Where is the proof in pseudoscience?

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The word “pseudoscience” is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria.

This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which is to say it works), and pseudoscience attempts to ride on the back of this credibility without subjecting itself to the hard intellectual scrutiny that real science demands.

A good example of pseudoscience is homoeopathy, which presents the façade of a science-based medical practice but fails to adhere to scientific methodology.

Other things typically branded pseudoscience include astrology, young-Earth creationism, iridology, neuro-linguistic programming and water divining, to name but a few.

What’s the difference?

Key distinctions between science and pseudoscience are often lost in discussion, and sometimes this makes the public acceptance of scientific findings harder than it should be.

For example, those who think the plural of anecdote is data may not appreciate why this is not scientific (indeed, it can have a proper role to play as a signpost for research).

Written By: Peter Ellerton
continue to source article at theconversation.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. There will always be a battle for science against the forces of stupidity ie pseudoscience, science takes a certain amount of rational thought whereas pseudoscience seems rational for the easily led and is full of so called certainties that it’s adherents will swear blind are valid but never stand even moderate scrutiny.

  2. I work as a structural Engineer and one of my fellow Engineers believes in all sorts of pseudoscience you could imagine. Last week we were discussing the need to provide a compressible filler underneath a concrete gound floor sitting on dessicated clay.
    this reminded me of the earth springing back up after the melting of ice age glaciers, i mentioned it in passing, for some reason my workmate doubted this as pseudoscience and this is a guy who believes you can change divining rods
    sensitivity to different things by adjusting your mind, wtf.
    Having said that I know a few Engineers who think there is no gravity in ” space” ie 40 miles away from the earths surface.

    • In reply to #2 by jjbircham:

      I work as a structural Engineer and one of my fellow Engineers believes in all sorts of pseudoscience you could imagine. Last week we were discussing …

      Presumably your fellow engineer is a supporter of Alternative Engineering? See, for example, http://www.theness.com/index.php/alternative-engineering/, with its brilliant description of a 1200 foot non-suspension bridge supported entirely by the energy of feng-shui.

    • In reply to #2 by jjbircham:

      I work as a structural Engineer and one of my fellow Engineers believes in all sorts of pseudoscience you could imagine.

      Having said that I know a few Engineers who think there is no gravity in ” space” ie 40 miles away from the earths surface.

      … and I know of companies who call their servicing technicians with a week or two’s training, “engineers”! – along with salesmen who are “consultants” or “managers”!
      The punters really like arguments from “authority”!

    • In reply to #2 by jjbircham:

      Having said that I know a few Engineers who think there is no gravity in ” space” ie 40 miles away from the earths surface.

      I do hope they are not involved in designing spacecraft.

  3. I’d lay a lot of the blame for the success of pseudoscience at the door of the cosmetics industry. Have you read what’s written on those bottles and jars you find in a typical (mostly female’s) bathroom? Energizing this and invigorating that, it’s all pseudobabble. Makes homoeopathy look simple and straightforward. And the toothpaste ads, with the white coated low-budget actor trying to look Scientific with his heavy framed glasses and Serious Tone. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

  4. I’m always amazed at how the very same people can dismiss and ridicule the validity of science and scientific findings, while also credulously accepting without question every pseudo-scientific claim they come across.

  5. These articles on pseudo-science are pretty dodgey. Here we have an educator and so-called expert on critical thinking equating astrology, young-earth creationism, homeopathy, and NLP as equivalent pseudo-science. This is asinine.

    There is no science in young-earth creationism. Period.

    Astrology seems the same, but it could be tested with some effort if MMPI tests were gathered and compared to astrology charts- one might find Northern Hemisphere babies had some imprinting on them due to the season they were born and the corresponding seasonal activities affected their development (lying out in the sun at 6mo versus being bundled, who knows until you look). My guess is Mercury retrograde will have little effect, but that is where the MMPI comes in.

    Homeopathy seems dubious at best, but at first glance so would inoculating folks with trace amounts of viruses or bacteria. Much of it, such as “water memory”, and the whole 18thC philosophy is clearly rubbish. Perhaps there is an analogue to immune response with some of it. Regardless, it does seem pretty clear-cut that it is not something too worthwhile.

    NLP is a bit trickier though isn’t it? While the Polish Sceptics club publication may seem definitive and authoritative to the author, Sturt, Jackie; Ali, Saima; Robertson, Wendy; Metcalfe, David; Grove, Amy; Bourne, Claire; Bridle, Chris (November 2012). “Neurolinguistic programming: a systematic review of the effects on health outcomes”. British Journal of General Practice (Royal College of General Practitioners) 62 (604): e757–64. does not rule it out. Granted, the early purveyors of NLP carry the taint of hucksterism, that does not mean the product is bad. For that matter, how does it compare to other therapies?

    At any rate, it seems these pseudo-science articles need a bit better editing. There have even been people on this thread unquestioningly stating the GMO crops are A-OK when there is no way to tell whether that is true or not at this early stage. That is pseudo-science of a different variety perhaps pseudo-knowledge?

    [Slightly edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use]

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