The Full Wiki

Pseudoscience: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pseudoscience is a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology,[1][2][3][4] lacks supporting evidence or plausibility,[5] or otherwise lacks scientific status.[6] The term comes from the Greek prefix pseudo- (false or pretending) and "science" (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge"). An early recorded use was in 1843 by French physiologist François Magendie,[7] who is considered a pioneer in experimental physiology.

The term is inherently pejorative, because it is used to assert that something is being inaccurately or deceptively portrayed as science.[8][9] Accordingly, those labeled as practicing or advocating a "pseudoscience" normally dispute this characterization.[8] There is disagreement among philosophers of science and among commentators in the scientific community about whether there is a reliable objective way to distinguish "pseudoscience" from non-mainstream "science".[10]

Professor Paul DeHart Hurd[11] argued that a large part of gaining scientific literacy is "being able to distinguish science from pseudo-science such as astrology, quackery, the occult, and superstition".[12] As it is taught in certain introductory science classes, pseudoscience is any subject that appears superficially to be scientific, or whose proponents state that it is scientific, but which nevertheless contravenes the testability requirement or substantially deviates from other fundamental aspects of the scientific method.[3][13][14][15][16][17] The National Science Foundation, in reporting on "Belief in Pseudoscience" reports ten examples of paranormal beliefs[18] they consider pseudoscientific:[18] extrasensory perception (ESP), that houses can be haunted, ghosts, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, that people can communicate mentally with someone who has died, witches, reincarnation, and channeling.[18]

Pseudoscience has been characterised by the use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims, over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation, lack of openness to testing by other experts, and a lack of progress in theory development.



A typical 19th century phrenology chart. In the 1820s, phrenologists claimed that the mind was located in areas of the brain, and were attacked for doubting that mind came from the non-material soul. Their idea of reading "bumps" in the skull to predict personality traits was later discredited.[19] Phrenology was first called a pseudoscience in 1843 and continues to be widely considered pseudoscience.[7]

The standards for determining whether a body of knowledge, methodology, or practice is scientific can vary from field to field. There are, however, a number of basic principles that are widely agreed upon by scientists, such as reproducibility and intersubjective verifiability.[20] Such principles aim to ensure that relevant evidence can be measurably reproduced under the same conditions, which allows further investigation to determine whether a hypothesis or theory related to given phenomena is both valid and reliable for use by others, including other scientists and researchers. It is expected that the scientific method will be applied throughout, and that bias will be controlled or eliminated, by double-blind studies, or statistically through fair sampling procedures. All gathered data, including experimental/environmental conditions, are expected to be documented for scrutiny and made available for peer review, thereby allowing further experiments or studies to be conducted to confirm or falsify results, as well as to determine other important factors such as statistical significance, confidence intervals, and margins of error.[21]

In the mid-20th century Karl Popper suggested the criterion of falsifiability to distinguish science from non-science.[22] Statements such as "God created the universe" may be true or false, but no tests can be devised that could prove them false, so they are not scientific; they lie outside the scope of science. Popper subdivided non-science into philosophical, mathematical, mythological, religious and/or metaphysical formulations on the one hand, and pseudoscientific formulations on the other—though without providing clear criteria for the differences.[23] He gave astrology and psychoanalysis as examples of pseudoscience, and Einstein's theory of relativity as an example of science. More recently, Paul Thagard (1978) proposed that pseudoscience is primarily distinguishable from science when it is less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and the failure of proponents to acknowledge or address problems with the theory.[24] Mario Bunge has suggested the categories of "belief fields" and "research fields" to help distinguish between science and pseudoscience.[25]

Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend has argued, from a sociology of knowledge perspective, that a distinction between science and non-science is neither possible nor desirable.[26][27] Among the issues which can make the distinction difficult are that both the theories and methodologies of science evolve at differing rates in response to new data.[28] In addition, the specific standards applicable to one field of science may not be those employed in other fields. Thagard also writes from a sociological perspective and states that "elucidation of how science differs from pseudoscience is the philosophical side of an attempt to overcome public neglect of genuine science."

Skeptics, most prominently represented by Richard Dawkins, Mario Bunge, Carl Sagan and James Randi, and the Brights movement consider all forms of pseudoscience to be harmful, whether or not they result in immediate harm to their adherents. These critics generally consider that the practice of pseudoscience may occur for a number of reasons, ranging from simple naïveté about the nature of science and the scientific method, to deliberate deception for financial or political gain. At the extreme, issues of personal health and safety may be very directly involved, for example in the case of physical or mental therapy or treatment, or in assessing safety risks. In such instances the potential for direct harm to patients, clients, the general public, or the environment may be an issue in assessing pseudoscience. (See also Junk science.)

The concept of pseudoscience as antagonistic to bona fide science appears to have emerged in the mid-19th century. Among the first recorded uses of the word "pseudo-science" was in 1844 in the Northern Journal of Medicine, I 387: "That opposite kind of innovation which pronounces what has been recognized as a branch of science, to have been a pseudo-science, composed merely of so-called facts, connected together by misapprehensions under the disguise of principles".

Identifying pseudoscience

A field, practice, or body of knowledge might reasonably be called pseudoscientific when (1) it is presented as consistent with the accepted norms of scientific research; but (2) it demonstrably fails to meet these norms, most importantly, in misuse of scientific method.[29] Subjects may be considered pseudoscientific for various reasons.

Karl Popper considered astrology to be pseudoscientific simply because astrologers keep their claims so vague that they could never be refuted, whereas Paul R. Thagard considers astrology pseudoscientific because its practitioners make little effort to develop the theory, show no concern for attempts to critically evaluate the theory in relation to others, and are selective in considering evidence. More generally, Thagard stated that pseudoscience tends to focus on resemblances rather than cause-effect relations.

Science is also distinguishable from revelation, theology, or spirituality in that it offers insight into the physical world obtained by empirical research and testing.[30] For this reason, both creation science and intelligent design have been labeled as pseudoscience by the mainstream scientific community.[31] The most notable disputes concern the effects of evolution on the development of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geologic history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system, and the origin of the universe.[32] Systems of belief that derive from divine or inspired knowledge are not considered pseudoscience if they do not claim either to be scientific or to overturn well-established science.

Some statements and commonly held beliefs in popular science may not meet the criteria of science. "Pop" science may blur the divide between science and pseudoscience among the general public, and may also involve science fiction.[33] Indeed, pop science is disseminated to, and can also easily emanate from, persons not accountable to scientific methodology and expert peer review.

If the claims of a given field can be experimentally tested and methodological standards are upheld, it is not "pseudoscience", however odd, astonishing, or counter-intuitive. If claims made are inconsistent with existing experimental results or established theory, but the methodology is sound, caution should be used; science consists of testing hypotheses which may turn out to be false. In such a case, the work may be better described as ideas that are not yet generally accepted. Protoscience is a term sometimes used to describe a hypothesis that has not yet been adequately tested by the scientific method, but which is otherwise consistent with existing science or which, where inconsistent, offers reasonable account of the inconsistency. It may also describe the transition from a body of practical knowledge into a scientific field.[34]

The following have been proposed to be indicators of poor scientific reasoning.


Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims

  • Assertion of scientific claims that are vague rather than precise, and that lack specific measurements.[35]
  • Failure to make use of operational definitions (i.e. publicly accessible definitions of the variables, terms, or objects of interest so that persons other than the definer can independently measure or test them).[36] (See also: Reproducibility)
  • Failure to make reasonable use of the principle of parsimony, i.e. failing to seek an explanation that requires the fewest possible additional assumptions when multiple viable explanations are possible (see: Occam's Razor)[37]
  • Use of obscurantist language, and misuse of apparently technical jargon in an effort to give claims the superficial trappings of science.
  • Lack of boundary conditions: Most well-supported scientific theories possess well-articulated limitations under which the predicted phenomena do and do not apply.[38]
  • Lack of effective controls, such as placebo and double-blind, in experimental design. (see Scientific control)

Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation

  • Assertions that do not allow the logical possibility that they can be shown to be false by observation or physical experiment (see also: falsifiability)[39]
  • Assertion of claims that a theory predicts something that it has not been shown to predict[40]. Scientific claims that do not confer any predictive power are considered at best "conjectures", or at worst "pseudoscience" (e.g.[41]).[42]
  • Assertion that claims which have not been proven false must be true, and vice versa (see: Argument from ignorance)[43]
  • Over-reliance on testimonial, anecdotal evidence, or personal experience. This evidence may be useful for the context of discovery (i.e. hypothesis generation) but should not be used in the context of justification (e.g. Statistical hypothesis testing).[44]
  • Presentation of data that seems to support its claims while suppressing or refusing to consider data that conflict with its claims.[45] This is an example of selection bias, a distortion of evidence or data that arises from the way that the data are collected. It is sometimes referred to as the selection effect.
  • Reversed burden of proof. In science, the burden of proof rests on those making a claim, not on the critic. "Pseudoscientific" arguments may neglect this principle and demand that skeptics demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a claim (e.g. an assertion regarding the efficacy of a novel therapeutic technique) is false. It is essentially impossible to prove a universal negative, so this tactic incorrectly places the burden of proof on the skeptic rather than the claimant.[46]
  • Appeals to holism as opposed to reductionism: Proponents of pseudoscientific claims, especially in organic medicine, alternative medicine, naturopathy and mental health, often resort to the "mantra of holism" to explain negative findings.[47]

Lack of openness to testing by other experts

  • Evasion of peer review before publicizing results (called "science by press conference").[48] Some proponents of theories that contradict accepted scientific theories avoid subjecting their ideas to peer review, sometimes on the grounds that peer review is biased towards established paradigms, and sometimes on the grounds that assertions cannot be evaluated adequately using standard scientific methods. By remaining insulated from the peer review process, these proponents forgo the opportunity of corrective feedback from informed colleagues.[49]
  • Some agencies, institutions, and publications that fund scientific research require authors to share data so that others can evaluate a paper independently. Failure to provide adequate information for other researchers to reproduce the claims contributes to a lack of openness.[50]
  • Assertion of claims of secrecy or proprietary knowledge in response to requests for review of data or methodology.[50]

Absence of progress

  • Failure to progress towards additional evidence of its claims.[51] Terence Hines has identified astrology as a subject that has changed very little in the past two millennia.[52] (see also: Scientific progress)
  • Lack of self correction: scientific research programmes make mistakes, but they tend to eliminate these errors over time.[53] By contrast, theories may be accused of being pseudoscientific because they have remained unaltered despite contradictory evidence. The work Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1976) Cornell University, also delves into these features in some detail, as does the work of Thomas Kuhn, e.g. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which also discusses some of the items on the list of characteristics of pseudoscience.
  • Statistical significance of supporting experimental results does not improve over time and are usually close to the cutoff for statistical significance. Normally, experimental techniques improve or the experiments are repeated and this gives ever stronger evidence. If statistical significance does not improve, this typically shows that the experiments have just been repeated until a success occurs due to chance variations.

Personalization of issues

Use of misleading language

  • Creating scientific-sounding terms in order to add weight to claims and persuade non-experts to believe statements that may be false or meaningless. For example, a long-standing hoax refers to water by the rarely-used formal name "dihydrogen monoxide" (DHMO) and describes it as the main constituent in most poisonous solutions to show how easily the general public can be misled.
  • Using established terms in idiosyncratic ways, thereby demonstrating unfamiliarity with mainstream work in the discipline.


The National Science Foundation stated that, in the USA, "pseudoscientific" beliefs became more widespread during the 1990s, peaked near 2001 and have declined slightly since; nevertheless, pseudoscientific beliefs remain common in the USA.[57] As a result, according to the NSF report, there is a lack of knowledge of pseudoscientific issues in society and pseudoscientific practices are commonly followed. Bunge states that "A survey on public knowledge of science in the United States showed that in 1988 50% of American adults [rejected] evolution, and 88% [believed] astrology is a science"[citation needed]. Other surveys indicate that about a third of all adult Americans consider astrology to be scientific.[58][59][60]

Commentators on pseudoscience perceive it in many fields; for example, pseudomathematics is a term used for mathematics-like activity undertaken by either non-mathematicians or mathematicians themselves which does not conform to the rigorous standards usually applied to mathematical theorems.

Clinical psychology

Neurologists, clinical psychologists and other academics are concerned,[61] about the increasing amount of what they consider pseudoscience promoted in psychotherapy and popular psychology, and also about what they see as pseudoscientific therapies such as neuro-linguistic programming, EMDR[62] rebirthing, reparenting, Scientology, and Primal Therapy being adopted by government and professional bodies and by the public.[62] They state that scientifically unsupported therapies used by popular or folk psychology might harm vulnerable members of the public, undermine legitimate therapies, and tend to spread misconceptions about the nature of the mind and brain to society at large. Norcross et al..[63] have approached the science/pseudoscience issue by conducting a survey of experts that seeks to specify which theory or therapy is considered to be definitely discredited, and they outline 14 fields that have been definitely discredited.

Psychological explanations

Pseudoscientific thinking has been explained in terms of psychology and social psychology. The human proclivity for seeking confirmation rather than refutation (confirmation bias),[64] the tendency to hold comforting beliefs, and the tendency to overgeneralize have been proposed as reasons for the common adherence to pseudoscientific thinking. According to Beyerstein (1991), humans are prone to associations based on resemblances only, and often prone to misattribution in cause-effect thinking.

Lindeman argues that social motives (i.e., "to comprehend self and the world, to have a sense of control over outcomes, to belong, to find the world benevolent and to maintain one’s self-esteem") are often "more easily" fulfilled by pseudoscience than by scientific information.[65] Furthermore, pseudoscientific explanations are generally not analyzed rationally, but instead experientially. Operating within a different set of rules compared to rational thinking, experiential thinking regards an explanation as valid if the explanation is "personally functional, satisfying and sufficient", offering a description of the world that may be more personal than can be provided by science and reducing the amount of potential work involved in understanding complex events and outcomes.[65]

Boundaries between science and pseudoscience

The boundary lines between the science and pseudoscience are disputed and difficult to determine analytically, even after more than a century of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in varied fields, and despite some basic agreements on the fundaments of scientific methodology.[29][66] The concept of pseudoscience rests on an understanding that scientific methodology has been misrepresented or misapplied with respect to a given theory, but many philosophers of science maintain that different kinds of methods are held as appropriate across different fields and different eras of human history. Paul Feyerabend, for example, disputes whether any meaningful boundaries can be drawn between pseudoscience, "real" science, and what he calls "protoscience", especially where there is a significant cultural or historical distance.

There are well-known cases of fields that were originally considered pseudoscientific but which are now accepted scientific effects or valid hypotheses, for example, continental drift,[67] cosmology,[68] ball lightning,[69] and radiation hormesis.[70][71][72][73] As another example, osteopathy has, according to Kimball Atwood, "for the most part, repudiated its pseudoscientific beginnings and joined the world of rational healthcare" for lower back pain although it is not particularly effective.[74] Others, such as phrenology[75] or alchemy were originally considered highly scientific, but now are taken as pseudoscience. Further, there are protosciences such as cultural, traditional, or ancient practices such as acupuncture practice and traditional Chinese medicine which do not conform to modern scientific principles, but which are not pseudoscience because their proponents do not claim the practices to be scientific according to today's standards of scientific method.

Larry Laudan has suggested that pseudoscience has no scientific meaning and is mostly used to describe our emotions: "If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like 'pseudo-science' and 'unscientific' from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us".[76] Likewise, Richard McNally states that "The term 'pseudoscience' has become little more than an inflammatory buzzword for quickly dismissing one’s opponents in media sound-bites" and that "When therapeutic entrepreneurs make claims on behalf of their interventions, we should not waste our time trying to determine whether their interventions qualify as pseudoscientific. Rather, we should ask them: How do you know that your intervention works? What is your evidence?"[77]

