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Folk science

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In psychology and anthropology scholars use the term folk science to characterise systems of knowledge about the workings of the natural world that are not based on the scientific method, often relying instead either on intuition or on empiricism in its crudest form. Pseudoscience is often based on some sort of folk science and because many scientific findings are counter-intuitive, they may be difficult to grasp, rendered into a folk science form, or flat-out denied.[1]

Indigenous science is folk science with the additional advantages of indigenous woo, granting respected and traditional indigenous cultures respect for their indigeneity; and recognition as (perhaps) more grounded and subject to experimental justification.

Folk biology[edit]

Folk biology refers to common observations made by people about living organisms and how they interact with the natural world. Organisms are classified by a system of folk taxonomy and all known languages appear to have five (or possibly six) levels of taxa arranged in a hierarchical system (unique beginner, life form, generic, specific, varietal).[2][3] Creationism and biological determinism are often based on folk scientific interpretations of real biology.

Folk medicine[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Folk remedy

Folk medicine includes all pre-modern medicine, including traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, heroic medicine, and some other types of alternative medicine, particularly those that existed prior to the 19th century. Folk medicine may also include some types of culture-bound syndromesWikipedia that are psychosomatic and only occur within specific cultures (e.g., latahWikipedia in Indonesia or sustoWikipedia in some indigenous cultures of Latin America).

Folk physics[edit]

A common misconception in folk physics (sometimes called "naive physics") is the idea that moving objects have some kind of "impetus," a sort of naive form of momentum in which an object has an internal force moving it forward. Thus, moving objects are conceived of in a pre-Newtonian framework in which objects in motion are not stopped or slowed by an external force, but their internal impetus is "spent" and they stop moving.[4] The idea of a "centrifugal force" in which a supposedly "true" force pushes an object traveling in a circle outward rather than the object's movement being a product of inertia is another example of folk physics.[5][6][7]

Folk psychology[edit]

Many commonly held ideas about the mind, such as a "ghost in the machine"-style free will and mind-body dualism, are now considered to be folk psychology (sometimes "common sense" psychology), based on our evolved cognitive biases. The idea of a soul or some kind of disembodied consciousness lies at the heart of various pseudo-psychological theories, e.g. non-materialist neuroscience. There is some debate in theory and philosophy of mind as to whether folk psychology holds some use for the psychological sciences or should be totally discarded.[8][9]

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External links[edit]


  1. E.g. quantum mechanics, which asks us to understand the universe in a very counter-intuitive way, is sometimes used to support pseudoscience (per Deepak Chopra and other quantum woo-meisters).
  2. Berlin, Breedlove, and Raven. General Principles of Classification and Nomenclature in Folk Biology. American Anthropologist, vol. 75, iss. 1
  3. Scott Atran. Folk Biology and the Anthropology of Science Behavioral and Brain Sciences (1998) 21, 547–609
  4. Intuitive Physics, Arthur B. Markman, Scientific American
  5. Centrifugal force, University of Virginia
  6. Centrifugal force, xkcd
  7. See also A Glossary of Frequently Misused or Misunderstood Physics Terms and Concepts.
  8. Stich and Nichols. Folk Psychology, in Stephen Stich & Ted A. Warfield, eds., The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell) 2003. Pp. 235-255
  9. Folk Psychology as Theory, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy