How to Spot Pseudoscience (In no particular order)  

  Tip Sheet Credibility: 55

» Science & Mathematics

created by Eric Troy 2009-11-19 04:00:22 pm

Tip Sheet



'Quantum" is another buzzword to be leery of anywhere it's being used to sell something. Quantum physics is a real science, but it's strange and difficult to understand, so scam artists often use the word to add a "sciencey" air to their nonsense.

Tip Credibility: 83   (Best Tip!)


submitted by drl2 2011-10-26 11:58:47 am    

 



Pay close attention to things like maverick, lone wolf, unconventional, or "outsider" used to describe a so called scientist and his claims. The implication being that the claims are being suppressed by some scientific fraternity for selfish reasons.

Tip Credibility: 26


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-20 09:32:36 am    


Beware of the Gallileo Argument, which appeals to your sympathy. "I am persecuted and suffer for my claims and therefore must be right". The fact that folks like Gallileo and Copernicus suffered for their claims does not lend credence to the claims.

Tip Credibility: 25


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-19 04:00:22 pm    


Be aware that "alternative" is usually a euphemism for untested. In that vane watch out for science based on conspiracy: Anything that is alternative to "mainstream" information must be superior because the mainstream, or "they" are out to get you!

Tip Credibility: 18


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-19 05:06:56 pm    


Be wary of people who simply attack existing explanations without offering any new explanation. This tactic is meant prey on your doubts - not to enlighten but to attract your money for some dubious product or service. Or just to attract attention.

Tip Credibility: 18


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-21 11:44:25 am    


The mysterious "they" is usually not given concrete identity but the scientific or medical "establishment" is a frequent target, along with "big pharma" or "big oil"; portrayed as secret and select entities where membership is exclusive.

Tip Credibility: 18


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-22 05:56:45 pm    

 



Watch for reference padding, especially with shorter articles. This is the practice of including hundreds of references to support a claim although only a few are necessary. Be aware that most of the references are probably unrelated or only loosely so.

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-19 04:44:02 pm    


"They don't want you to know" is THE number one pseudoscience assertion. ALWAYS view this statement as suspect. It does nothing to verify a claim, even if true, which it is not very likely to be.

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-22 05:49:23 pm    


Remember the rule of falsifiability. For claims to be scientifically valid, rational counter-arguments must be possible. A claim that cannot be falsified is invalid. "We are unhealthy because we have stopped relying on our instincts" is such a claim.

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-23 02:06:27 pm    


Real scientists seek out contradictions to their theories. Cranks tend to take contradictions to their claim as a personal attack. That is not to say that scientific debates, when the stakes are high, cannot become heated. It is a question of method.

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-05 06:02:37 pm    


Science is not about being a list of facts that you pull out of a hat to show knowledge. For from it...it deals with questions and possible answers. This is frequently misunderstood.

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-11 11:31:46 am    

 



Beware of websites dedicated to one proposition or belief whose only purpose is to "prove" this proposition by rejecting all other alternatives. Rejecting alternative explanations does not automatically "prove" that their proposition is "true".

Tip Credibility: 17


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-12 04:40:40 pm    


Be skeptical of discoveries that are announced to the public in advance of the actual scientific establishment (a peer reviewed journal). Or never presented to the scientific community at all. Real science is not done on youtube. Yet!

Tip Credibility: 16


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-11-19 04:27:00 pm    


One of the things that makes pseudoscience successful in influencing people's minds is WISHFUL THINKING. Don't engage in wishful thinking. Engage in CRITICAL THINKING.

Tip Credibility: 16


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-18 03:20:55 pm    


A distinguishing characteristic of real science is that it is constantly in flux. Self-correction is built in and everything is "provisional". Pseudoscience, in contrast, is stagnant and rarely waivers from one central point of view.

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-17 02:45:54 pm    


The two number one laws to apply to outrageous claims and products: 1. You can't get something for nothing, and 2. If it sounds too good to be true; it probably is!

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-17 02:52:08 pm    


In that past, skeptical scientists were slow to accept outlandish theories that were later accepted; after rigorous proof. But these are exceptions. They "laughed" at Copernicus but as Carl Sagan said, "They also laughed at Bozo the clown."

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-17 03:02:05 pm    


To me, lauguage: terms and their definitions are the breeding ground of most fallacies and obfuscation (misdirection through jargon) is a main ploy of pseudocscience. Read this article by Frederik Bendz http://bit.ly/89MQ1y

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-17 05:39:04 pm    


Pseudoscience sets a trap for itself by accepting conjectures and, through belief perseverance, rationalizing their great power. Thus every new experience is seen in light of this power or "previous experience". But the original conjectures are bunk!

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-19 03:46:02 pm    


As Karl Popper said: "A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is nonscientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice." Take that to heart!

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-19 03:52:27 pm    


"We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact." –Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-19 04:21:52 pm    


Sagan spoke of Bozo the clown. Remember, Bozo himself could post his speculations on the internet. Never before has it been easier for everyone to get a fair hearing. And never before has it been harder to separate science from piles of...pseudoscience.

Tip Credibility: 12


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-19 09:23:40 pm    


A common bias among pseudoscientists is confirmation bias. This is marked by selective recruitment of evidence that confirms an already entrenched position while ignoring any counter-evidence...even when that evidence is more abundant.

Tip Credibility: 10


submitted by Eric Troy 2010-01-08 11:54:30 am    


Pseudoscientists often confuse many theories with great understanding. For instance, there are so many theories regarding time travel that today we know more about time travel than ever before. When of course we know nothing about time travel.

Tip Credibility: 10


submitted by Eric Troy 2010-01-24 03:17:19 pm    


Claims of ancient knowledge are central themes in pseudoscience. In nutrition, a favorite is the claim that the hunter gatherers had "perfect" diets due to some "primal" knowledge, instincts, or lifestyles. Pseudoscience in its purest form.

Tip Credibility: 9


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-15 09:02:11 pm    


Learn to recognize rhetorical devices. Someone hawking a cancer cure will ask, "Has medical science managed to cure cancer?" This way, they avoid making a direct statement and imply that where medicine failed, they succeeded.

Tip Credibility: 9


submitted by Eric Troy 2009-12-28 07:40:47 pm    

What do you know about that?

 

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