The term pseudoscience can also have political implications that eclipse any scientific issues. Imre Lakatos, for instance, points out that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at one point declared that Mendelian genetics was pseudoscientific and had its advocates, including well-established scientists such as Nikolai Vavilov, sent to Gulag,[78] and that the "liberal Establishment of the West" denies freedom of speech to topics it regards as pseudoscience, particularly where they run up against social mores.[79]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Pseudoscientific - pretending to be scientific, falsely represented as being scientific", from the Oxford American Dictionary, published by the Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ Hansson, Sven Ove (1996). “Defining Pseudoscience”, Philosophia Naturalis, 33: 169–176, cited in "Science and Pseudo-science" (2008) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Stanford article states: "Many writers on pseudoscience have emphasized that pseudoscience is non-science posing as science. The foremost modern classic on the subject (Gardner 1957) bears the title Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. According to Brian Baigrie (1988, 438), “[w]hat is objectionable about these beliefs is that they masquerade as genuinely scientific ones.” These and many other authors assume that to be pseudoscientific, an activity or a teaching has to satisfy the following two criteria (Hansson 1996): (1) it is not scientific, and (2) its major proponents try to create the impression that it is scientific."
  3. ^ a b For example, Hewitt et al. Conceptual Physical Science Addison Wesley; 3 edition (July 18, 2003) ISBN 0-321-05173-4, Bennett et al. The Cosmic Perspective 3e Addison Wesley; 3 edition (July 25, 2003) ISBN 0-8053-8738-2
  4. ^ See also, e.g., Gauch HG Jr. Scientific Method in Practice (2003)
  5. ^ The National Science Foundation adopts the definition of (Shermer, 1997): "claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility" (Shermer 1997, p. 33). In contrast, science is "a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation" (Shermer 1997, p. 17). Shermer M. (1997). Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.  cited by National Science Foundation (official report) (2006). "Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding". Science and engineering indicators 2006. 
  6. ^ "A pretended or spurious science; a collection of related beliefs about the world mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method or as having the status that scientific truths now have.", from the Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition 1989.
  7. ^ a b Magendie, F (1843) An Elementary Treatise on Human Physiology. 5th Ed. Tr. John Revere. New York: Harper, p 150. Magendie refers to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day" (note the hyphen).
  8. ^ a b "Science and Pseudoscience" in. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  9. ^ Laudan, Larry (1983). “The demise of the demarcation problem”, in R.S. Cohan and L. Laudan (eds.), Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis, pp. 111–127.
  10. ^ The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend in particular is associated with the view that attempts to distinguish science from non-science are flawed and pernicious. "The idea that science can, and should, be run according to fixed and universal rules, is both unrealistic and pernicious. ... the idea is detrimental to science, for it neglects the complex physical and historical conditions which influence scientific change. It makes our science less adaptable and more dogmatic:"[1]
  11. ^ Memorial Resolution: Paul DeHart Hurd. [2] retrieved 8 April 2009
  12. ^ Hurd, P. D. (1998). "Scientific literacy: New minds for a changing world". Science Education, 82, 407–416.. Abstract online at; retrieved 6 November. 2006
  13. ^ For example, a course is offered at the University of Maryland entitled "Science & Pseudoscience" [3]
  14. ^ Pseudoscience, Scientism, and Science: A Short Course
  15. ^ The Teaching of Courses in the Science and Pseudoscience of Psychology: Useful Resources
  16. ^ HON 120 Natural Sciences and Society Spring 2006 Dr
  17. ^ What is science? What is pseudoscience?
  18. ^ a b c Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, National Science Board, National Science Foundation. Belief in Pseudoscience. See Note 29 for the list of 10 items.
