Within sports science the SAID principle asserts that the human body adapts specifically to imposed demands. For example lifting heavy weights make you better at lifting heavy weights, whereas running makes you better at running.

I do not doubt there is some truth to this, but I am not sure if this is science? I see no way of proving it false. According to this article it therefore could be considered pseudoscience.
On the other hand that seems a bit harsh.

  • Difficult to answer: it seems an obvious empirical principle based on millenia of experience regarding "training". Mar 30, 2020 at 14:35
  • 1
    You forget that sports are BIG business. Human physical performance (muscle strength, endurance, lung capacity, etc) are all measurable qualities, and there is a lot of money and prestige riding on pulling the most out of atheletes (college, professional, olympic...). I have no doubt that widely-held principles like this have been thoroughly researched. Of course, you're not going to hear about it from researchers unless you take a kinesthesiology course in college; You'll hear about it from your trainer, which may seem less authoritative. Don't let that fool ya... Mar 30, 2020 at 16:48
  • Technically, it is or is not a product of science, or rather scientific or unscientific. I think it's safe to say that the principle is a generalization of sound scientific theory, such as the cause of increasing strength through strength training.
    – J D
    Mar 30, 2020 at 17:19
  • 2
    It is not surprising that Wikipedia's loose formulations for general audience are too vague to be testable. But NFPT gives references to scientific publications that state the specificity hypothesis in a more cogent and experimentally testable form.
    – Conifold
    Mar 30, 2020 at 23:15
  • 1
    Not much different from the common formulations of the Le Chatelier principle, such as "Any change in status quo prompts an opposing reaction in the responding system". Not how a chemist would state it to a chemist, but when addressing casual readers they have to water it down and spice it up.
    – Conifold
    Apr 3, 2020 at 7:27

1 Answer 1


Science is not a theory. It is a method. The difference, therefore, between science and pseudo-science is a difference of method, and not, at least not necessarily, a difference in the truth of theories. Thus, it is probably true that the body adapts to training so that training for running adapts the body to running, at least to some extent.

The article in Scientific American makes the same point:

The big difference Popper identifies between science and pseudo-science is a difference in attitude. While a pseudo-science is set up to look for evidence that supports its claims, Popper says, a science is set up to challenge its claims and look for evidence that might prove it false. In other words, pseudo-science seeks confirmations and science seeks falsifications.

In other words, pseudo-science seeks confirmations and science seeks falsifications.

Of course, not all scientists understand this point. Many scientists for example squirm whenever I say that Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation was falsified by the observation that Mercury wasn't quite at the place predicted by Newton's law, which led eventually to Einstein's General Relativity.

Indeed, many if not most scientists probably immediately stop doing science the day that they publish their results and start doing pseudo-science in that they stop trying to falsify their own theory, simply because it is human nature to cradle your baby and protect it against the barbarians.

Doing science is an attitude, to use the term of Scientific American, and people can change their attitude according to the circumstances.

Concerning the SAID principle, as with any such, the science is entirely in trying to falsify the theory, not at all in accepting or not the principle. It is perfectly acceptable to apply a principle if you think it is true. However, you cannot say this principle is science just because you think it is true. You can say you are doing science, ad this only when you are trying to falsify the principle.

Thus, contrary to what most scientists themselves probably believe, no scientific theory is science. A scientific theory is a theory. It is a claim. It is a claim waiting to be falsified. It doesn't mean anything to say that you have verified a theory when in fact all you can say is that you have failed to falsify it.

A scientific theory is merely the consensus of the moment the professionals who do science. However, the science was in falsifying the previously accepted theory, for example Newton, not in accepting the theory that replaces it.

It is not the scientific attitude to accept a theory simply because you have failed to falsify it. It is a rational attitude, but being rational doesn't make it science.

Science moves forward because of falsification. It is falsification that motivates people to work their arse off to find new innovative theories. Einstein was born out of Mercury's falsification of Newton. No Mercury, no Einstein. Human beings have proved they can believe the same crap for centuries.

That being said, sorry, I'm not going to tell you how you could falsify the SAID principle.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .