdf): [2]; HTML version from Google

‘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. If certain social scientists take from me the view that they can improve the status of their field by first legislating agreement on fundamentals and then turning to puzzle-solving, they are misconstruing my point’ (Kuhn, 1974, p. 245)
ref: Kuhn, T. S. (1974). Reflections on my critics. In I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticism and the growth of knowledge (pp. 231-278). London: Cambridge University Press

With no reason to believe that the above is fabricated, I would vote to keep the article and improve it with better references, e.g. from Bound Objects Of Knowledge (BOOKs).  :-) thx, -Jim Butler 04:43, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

P.S. Despite voting to keep, it looks to me like a lot of the tagging of this and that thing as "protoscience" is original research. Jim Butler 04:45, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, I went to my library and looked up that citation. Turns out it is correct, but the original is actually even better than that! Before the therapy bit:
"In any case, there are many fields - I shall call them proto-sciences - in which practice does generate testable conclusions but which nevertheless resemble philosophy and the arts rather than the establish 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. In these fields, too, though they staisfy Sir Kral's demarcation criterion, incessant critism and continual striving for a fresh start are primary forces, and need to be. No more than in philosophy and the arts, however, do they result in clear-cut progress.
"I conclude, in short, that the proto-sciences, 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. Unlike my present critics, Lakatos at this point included, I claim no therapy...."
This not merely complements and verifies the previous quotes, but this may actually be the original coinage of the term! When Kuhn writes "I shall call them proto-sciences", that sounds like he is inventing it then and there, and not borrowing it from anywhere. --maru (talk) contribs 17:59, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the original citation. This does look like the original source!Hgilbert 21:46, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

Well done with the ref Jim. I lent my Kuhn to my little sister and haven't seen it for a while. Despite the ref though I think we are still left with a dictionary definition. Jefffire, I don't like to wipe out the article either. But considering [wikipedia is not a dictionary] is there anything here that shouldn't be merged elsewhere? Mccready 12:27, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Mass edits should have been discussed here upon implementing. The 3RR rule is a two way street, and the burden is on the mass editor to show cause. Now that they are being discussed, let's see where this goes.
I don't know what the one particular editor was thinking about with a threatened deletion of an article whose title is a standard term in both science generally and philosophy of science, but to be frank, it was indicative of bullyish behavior and arbitrary kneejerk decisionmaking at the outset. To add, arriving out of the blue at an article and threatening sanctions based on one revert is, at an absolute minimum, so misleading as to constitute an outright falsehood ([3]), highly inappropriate, inherently disrespectful, a plain violation of WP:AGF. That said, the insertion of the citation-needed, unsourced-article and NPOV tags is agreed to be wholly appropriate and merited given the prior state of the content. I trust that the article will be improved for the debate. Good day....Kenosis 17:07, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

I'd like to remind everyone about WP:Civility. Let's keep cool heads now. Jefffire 17:18, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Appreciate it Jeffire. Unfortunately, the right to respond to threats based on false representations of another editor's actions trumps WP;Civility. Talk to ya'll after I cool off...Kenosis 17:33, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm also talking to Mccready as well. However, nothing trumps WP:Civility. Jefffire 17:42, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
Can't we just compromise by leaving a {{verify}} tag on the article until we've substantiated the bulk of this article? --maru (talk) contribs 19:56, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
I think that would be ideal. Jefffire 00:06, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

I am sorry you are upset Kenosis and interpreted my motive the way you did. My intention was a simple reminder. I look forward to cooperative editing with you. Mccready 04:50, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

RE: "..look forward to cooperative editing..." Me too. The article is already somewhat improved from before. The discussion on this page currently appears to be more interactive and more focused than before on further clarification and improvement. Take care for now...Kenosis 15:27, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
Two months later and I still disagree with dictionary definition the dicdef tag, and suspect not much has changed among other editors, though some may be on summer break and not watching page. Useful to compare with pseudoscience imo. I changed the datestamp because it looked like it had been there for the 5-day limit, when in fact it spent much (most?) of that time reverted by other editors. In the meantime, editors should opposed to the tag should leave it, but weigh in here on why you disagree with it. thx, Jim Butler(talk) 16:13, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Even if protoscience doesn't exist in standard dictionaries, does it really matter? New words evolve by a means of empathy: For one reason or another they catch on through common appeal. The argument should be whether or not the subject matter has any merit. If it does, but there is not as yet enough evidence for us to refer to it as true science, then to my way of thinking protoscience is as good a term as any. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 217.36.206.202 (talkcontribs) 1 Sept 2006.

Yes, but WP isn't the place to create new terms, even if they do have merit, or may have merit in the future, or may be discarded. ;-) I'm OR-tagging the article; we need more sources than just Kuhn. thx, Jim Butler(talk) 22:09, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Article or section may contain original research or unverified claims?[edit]

List items that contain unverified claims[edit]

List items please J. D. Redding 19:09, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

List items that may contain original research[edit]

List items please J. D. Redding 19:09, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

"Theory" of Evolution[edit]

Wasn't Darwin's theory actually called The Theory of Natural Selection, with Evolution MUCH more commonly used to refer to observed instances of speciation? 71.233.230.223 16:32, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

I can't help but feel that the recent edits have somewhat distorted the definition of protoscience based on the editor's POV. The references at the end suggest the term was correctly used before the edits. And now the historical emphasis has no citation. HomeJames 16:46, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

More examples of modern protoscience[edit]

There is just a few examples of modern protoscience on this article. Is there more protosciences out there? I have heard that some study of will of the wisps (light sources that are sometimes visible at swamps, for example) is protoscience, because the phenomena has a natural explanation, but the explanation is not fully understood. Is this true? Tuohirulla puhu 08:54, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

Quotes & links[edit]

This article appears to be nothing more than a pair of quotes and a mass of links. Unless some substantive, sourced, non-copy-pasted content can be found, then article should probably be merged/redirected/deleted. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 09:06, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Ref-spam[edit]

Given that the only part of the article that isn't either a quote or a bare-link is the single lead sentence:

Protoscience refers to historical philosophical disciplines which existed prior to the development of scientific method, which allowed them to develop into science proper (see prescientific). A standard example is that of alchemy which later became chemistry, or that of astrology which later became astronomy.

… I would question why the article requires seven general references. I am therefore placing {{Refspam}} in its headers. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 09:10, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

About the term[edit]

A few years back someone surmised that Kuhn may have coined the term. Now with Google Books it's easy to put that to rest. The term was often spelled 'proto-science'. For example from Leonard Trelawney Hobhouse in 1915 (as far back as I got) [4] :

"The use of writing is thus the best rough and ready mark to distinguish civilized peoples as a class. With its aid the first Asiatic civilizations in Babylonia, Egypt and Ancient China built up the first elements of systematic knowledge.... If we used a name, we may call this the stage of proto-science — of systematic knowledge in its germinal elements."

Another, 1922 article [5] in AAAS The Scientific monthly uses, roughly, the phrase 'the proto-science of savages' twice in two pages. That kind of attitude sheds no light on the subject, and no respect either.
This article would need to be put together by someone broadly familiar with the period Hobhouse describes. As someone has already noted, there was a LOT more to alchemy than chemical manipulations ... and I'll add, there was a LOT more to (observational) astrology than the cotton-candy in the newspaper. This article is a FAIL until that someone comes along. Twang (talk) 23:52, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

I worked suggestion of Ludwigs2, modified by Bronton, into seconde lead paragraph[edit]

Inclusion of cultural, traditional, or Ancient practices as protosciences was discussed on the pseudoscience talk page here[6]

Wrong first para[edit]

Describing proto-science as

a fringe science that has limited acceptance in the mainstream scientific community

seems to be a POV view and to be factually wrong when examined in detail. In real reality proto-science is tolerated by mainstream scientific community despite not fulfilling scientific quality, because the scientific community think is reasonable to believe it might develop into a regular science. The source provided is only supporting the citation, not that proto-science is "fringe science", which is "bad science" frowned upon, unlikely to deliver real science results.

Remove the first para in the intro. The following paragraphs is enough. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 15:08, 11 April 2011 (UTC)

Yes Rursus, it’s easy to agree if you have a Scandinavian usage behind. There a concept like “fringe science” has only recently entered in the everyday language, where protoscience has denoted the budding process applying the scientific method. Here it has even become a WP-tag for bad science. So, IP 128.59.169.46 blanking a relevant contribution and the following sock-puppet allegations seem to have hit the wrong target. Är du bra på sånt? [Are you knowledgeable at things like that?] Jag är helt säker på att den IPn plus minst tre ytterligare användts av en långtidsblockerad [I'm pretty sure that that IP plus three others have been used by a long term blocked person], tidigare bla med eget namn mycket wp-aktiv astrofysik-forskarstuderande [earlier using his(her) own name, and a very active astrophysics research student], för att under juni städa bort protovetenskapliga bidrag till ett flertal artiklar inom området non-standard cosmologies. [who during june have cleaned away proto-scientific contributions to considerable part of the articles about non-standard cosmologies] Man borde påtala ofoget, men jag är alltför sporadiskt här för att ha skaffat den färdigheten, tyvärr. :) [one ought to warn against the misuse, but I'm too sporadically here to have acquired that skill, sorry to say :)] Mr Gearloose (talk) 13:52, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Translation added by me into the Swedish text for all editors to partake. (English WP english text, please!) Please, Mr Gearloose, if you happenstance know which long term blocked user, and any other IP:s that you might know, we would appreciate if you mentioned it here, so that any editor may partake as their time allow them. I'll be back later, when I've got a little pause in my private studies... Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 08:47, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
OK, but it seems to be a tricky matter to do it without invoking serious "outing" as can be seen from this unresolved blocking, probably caused by the same intention from a not yet granted request here. His name appears under the nick jps when he initiated an afd and elsewhere and it seems he is still finding other IPs, latest edit here. Mr Gearloose (talk) 10:49, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Confounded concepts: protoscience & fringe[edit]

The difference between these two concepts is unclear.

  • The figure is nice and colourful, but ultimately does not add much value in distinguishing protoscience & fringe.
  • The examples, e.g. GUT, TOE and M-Theory could just as well be considered fringe theories.

If there is no better differentiation posisble, then I suggest merge the two articles. John Pons (talk) 04:01, 1 September 2011 (UTC)


  • Given that the 'Definition' section (i) fails to properly distinguish these terms & (ii) does not appear to be verifiable even for what it does claim, you may well be right. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 04:30, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I like the table a lot, but the table and the articles for "protoscience" and "fringe science" don't really make it clear what the difference is between the two terms. I'd like to see the two terms distinguished better in the articles. If they are indistinguishable from each other, then I would support merging the two articles. I've been trying to figure out the difference between the two terms, but I'm having troubles finding information on "protoscience" and how (or whether) it's different from "fringe science." I'd be grateful if anyone can clarify the difference.Dustinlull (talk) 04:16, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
This article is pretty much a disaster, there are only two inline citations in the whole article. It has highly dubius statements like "Some protosciences go on to become an accepted part of mainstream science, e.g., astrology and alchemy". This article also appears to confuse hypothesis which are awaiting information with protoscience, the definition of which is unclear. IRWolfie- (talk) 16:27, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
I've removed some of the OR. I've also marked a number of issues with the lede. Pretty much the entire article is original research. IRWolfie- (talk) 16:44, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

redirect to pseudoscience[edit]

It appears the article pseudoscience actually covers the term protoscience in better detail than this topic, I propose this article just be redirected to pseudoscience. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:22, 27 December 2011 (UTC)

Given that the article seems to lack any relevant sources whatsoever, that seems entirely reasonable. AndyTheGrump (talk) 12:59, 27 December 2011 (UTC)
I was bold and performed the redirect. IRWolfie- (talk) 14:39, 27 December 2011 (UTC)

This new version looks a lot like the old version and seems to have no reason to live. If reliable independent sources are not to be added then it should be redirected again. IRWolfie- (talk) 00:26, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

THere should be an article on protoscience, but it's a history of science article not a woowoo concepts article[edit]

Protoscience is a legitimate term used in the history of science that refers to investigations in the early stages of the development of the scientific method - stuff like parts of ancient Greek philosophy, alchemy, and such like. Supporters of "fringe" concepts might like to label their modern concepts as protoscience and hope that they will develop into a new science, but this is wishful thinking. Note the difference between "woo-woo" concepts and developing new areas of research; for example molecular genetics has really only been possible since the discovery of DNA and its function - yet no-one would describe the early advances in molecular genetics as being protoscientific because they were clearly part of a wider ongoing research programme into biochemistry and genetics. Basically, the article as it stands is completely nuts. We have a well developed scientific method already, so there should be no modern protoscience. I am not a dog (talk) 22:48, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

If you have specific parts of the article in mind you can be WP:BOLD and make the edits. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:26, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Examples[edit]