  19. ^ Bowler, Peter J. (2003). Evolution: The History of an Idea (3rd ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-52023693-9.  p. 128
  20. ^ e.g. Gauch HG Jr. Scientific Method in Practice (2003) 3-5 ff
  21. ^ Gauch (2003), 191 ff, especially Chapter 6, "Probability", and Chapter 7, "inductive Logic and Statistics"
  22. ^ Popper, KR (1959) "The Logic of Scientific Discovery".
  23. ^ Karl R. Popper: Science: Conjectures and Refutations. Conjectures and Refutations (1963), p. 43–86;
  24. ^ Thagard PR (1978) "Why astrology is a pseudoscience" (1978) In PSA 1978, Volume 1, ed. Asquith PD and Hacking I (East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1978) 223 ff.
  25. ^ Bunge M (1983) "Demarcating science from pseudoscience" Fundamenta Scientiae 3:369-388
  26. ^ Feyerabend P Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975)[4]
  27. ^ For a perspective on Feyerabend from within the scientific community, see, e.g., Gauch (2003) at p.4: "Such critiques are unfamiliar to most scientists, although some may have heard a few distant shots from the so-called science wars."
  28. ^ Thagard PR (1978) "Why astrology is a pseudoscience" (1978) In PSA 1978, Volume 1, ed. Asquith PD and Hacking I (East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1978) 223 ff. Thagard writes, at 227, 228: "We can now propose the following principle of demarcation: A theory or discipline which purports to be scientific is pseudoscientific if and only if: it has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; but the community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and non confirmations."
  29. ^ a b Cover JA, Curd M (Eds, 1998) Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, 1-82
  30. ^ Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping magisteria", Natural History , March, 1997 [5]
  31. ^ Statements from Scientific and Scholarly Organizations. National Center for Science Education. Retrieved on 04-01-2008.
  32. ^ Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design
  33. ^ Popular Science Feature - When Science Fiction is Science Fact
  34. ^ Popper KR op. cit.
  35. ^ e.g. Gauch (2003) op cit at 211 ff (Probability, "Common Blunders")
  36. ^ Paul Montgomery Churchland, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (1999) MIT Press. p.90. "Most terms in theoretical physics, for example, do not enjoy at least some distinct connections with observables, but not of the simple sort that would permit operational definitions in terms of these observables. [..] If a restriction in favor of operational definitions were to be followed, therefore, most of theoretical physics would have to be dismissed as meaningless pseudoscience!"
  37. ^ Gauch HG Jr. (2003) op cit 269 ff, "Parsimony and Efficiency"
  38. ^ Hines T (1988) Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: A Critical Examination of the Evidence Buffalo NY: Prometheus Books. A Skeptical Inquirer Reader
  39. ^ Lakatos I (1970) "Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes." in Lakatos I, Musgrave A (eds) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge pp 91-195; Popper KR (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery
  40. ^ e.g. Gauch (2003) op cit at 178 ff (Deductive Logic, "Fallacies"), and at 211 ff (Probability, "Common Blunders")
  41. ^
  42. ^ Macmilllan Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol 3, "Fallacies" 174 ff, esp. section on "Ignoratio elenchi"
  43. ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol 3, "Fallacies" 174 'ff esp. 177-178
  44. ^ Bunge M (1983) Demarcating science from pseudoscience Fundamenta Scientiae 3:369-388, 381
  45. ^ Thagard (1978)op cit at 227, 228
  46. ^ Lilienfeld SO (2004) Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology Guildford Press (2004) ISBN 1-59385-070-0
  47. ^ Ruscio J (2001) Clear thinking with psychology: Separating sense from nonsense, Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth
  48. ^ Peer review and the acceptance of new scientific ideas (Warning 469 kB PDF)*Peer review – process, perspectives and the path ahead; Lilienfeld (2004) op cit For an opposing perspective, e.g. Peer Review as Scholarly Conformity
  49. ^ Ruscio (2001) op cit.
  50. ^ a b Gauch (2003) op cit 124 ff"
