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Analysis of Larry Laudan’s "Demise of the Demarcation Problem"

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Hereafter, I will discuss the views expressed by Larry Laudan in the “Demise of the Demarcation Problem”, and explain the reasoning behind his perspective upon stating that “the evident epistemic heterogeneity of a demarcation criterion”. Secondly, I shall attempt to demonstrate a counterexample to this thesis. I argue that the principles must be satisfied moderately, rather than perfectly as Laudan suggest to allow for an interpretation of an “epistemic invariant”. Thus, I shall conclude that Laudan has a very strict interpretation of an “epistemic invariant”. I will seek to further back up this theory by shedding light on the strict restrictions of the original thesis, and perhaps provide a more flexible and comprehensive understanding of his perspective in the original statement.

Essentially, Laudan argues that there isn’t an epistemic invariant in science. This claim, however, is false because many aspects can change over time, while others remain intact. As such, a large degree of heterogeneity can occur in the presence of a moderately complex invariant. For instance, the main characteristic that oceans, jeans, and blueberries share in common is their color otherwise they are very dissimilar. As such, blue objects can be expressed heterogeneously in various ways, but are homogenous in one respect. A similar phenomenon applies to the considerable differences between family members (i.e. Faces). Although one can detect their significant distinctions, one can also identify the similarities (i.e. genetic relatedness) they share highlighting the notion of a complex invariant.

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Furthermore, Laudan suggests that science could be preventing human beings from discovering unknown knowledge due to investigative techniques established, and the underlying concept that an idea must be tested to a point of substantial evidence to be considered “science”. He questions what “makes a belief well founded? And what makes a belief scientific? we ought to drop terms like “pseudo-science” and “unscientific” from our vocabulary”. This claim, however, is wrong as there will be many differences in experimental methods, albeit the evidence obtained from the experiment may be consistent suggesting the presence of an invariant. Likewise, the path one sets to reach his ultimate goal, may vary from another individual (heterogeneity), but ultimately their objective can be similar (i.e. Becoming a doctor; homogenous). As such, it is illogical to classify an epistemic invariant as implausible, simply on the basis of the presence of heterogeneity. To account for such a difference, several circumstances (i.e. Failures, heterogeneity, homogeneity, confidence) must be considered and calculated to properly quantity the probability that a plausible invariant occurs. Interestingly, Laudan fails to resolve this concern, and as such it is uncertain whether the potential likelihood of an epistemic invariant will be lower than 50% as previously stated. Thus, the claim would be much more plausible if it stated that the greater the degree of epistemic heterogeneity discovered in science, the lower the probability of an epistemic invariant in science.

However, Laudan’s views seems to suggest he is positive there is nearly no epistemic invariant, which leads one to question how he can achieve this prognosis with such confidence? Instead, he could have argued that science is maximally epistemically heterogeneous, at either extremes of heterogeneity, however, there remains uncertainty in the plausible middle ground.

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