I've removed the examples list, if a new article is being built it is better to start without uncited or poorly sourced claims in it. Specifically if protoscience is used within the Philosophy of science we should be adding examples based on mentions either in 1. the scientific literature, 2. sources within the philosophy of science. All entries should be covered in a significant manner in reliable sources to establish some sort of due weight. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:41, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

wordiq[edit]

Please do not use wordiq as a source, it gets its content from wikipedia, cheers. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:54, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Rejected, you can easily replace the source when you have time. No need to delete obvious statements.
Your argument of laziness is dully noted however. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 02:30, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Do not use wordiq; it is self evidently unreliable. IRWolfie- (talk) 02:52, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

deletion of "boundaries between protoscience, science, and pseudoscience"[edit]

This section is the same section as on pseudoscience. If it is good enough to describe the difference in that context it is good enough here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Protoscience&diff=470115414&oldid=470113304

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience#Boundaries_between_protoscience.2C_science.2C_and_pseudoscience

84.106.26.81 (talk) 02:33, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

The section makes no explicit reference to protoscience. Also, why would you dublicate a section that exists in another article? IRWolfie- (talk) 02:50, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
bublikate? WHAT?84.106.26.81 (talk) 12:14, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

What difference?[edit]

"The difference with fringe science is that Fringe science is often considered highly speculative or even strongly refuted, while some protosciences are widely accepted." = We really don't have any firm idea what the difference is.

Also, as we are attempting to draw out this difference from sources that do not appear to directly compare the two, this "difference" would appear to be WP:Synthesis (and the fact that we have no source for a direct comparison is probably also why the claim is so vague).

This is exactly the sort of blatantly bad writing that got the article redirected in the first place. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 08:53, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Maybe you should pay more attention when users remove sources? It is a common sense statement to help the reader distinguish between the different labels.
  • "The difference with fringe science is that Fringe science is often considered highly speculative or even strongly refuted."

Was originally sourced on this:

  • <ref>{{cite journal |author=Dutch, Steven I |title=Notes on the nature of fringe science |journal=[[J Geol Ed]] |issn=0022-1368 |volume=30 |issue=1 |pages=6–13 |date=January 1982 |id=ERIC EJ260409 |oclc=427103550}}</ref>
Your argument is that you are unaware many fringe fields are considered discredited? aka argument from ignorance? 84.106.26.81 (talk) 13:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Maybe you should (i) read my argument, (ii) read the policy I cited: WP:Synthesis, & (iii) get a clue. Your strawman argument has nothing whatsoever to do with the argument I made. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:25, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Parapsychology[edit]

I claim WP:REDFLAG on this claim, and suggest that we need a considerably better source than a newsletter from the Center for Frontier Sciences for it. Parapsychology is a grab-bag of serious research, anecdotal claims and outright bunkum. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 10:13, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

It's poorly sourced and also not consistent with the definition of protoscience which is given in the lede as; a protoscience is a new science trying to establish its legitimacy. Parapsychology is not new but actually quite old. IRWolfie- (talk) 15:21, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
It isn't considered pathological so it is still in prototype stage. The source merely indicates professional affiliation which is something you can check.84.106.26.81 (talk) 12:46, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
(i) You have presented no evidence that Parapsychology "isn't considered pathological". (ii) You have presented no evidence that something 'not considered pathological' must be a protoscience. (iii) Even if you had, your claim is WP:OR so inadmissible. (iv) Please reread WP:REDFLAG -- this is not an 'extraordinary source'. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:32, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

I deleted it. Selery (talk) 15:56, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

'Historic Examples'[edit]

  • First I'd like to support the elimination of Geology. To baldly call a field a historical example of a protoscience, when it came into existence in a period when science itself was still in the process of forming (and when the claim could be made that all science was protoscience) is unhelpful.
  • I'd also like to query the inclusion of Astrology & Alchemy -- neither follow the "standard practices of good science". If the claim is made that they developed before these practices were put in place, then we're left with a definition of protoscience that is too vague to have any use. (Also, such a claim would be a special pleading.)
  • I suspect a distinction may need to be made (and be sourced) between 'protoscience' as a stage in the development of science itself, and a protoscientific field -- being a nascent field that is attempting to establish itself through rigorous application of the (already-developed) scientific method.

