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marnixR
Post  Post subject: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:01 pm
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just came across the following 11 characteristics as highlighted by John Casti in his "Paradigm Lost", which i thought seem a pretty good checklist for distinguishing pseudoscience from proper science :

1. Anachronistic thinking. If an argument is based on the wisdom of the ancients (who, remember, knew much less about the world than any junior high school graduate should), or on the use of outmoded scientific terminology, there is good reason to be suspicious.

2. Seeking mysteries. While science’s objective is to solve mysteries, pseudo-science tends to emphasize the existence and supposed unsolvability of mysteries. This is a rather sterile position, since if a mystery is by definition insoluble, then why wasting ones’ time thinking about it?

3. Appeals to myths. This is the idea that ancient myths must be based on some kind of real events, which became distorted in the course of oral transmission from generation to generation. While this can certainly happen, just because some cultures share (usually superficially) similar myths, that does not imply that the underlying events are the same, or even ever happened. An alternative explanation is that human minds tend to work in a similar fashion, and therefore provide similar explanations for things they do not understand.

4. Casual approach to evidence. Evidence is the cornerstone that sets aside science from any other human intellectual endeavor, including (to a large extent) philosophy. Given its pivotal role, admissible evidence has to be solid and reliable. If we cite a “fact,” we have to be reasonably sure that it indeed corresponds to a verifiable piece of evidence. Hearsay is not admissible.

5. Irrefutable hypotheses. Scientific progress can be made only if a hypothesis is at least potentially open to dismissal. If your hypothesis is not refutable (i.e., falsifiable) no matter what the evidence, then it is useless (of course, it may still be true, but there is no way to verify it).

6. Spurious similarities. A very insidious trap of human thinking is drawing parallels between concepts or phenomena that seem reasonable, and that require an in-depth analysis to be verified or discarded. For example, one can draw mystical significance from the fact that one’s car plate number is the same as one’s civic address. But a moment of reflection would easily lead you to conclude that this is simply a coincidence. In other cases, however, the parallel may seem more compelling. In general, similarities can yield genuine insights into the matter under consideration, but they require a higher standard of verification than the one provided by a first intuition.

7. Explanation by scenario. It is pretty easy, if one has just a little bit of imagination, to explain something by telling a story, that is by imagining a reasonable scenario. Scientists are sometimes guilty of this practice (widespread, for example, among evolutionary psychologists). In fact, scenarios can be useful, because they may point the inquiry in the right direction. However, when scenarios remain just-so stories, not backed by data, they are not useful tools because many scenarios can be proposed to explain the same data, but presumably only one is actually correct.

8. Research by literary interpretation. This occurs when the proponent of a pseudoscientific position claims that statements by scientists are open to alternative, equally valid interpretations. This approach treats scientific literature as one might consider a novel or a painting: no one interpretation (not even the one espoused by the author!) is necessarily better than any other. In science, this is a far cry from the reality of things. Scientific statements are the more useful the more precise and unambiguous they are. Ideally, a scientific hypothesis or theory should have one and only one possible interpretation, and this is either correct or not.

9. Refusal to revise. One of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is the refusal to revise one’s own positions in the face of new evidence. No matter how many studies are conducted on the ineffectiveness of astrology, astrologers will repeat the same arguments in support of their profession. Science is a process of a completely different nature, where the primary element is continuous revision and correction to accommodate new evidence.

10. Shift the burden of proof on the other side. The reader should be weary of statements such as “but it has not been disproved.” First, there are simply not enough scientists and funding to verify or disprove every claim that has ever been made. That is not positive evidence for that claim, however, but simply of our ignorance (or disinterest) on the matter. Second, when one proposes an alternative to a very well established theory, the burden of proof is logically and squarely on the side of the newcomer. When Copernicus suggested that the Earth rotates around the Sun, and not vice versa, people did not just believe him because nobody had proven him wrong (on the contrary, most people did not even consider his arguments!). Other astronomers demanded evidence, and it took more than a century for the theory to be accepted.

11. A theory is legitimate simply because it’s new, alternative, or daring. This is the “Galileo” effect. Proponents of new theories are fond of recalling the many examples of scientists who had been derided, ignored, or worse persecuted because of their radical theories, which then proved to be correct. What this line of reasoning ignores, of course, is the fact that for every Galileo who eventually succeeded there were thousands of crackpots who did not. For every example of a daring, new scientific theory which ends up being accepted, there are many, many examples of wrong theories, forever rejected and confined to the limbo of pseudoscientific history. Novelty per se is no evidence.


SCIENCE VS. PSEUDOSCIENCE: WHERE IS THE DIFFERENCE?