  51. ^ Lakatos I (1970) "Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes." in Lakatos I, Musgrave A (eds.) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge 91-195; Thagard (1978) op cit writes: "We can now propose the following principle of demarcation: A theory or discipline which purports to be scientific is pseudoscientific if and only if: it has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; but the community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and disconfirmations."
  52. ^ Hines T, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: A Critical Examination of the Evidence, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1988. ISBN 0-87975-419-2. Thagard (1978) op cit 223 ff
  53. ^ Ruscio J (2001) op cit. p120
  54. ^ Devilly GJ (2005) Power therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry Austral NZ J Psych 39:437-445(9)
  55. ^ e.g. which claims that "The list of suppressed scientists even includes Nobel Laureates!"
  56. ^ Devilly (2005) op cit. e.g. [6]
  57. ^ [7] National Science Board. 2006. Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 Two volumes. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (volume 1, NSB-06-01; NSB 06-01A)
  58. ^ National Science Board (PDF), Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, 2, p. A7-14,, retrieved 2009-05-03 
  59. ^ FOX News (June 18, 2004), Poll: More Believe In God Than Heaven,,2933,99945,00.html, retrieved Apr. 26, 2009 
  60. ^ Taylor, Humphrey (February 26, 2003), Harris Poll: The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans 2003,, retrieved Apr. 26, 2009 
  61. ^ Justman, S. (2005). Fool's Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop Psychology. Ivan R. Dee. [8]
  62. ^ a b e.g. Drenth (2003) [9]; Herbert JD, et al. (2000) Science and pseudoscience in the development of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: implications for clinical psychology. Clin Psychol Rev. 20:945-71 [PMID 11098395])
  63. ^ Norcross J.C. Garofalo. A. Koocher.G.P. (2006) Discredited psychological treatments and tests: a Delphi poll. Professional Psychology. Research and Practice, 37: 515-522.
  64. ^ (Devilly 2005:439)
  65. ^ a b Lindeman M (December 1998). "Motivation, cognition and pseudoscience". Scandinavian journal of psychology 39 (4): 257–65. PMID 9883101. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  66. ^ Gauch HG Jr (2003)op cit 3-7.
  67. ^ William F. Williams, editor (2000) Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy Facts on File p. 58 ISBN 0-8160-3351-X
  68. ^ Hawking, Stephen W. (2000) The Nature of Time and Space, lectures delivered at the Isaac Newton Institute [10]: "Cosmology used to be considered a pseudo-science and the preserve of physicists who may have done useful work in their earlier years but who had gone mystic in their dotage. There are two reasons for this. The first was that there was an almost total absence of reliable observations. Indeed, until the 1920s about the only important cosmological observation was that the sky at night is dark. [However, in recent years] the range and quality of cosmological observations has improved enormously with the developments in technology."
  69. ^ Henry H. Bauer, "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method", p 60
  70. ^ Radiation Hormesis
  71. ^ New On The Sepp Web
  72. ^ R. Hickey (1985). "Risks associated with exposure to radiation; science, pseudoscience, and opinion". Health Phys. 49: 949–952. 
  73. ^ M. Kauffman (2003). "Radiation Hormesis: Demonstrated, Deconstructed, Denied, Dismissed, and Some Implications for Public Policy". J. Scientific Exploration 17(3): 389–407. 
  74. ^ Atwood KC (2004) Naturopathy, pseudoscience, and medicine: myths and fallacies vs truth. Medscape Gen Med6:e53 available online
  75. ^ See, e.g., Phrenology: History of a Classic Pseudoscience - by Steven Novella MD
  76. ^ Laudan L (1996) "The demise of the demarcation problem" in Ruse, Michael, But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy pp. 337-350.
  77. ^ McNally RJ (2003) Is the pseudoscience concept useful for clinical psychology? SRMHP Vol 2 Number 2
  78. ^ Mendelian genetics was later rehabilitated, but not until after Vavilov died in the camps
  79. ^ as in debates concerning the relationship of race and intelligence. Imre Lakatos, Science and Pseudoscience (1973 Lecture Transcript)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Pseudoscience is any alleged body of knowledge, methodology, belief, or practice claiming to be scientific or made to appear scientific, but not adhering to the scientific method.