HrafnTalkStalk(P) 07:53, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Who are you talking to? 84.106.26.81 (talk) 08:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Anybody who has this article on their watchlist. It's how we build WP:CONSENSUS on potentially controversial changes. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 08:13, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
What article? The article was deleted. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 08:38, 9 January 2012 (UTC)


  1. It was never "deleted" -- contrast WP:REDIRECT with WP:DELETION
  2. You yourself appear to be the editor who restored it from redirect (something that an ordinary editor cannot do to a deleted article) and thereby started this this whole discussion up again.

HrafnTalkStalk(P) 08:48, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

So you are not here to help write the article?84.106.26.81 (talk) 11:24, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

That is not a logical conclusion to take from either my statements here, or my actions. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:55, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Oh but it is when you consider the amount of users involved and look at the actual constructive contributions you've made together. I see unproductive users who are primarily here to complain about things that are common sense. Correction "Elimination" is the word you used. With a very poor argument that is down right silly.
Perhaps you could elaborate how spending my time on the elimination of Geology should be considered a valid attempt to improve the rotting fleshand raise the zombie?
Please don't get the wrong idea, I'm trying really hard not to laugh hysterically and take you seriously.
84.106.26.81 (talk) 12:39, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Given that you no more adequately substantiate your claims here than your (WP:Original research, WP:Synthesis and un-WP:Verifiable) claims on mainspace, I really don't care if you're laughing crying, or howling at the moon. Feel free to come back when you have sources or policy on your side -- until then I'm not really interested. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:16, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

I'm just answering your "I just don't like it" to the best of my abilities. I don't see how it is unfair to ask you to elaborate how spending my time on the elimination of Geology should be considered a valid attempt to improve the rotting fleshand raise the zombie.

Like here for example: [7]"not meeting the stated definition of meeting the "standard practices of good science"

  • Alchemy is the protoscience of Chemistry.
  • Astrology is the protoscience of Astronomy.

Who would seriously ask for a source here? Right, only a .... or wait... 84.106.26.81 (talk) 14:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Who? Anybody who had noticed the blindingly obvious point that neither Astrology nor Alchemy follow the "standard practices of good science", so that neither can be a protoscience of anything. But wait you don't even need to work that out for yourself, because I made this point in the first post in this thread. Who would seriously miss this point? Have a ....
Rainbow trout transparent.png Whack!

You've been whacked with a wet trout.

Don't take this too seriously. Someone just wants to let you know you did something silly.

WP:TROUT. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 14:32, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Ok, you win. Sorry about questioning your motives. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 15:48, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

I hadn't seen this section. I made an edit that probably addresses this problem. --Enric Naval (talk) 18:36, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

Protoscience: label or field?[edit]

Is protoscience:

  1. A label applied to nascent scientific fields (Kuhn)?
  2. Or alternately the field within the philsophy of science of studying (and presumably developing) "normative criteria for the use of experimental technology in science." (Brakel)?

We have clearly contradictory definitions. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 08:33, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

This is where you describe both. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 11:18, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

No. In such a situation, we tend to disambiguate, and cover each definition in a different article. A consequence of WP:NOTDICTIONARY is that we write articles on a topic (with a single definition), not on a word (with potentially multiple definitions). HrafnTalkStalk(P) 12:01, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

I see no contradiction. Please elaborate. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 12:43, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Shorten that to you "don't see", and I might agree with you. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:35, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm seeing it now. SYNTH seems a lot more strict than I thought it was. 84.106.26.81 (talk) 15:55, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

WP:DICTDEF[edit]

A Wikipedia article that is mostly a list of definitions is not a good thing. One that is solely a single definition is even worse. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:39, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Given the way you are nitpicking every bit of the article I thought you should be given a fair chance to write the entire thing from scratch. This while using sources everyone likes of course. You better not mention historical examples like Geology and we want no pseudoscience crap in the article.
Good luck!
84.106.26.81 (talk) 13:50, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Read WP:POINT and get a clue. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 14:02, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
You threw a lot of badly sourced and dubius material on the article, including information sourced from sites which themselves were sourced from wikipedia. The onus was on you to reliably source the content you added; You could have created a user account and worked on the article in a userspace but instead you decided to move the article back off a redirect. IRWolfie- (talk) 22:02, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Raimo Tuomela[edit]

Raimo Tuomela's essay 'Science, Protoscience, and Pseudoscience', in Butts, Robert E. (1989). Constructivism and science : essays in recent German philosophy. Dordrecht Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0792302516. , may prove informative. It gives a very rigorous, and also more restrictive, definition of protoscience. It also lists social sciences as an extant example of protoscience. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 15:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)