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Historically, why has it been important to have a clear distinction between science and other forms of knowledge? The only thing I have come across so far is the debate between evolution and creation, with Popper's idea of scientific theories being falsifiable being used to classify creation as non-scientific.

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  • $\begingroup$ It is a "standard" philosophical attitude : trying to elucidate concepts and clarify distinctions and definnitions. Thus, the problem of demarcation is the modern form of the quest for the essence of science and scientific method. $\endgroup$ – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 16 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ There are no other forms of knowledge. There is no "debate" about creationism, except among those who deny reality. And just to be fair, philosophy may not be strictly scientific but rather introspection into the most accurate and reliable ways to validate scientific investigation. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 16 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ There is of course a wikipedia article "Demarcation problem" not very illuminating but with some refs. One might take a look also at "Double truth" and see an earlier form there. Anyway its "historical importance" is for the emancipation of Science and its constitution as an autonomous and self regulating domain. $\endgroup$ – sand1 Jan 16 at 20:04
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Warning: the following answer simplifies the history of the philosophy for brevity.

In 2019, when "science says X" has all but uncontroversially meant X for a long time, it's easy to misunderstand the historical interest in the demarcation problem. It wasn't about saying, "this is science so is right, while that isn't so it's wrong". It was about understanding why science is trustable. (Do you think you know why it is? Maybe you do, but knowledge always has a history.) If you believe science is inductive, as David Hume did, you can't trust science unless you trust induction (which is harder to do, once you've read him). Meanwhile, if before 1900 you think unscientific claims are less reliable - in other words, if you want to make metaphysics (especially theology) the dirty word it gradually became for many - you need a rough idea of what makes it different, or you can't complain about certain ideas not being up to par.

Most post-Humean philosophers who commented on science at least somewhat trusted it, if only because of its transformational effect on the era they were living in. But how did they justify it? Mostly, by trusting/defending inductivism. Popper is of historical significance because he took a different approach of saying Hume was right about induction being unworkable, but wrong about science being inductive in the first place! But of course, if you say that, you have to say what you think characterises science instead.

So what is science? Popper gave his opinion; Kuhn gave his; Lakatos gave his; Feyerabend said it was a mug's game to attempt demarcation; Thagard nonetheless gave yet another view. From Hume 1748 to Popper 1934, science was thought of as inductive. In the decades following that, multiple philosophers prominently gave yet another take on demarcation. Not only did the pace of new proposals accelerate; each new idea led to important new discussions in philosophy about what you can trust in science. For example, if you agree with Kuhn, you'll think modern scientific explanations are incommensurable with older ones, which doesn't bode well for the concept of scientific progress. Similarly, Feyerabend's attack on method is also an attack on scientific exceptionalism, whether you think it deletes scientific knowledge or puts dancing angels pack on pinheads. So obviously, whom you agree with matters a lot.

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer is decent, although I'd sure rather see it at philosophy.SE :-) $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 16 at 13:00
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In the US, we might say that "science is the kind of knowledge that we should all agree upon." That's why it's taught in schools, while we don't teach religion: public schools must refrain from contradicting individual freedom of religion.

I tend to think that Popper's criterion doesn't classify just creation as non-scientific, but all explanations of origin, which no experiment could ever be devised to falsify.

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