Examples of pseudo-scientific quotes

  • Interviewer: You say that Darwin is responsible for global terrorism.
  • Adnan Oktar: Yes, Darwin says that life is the struggle between the strong and the weak....The idea is reflected in Social Darwinism, which believes that whoever is more powerful militarily, politically, and in terms of technology will be superior to the weak and the oppressed, and will rule and annihilate them. This idea dominated the ideology of Hitler and Mussolini.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

"You can see a lot just by observing." -Yogi Berra

Welcome to the Wikiversity learning project about Pseudoscience.

A pseudoscience adopts some of the forms that are associated with science, but not the scientific method.


How can you recognize pseudoscience?

  • Has the subject shown progress?
  • Does the discipline use technical words such as "vibration" or "energy" without clearly defining what they mean?
  • Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well established physical laws?
  • Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?
  • Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?
  • Does the proponent of the subject claim that "air-tight" experiments have been performed that prove the truth of the subject matter, and that cheating would have been impossible?
  • Are the results of the aforementioned experiments successfully repeated by other researchers?
  • Does the proponent of the subject claim to be overly or unfairly criticized?
  • Is the subject taught only in non-credit institutions?
  • Are the best texts on the subject decades old?
  • Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer has called "factuals" - statements that are a largely or wholly true but unrelated to the claim?
  • When criticized, do the defenders of the claim attack the critic rather than the criticism?
  • Does the proponent make appeals to history (i.e. it has been around a long time, so it must be true)?
  • Does the subject display the "shyness effect" (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't)?
  • Does the proponent use the appeal to ignorance argument ("there are more things under heaven … than are dreamed of in your philosophy …")?
  • Does the proponent use alleged expertise in other areas to lend weight to the claim?

source of this list

Case studies

Readings. Read the Wikipedia article on pseudoscience and the List of pseudosciences and pseudoscientific concepts.

List and discuss any examples of pseudosciences that you think should not be on this list.

Are there other pseudosciences the should be added to the list of pseudosciences?

Creation science

Are attempts to create a science of creationism a pseudoscientific[1] expression of religious fundamentalism[2]?


Read and discuss the Wedge strategy.


  1. A community experiment with fully open and published peer review by Eugene V. Koonin, Laura F. Landweber and David J. Lipman in Biology Direct (2006) Volume 1, page 1.
  2. Science and fundamentalism by Massimo Pigliucci in EMBO Reports (2005) Volume 6, pages 1106–1109.

See also

Nuvola apps kalzium.svg Subject classification: this is a science resource .

External resources about pseudoscience

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

(There is currently no text in this page)

Simple English

Pseudoscience is a method, practice or area of knowledge that is mistakenly considered as scientific. Essentially, pseudoscience is any idea about how nature works that is generally not accepted as true by the mainstream scientific community. An idea can be considered pseudoscientific for any number of reasons. The word pseudoscience literally means "false science." Creationism and Astrology are both well known pseudosciences.

Pseudoscience is often considered immoral by scientists not because its claims are undemonstrated, but because they are sometimes presented as facts and/or real. An average person might not recognize the differences in credibility between a television program about psychics supposedly reading people's thoughts versus one that presents evidence for and against global warming.

Types of Pseudoscience

Ideas (more properly "hypotheses") about how nature works may be considered pseudoscientific for many reasons. Sometimes, the hypothesis is just simply wrong, and can be demonstrated to be wrong. An example of this is the belief that the Earth is flat, or the belief that human female skeletons have one more rib than mens' do. Ideas such as these are considered pseudoscientific because they are just simply wrong.

Sometimes, scientists agree that a certain idea may be true, but could never be demonstrated to be true, even in principle. For example, some people believe that the Earth and the universe came into existance last Thursday. They believe that when the universe came into existence last Thursday, it was created with the appearance of being many thousands or even millions of years old. According to these believers, even our memories of two weeks ago are actually just the false memories that came along with the creation of the universe, which took place last Thursday. Such a belief is considered pseudoscientific because it is not falsifiable -- scientists cannot even imagine an experiment that could shed light on whether this belief is true or false.

Other types of pseudoscience are considered pseudoscientific because they are based on deception, even though the idea being used is not impossible. Examples of this are people who claim to have build time travel devices, antigravity devices, or teleporters. Scientists simply do not have the technology to build such things in modern times, even though they may be able to someday.

Some ideas are arguably pseudoscientific. This means that some mainstream scientists consider the idea pseudoscientific and some do not. Certain ideas about how the stock market behaves fall into this category.

Pseudoscience is not exactly the same thing as biased research, where the scientist has some bad motive (such as personal gain, fame, or financial profit) for promoting their findings. It is also not the same as an untested hypothesis, which is an idea that scientists cannot test yet because they do not have the money or technology to do so. The theories of quantum gravity are untested hypotheses: scientists can easily imagine experiments to test them, but they just do not quite have the technology to do so at this time.

Other pages


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address