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:48 pm
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another good summary of the warning signs of pseudoscience can be found in Voodoo Science, by professor Robert L. Park

1. Discoverers make their claims directly to the popular media, rather than to fellow scientists.
2. Discoverers claim that a conspiracy has tried to suppress the discovery.
3. The claimed effect appears so weak that observers can hardly distinguish it from noise. No amount of further work increases the signal.
4. Anecdotal evidence is used to back up the claim.
5. True believers cite ancient traditions in support of the new claim.
6. The discoverer or discoverers work in isolation from the mainstream scientific community.
7. The discovery, if true, would require a change in the understanding of the fundamental laws of nature.

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SkinWalker
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:28 pm
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Paradigms Lost is a fantastic book to read. I still have it on my shelf.

I'll have to dig out an old post I made on this a few years ago, though I think it mirrors whats above.


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Ophiolite
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:20 pm
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On forums such as this another indicator might be that the proponent becomes hysterical when faced with any reasonable challenge to his thesis. (It nearly always seems to be a he. Women seem to sensible for the self indulgence required to practice proper pseudoscience.)


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DrRocket
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:31 pm
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Ophiolite wrote:
On forums such as this another indicator might be that the proponent becomes hysterical when faced with any reasonable challenge to his thesis. (It nearly always seems to be a he. Women seem to sensible for the self indulgence required to practice proper pseudoscience.)


That hysteria is often manifested when the offending thread is (properly) moved to Pseudoscience.

This is usually a dead giveaway as to the motivation of the poster, which is not any advancement of science itself but rather some sort of personal recognition.

Any your observation matches mine. The nut cases seem to be predominantly, but not exclusively, male.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:22 pm
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SkinWalker wrote:
Paradigms Lost is a fantastic book to read. I still have it on my shelf.


there appear to be many books with that title - who's the author of your "Paradigm Lost" ?

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MeteorWayne
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 3:09 pm
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Another fun read is The Crackpot Index:
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html


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Ophiolite
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:48 pm
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I briefly tried to act as a crzy with a sockpuppet account on sciforums. I was unable to sustain the disconnect with reality, which seems to be essential, for more than a few posts.


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SkinWalker
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:26 pm
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marnixR wrote:
SkinWalker wrote:
Paradigms Lost is a fantastic book to read. I still have it on my shelf.


there appear to be many books with that title - who's the author of your "Paradigm Lost" ?



John Casti: http://www.amazon.com/Paradigms-Lost-Jo ... 0380711656

You can apparently get a copy for as little as a penny (US $)! It was a great book and I read it probably in 2004.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:03 pm
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ordered it 8-)

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SkinWalker
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:19 am
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heh. For a penny, I almost ordered another copy :-)


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:32 pm
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not a bad summary of trigger words that shout "pseudo!"

Image

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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:26 pm

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Not sure if this can be properly classed as pseudoscience, but the underlying intent involves at least a degree of nefarious misleading or deception of potential customers for the purpose of financial gain on the part of business: cosmetic and personal hygiene product advertisements. The really cringey ones with women in sweeping white Lab coats (a dead giveaway - anybody who works in a Lab 9-5 does NOT have a Lab coat so sparkling white) and with an unnaturally persistent smile stating that the product contains pentapeptides, like that is automatically a good thing? Chances are that your average viewer will not stop to question this, precisely because it is being handed down as fact by someone dressed up with the aura of authority that comes naturally with actual scientists. To question might expose ignorance and invite ridicule so the viewer swallows the statement as fact. Usually finished with '89% of women noticed a younger complexion'. What they don't tell you is the sample number (n) or that the survey reply was part of a chance to win a holiday or some such - circumstances under which participants are not likely to be unbiased in their responses.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:33 pm
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a good site to keep track of the pseudoscience scene in its many disguises is RationalWiki

the various portals include : creationism, global warming, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, ufology, paranormal, denialism and logic

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:07 pm
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I like that site. I've used it before to explain to people why their argument is an obvious logical fallacy. It's well written and clear.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:09 pm
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A nice exposition about Quantum Physics Woo... and how it makes many of us feel. 8-)



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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:13 pm
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Here's a nice piece that helps explain how to sort the wheat from the chaff in scientific news articles, and how to hone your BS detector toward greater accuracy:


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Fri Feb 26, 2016 7:55 pm
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The Logic of Science

a really good site with as its mission statement :

1. Teach critical thinking.
2. Explain how science works and why it is reliable.
3. Use critical thinking to defend science against the numerous logically flawed attacks that are hurled at it.

the following cartoon (they're not that common, most of the blogs are text-only) is a good example of its contents :

Image

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Olinguito
Post  Post subject:   |  Posted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:47 am
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Just came across this interesting video:


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:49 pm
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This may not be the perfect thread for this one, but I do want to share it:

http://xkcd.com/1717/

Image

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SkinWalker
Post  Post subject: Re: what is pseudoscience ?  |  Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:47 pm
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Heh. Saw that one the other day. I think I'll print it out and hang it by my desk :cool:


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