Fringe science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study that departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories, and is classified in the “fringes” of a credible mainstream academic discipline.
Three classifications of scientific ideas have been identified (center, frontier, fringe) with mainstream scientists typically regarding fringe concepts as highly speculative or even strongly refuted. However, according to Rosenthal “Accepted science may merge into frontier science, which in turn may merge into more far-out ideas, or fringe science. Really wild ideas may be considered beyond the fringe, or pseudoscientific.”
A particular concept that was once accepted by the mainstream scientific community can become fringe science because of a later evaluation of previously supportive research. For example the idea that focal infections of the tonsils or teeth were a primary cause of systemic disease was once considered medical fact, but is now dismissed for lack of evidence. Conversely, fringe science can include novel proposals and interpretations that initially have only a few supporters and much opposition. Some theories which were developed on the fringes (for example, continental drift, existence of Troy, heliocentrism, the Norse colonization of the Americas, and Big Bang Theory) have become mainstream because of the discovery of supportive evidence.
Fringe science covers everything from novel hypotheses that can be tested via scientific method to wild ad hoc theories and “New Age mumbo jumbo” with the dominance of the latter resulting in the tendency to dismiss all fringe science as the domain of pseudoscientists, hobbyists, or quacks. Other terms used for the portions of fringe science that lack scientific integrity are pathological science, voodoo science, and cargo cult science. Junk science is a term typically used in the political arena to describe ideas that proponents erroneously, for political reasons, dubiously or even fraudulently claim scientific backing.
In the philosophy of science, the question of where to properly draw a boundary between science and non-science, when the objective actually is objectivity, is called the demarcation problem. Compounding this issue is that proponents of some fringe theories use both proper scientific evidence and outlandish claims to support their arguments.
A definition of protoscience (and fringe science) can be understood from the following table:
Fringe science is used to describe unusual theories and models of discovery. Those who develop such fringe science ideas may work within the scientific method, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream community. Usually the evidence provided by supporters of a fringe science is believed only by a minority and rejected by the most experts. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has a degree of recognition by the larger scientific community (typically through the publication of peer reviewed studies by the scientist), but this is not always the case. While most fringe science views are ignored or rejected, through careful use of the scientific method, including falsificationism, the scientific community has come to accept some ideas from fringe sciences. One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea that had its origin as a fringe science, and was held in a negative opinion for decades. It is noted that:
The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape […] Acceptance of new science can come slowly.
The phrase fringe science can be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry, Jr. wrote that “‘fringe science’ is a term also suggesting kookiness.” Such characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers on the fringe of science (colloquially and with considerable historical precedent known as mad scientists). The categorical boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience can be disputed. The connotations of fringe science are that the enterprise is still rational, but an unlikely avenue for future results. Fringe science may not be a part of the scientific consensus for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence.
My personal view on Fringe Science
I believe that skepticism is necessary in good science in order to protect one against charlatanism and fraud, against loosing time and money and against big frustrations and finally loosing the interest in research. But as all protection systems and methods skepticism should also have it’s own boundaries and it’s own purpose. Some people who calls themselves “skeptics” are indeed not real scientists and their so called “skepticism” is in reality a pathological state of mind. There is nothing wrong to play around with ideas in leisure time, as long as nobody gets hurt and nobody loose it’s precious resources. But the so called “skeptic community“, once a honorable community of scientists, evolved in our modern days into a kind of dogmatic cult, maybe also leaded from outside by some individuals which desires that some ideas will never reach the mainstream awareness. A scientist which sometimes plays with “new ideas” in his mind like a child, with some healthy naivety (genuineness), can produce so wonderful results … or lead to an whole new way and approach. Why should a “pseudoskeptic community” resist this kind of progress? Is it because of political interests? Like the church resisted to the new worldview of heliocentrism, because of political interests, so this modern cult of “skeptic community” works against the “natural born paradigm shifters“. I guess, money is the big problem, money makes the world go round, and all problems will be solves with the ultimate collapse of the financial system.
I regard myself as a skeptic. But I call myself not skeptic, because I don’t see skepticism as my main reason to live. To have an healthy view on skepticism is fundamental in order to make good science. Why should I put “skepticism” on a altar and worship it as a god?
Let’s take for example homeopathy: It is regarded by the mainstream science not even as fringe science, but they call it pseudoscience. Why? Because there is nothing in it? This remembers me a man in Italy a very long time ago. This old man has never seen a television before. One day one of his family member bought a television (black and white) and put it in the living room. The old man was amazed about this new technology and he get very soon accustomed to it. Some days later the family went for a walk outside and the old man stood at home watching TV. When the family came back from the walk they caught grandpa trying to feed the people inside this magic box with some food. He justify himself saying:”The little people inside this box are for sure hungry. Why should I not share with them some food?” … well this is naivety at his best!
This story about the old man and the television remembered me of the mainstream science community, which claims that there is nothing in the water which could have an effect on the health of the person. This is naivety too, but based on a restricted mind conditioned by some people behind the curtain. Naturally there is nothing in water or nothing in the sugar globuli, but there is no music in a radio too and there are no people in the television, because the radio receives the music from the radio station and it’s antenna resonates on a certain frequency as the television too receives pictures and sound by resonating on a certain frequency, so does the water crystals too resonate on a certain frequency acting as a liquid antenna. Has the discovery of Luc Antoine Montagnier, that DNA emits low-frequency electromagnetic waves which imprint the structure of the molecule onto the water, in some kind convinced the mainstream science of the ability of water to act as an liquid antenna? No. Why? Because of their pathological skepticism.
But the world is changing very fast and soon most of the pseudoskeptics will have no motivation at all to continue with their hate campaign against the real scientific progress.