From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the philosophy of science, a protoscience is an area of scientific endeavor that is in the process of becoming established. Protoscience is distinguished from pseudoscience by its standard practices of good science, such as a willingness to be disproven by new evidence, or to be replaced by a more predictive theory. Sometimes scientific skeptics refer to protoscience as “pathological sciences”. “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. Some protosciences go on to become an accepted part of mainstream science, e.g., astrology and alchemy (at a time before invention of the scientific method), might be called “protosciences” by historians of science, but after the invention of the scientific method, when some practitioners refused to adopt the scientific method, the fields were then labeled “pseudoscience”. Several sciences started as branches of philosophy: mathematics, natural philosophy, economics, psychology, sociology, and the same may end up, historically, being the case for some cultural, traditional, or ancient practices. A “protoscience” may be a field where the hypothesis presented may or may not be in accordance with the known evidence at that time, and a body of associated predictions have been made, but the predictions have not yet been tested, or cannot be tested, due to current technological limitations. Such was the case for general releativity at the time of its proposal, which is now considered science, and the case for string theory, which at the time of this article writing is a protoscience.
List of examples
Protosciences are new areas of scientific endeavor in the process of becoming established. They can include speculative sciences. This list includes science fields and science theories presented in accordance with known evidence, and a body of associated predictions have been made according to that theory, but the predictions have not yet been tested. If they become widely accepted (or become rejected as pseudoscience) they will no longer be classified as protoscience.
- Cryonics is the practice of preserving humans and pets by storing them at cryogenic temperatures - where metabolism and decay are almost completely stopped - for the purpose of future reanimation. Unlike cryogenics, cryonics is not an established science and is viewed with skepticism by most scientists and doctors today. But there is a disproportionately large number of scientists among cryonicists.
- Futurology mixes evidence based statistical forecasting methods with reasonable inference other than mathematical statistics based methods, to forecast the future
- General relativity before experiments to test it were possible, after which it became science (except for the inconsistency between general relativity and quantum physics, which could be used in the future to classify both as protosciences)
- Neurocardiology is a theory in Medicine that the heart is more similar to the brain and nervous system than the other organs in the body because of its complex internal firing mechanisms
- Oneirology the study of dreams.
- Methuselah Foundation research on extending life (although there are claims that the research is currently testable)
- Primal Therapy is a trauma-based psychotherapy that posits early life psychological trauma as a major cause for psychopathology and a method of re-experiencing that trauma as an effective treatment. A growing body of evidence supports the former, but evidence is anecdotal for the latter. However, primal therapy is a testable hypothesis.
- Sociobiology is a synthesis of scientific disciplines that attempts to explain behaviour in all species by considering the evolutionary advantages of social behaviours.
- Socionics is a theory of interpersonal relationships between personality types, loosely based on Carl Jung's psychic-function model of the personality.
- Technological singularity refers to a hypothetical small segment of time in which computers can program themselves and their power and speed exceed that of humans, then grows with exponential speed so great that all forecasts beyond this segment of time become meaningless. Research attempts to forecast technological developments in fields like computer power and speed, cybernetics, molecular biology, nanotechnology, neural prosthetics. After computer power exceeds that of the human brain, and computers are able to program themselves (strong artificial intelligence), humans will rapidly no longer be the dominant organism on earth. Another area is forecasting the time when individuated consciousness begins to end because of a direct and increasingly efficient brain-computer interface (amplification of human intelligence)
- Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transcendent, or spiritual dimensions of humanity. Among these factors we find such issues as self-development, peak experiences, mystical experiences and the possibility of development beyond traditional ego-boundaries.
Conjectures in mainstream academica
- Grand unification theory is a theory in physics that unifies the strong interaction and electroweak interaction.
- Theory of everything (TOE) is a theory of theoretical physics and mathematics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. Initially, the term was used with an ironic connotation to refer to various overgeneralized theories. Over time, the term stuck in popularizations of quantum physics to describe a theory that would unify the theories of the four fundamental interactions of nature.
- M-theory is a solution proposed for the unknown theory of everything which would combine all five superstring theories and 11-dimensional supergravity together. According to Dr. Edward Witten, who proposed the theory, mathematical tools which have yet to be discovered are needed in order to fully understand it.
- Fringe science
- History of science
- List of topics characterized as pseudoscience
- Methodical culturalism
- Obsolete scientific theories
- Pathological science
- Philosophy of science