Don’t miss this article, Pseudoscience and science – bullshit vs. rational thought.
The blogger Skeptical Raptor gives his many (and now also my few) readers a brilliant lesson about how to spot, identify and unveil woo-ish & pseudoscientific (usually on wishful thinking based) research.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the article. describing and dissecating the “pseudoscientific research method” in detail, and thereby demonstrating to you what to look for and focus on.
Skeptical Raptor writes,
To identify pseudoscience, there are six reliable clues that shout out “pseudoscience.” Almost always, you can find all six in any pseudoscientific claim.
- Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims. Essentially, pseudoscience makes “scientific claims” that are vague and variable, rather than the precise scientific claims made with statistical analysis, usually a hallmark of the specificity associated with scientific research. Moreover, pseudoscience uses complex, implausible assumptions with their claims.
- Extreme reliance on confirmation rather than refutation. Pseudoscience relies upon assertions that do not allow the logical possibility that they can be shown to be false by observation or physical experiment–falsifiability. Pseudoscience also asserts claims of predictability when it has not been shown to be predictive; “scientific” claims that do not confer any predictive power are considered at best “conjectures”, or at worst “pseudoscience”.
- Lack of openness to testing by other experts. Pseudoscience researchers evade peer review before publicizing results, occasionally using press conferences to share their ideas. These pseudoscientists will claim that their ideas contradict the scientific consensus, so they must avoid the peer review process because that process is biased towards the established paradigms and consensus. They will also claim that their results cannot arrive from the scientific method. Thus, they get to avoid the feedback of informed colleagues.They will also appeal to the need for secrecy or proprietary knowledge when an independent review of data or methodology is requested. Of course, many agencies and institutions that fund real science research require authors to share data so it may be evaluated independently.
- Absence of progress. Pseudoscience usually fails to progress towards providing or even searching for additional evidence of its claims. Astrology is an example of a pseudoscientific concept that has not changed in 2000 years. Real science is constantly adding data through scientific progress.
- Personalization of issues. Pseudoscience is often composed of closely tied social groups, and usually includes an authoritarian personality, suppression of dissent, and groupthink. This social construct can enhance the adoption of beliefs that have no rational basis. In an attempt to confirm their beliefs, the group tends to identify their critics as enemies.Pseudoscience also make false assertions or claims of a conspiracy on the part of the scientific community to suppress results that support the pseudoscience. Finally, they attack the motives or character of anyone who questions the claims, the argumentum ad hominem.As an example, the anti-vaccine crowd has invented numerous claims about Dr. Paul Offit, one of the great researchers in vaccines, just to attack him personally. They’ve done the same with Bill Gates.
- Use of misleading language. They try to create scientific-sounding terms 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” and describes it as the main constituent in most poisonous solutions to show how easily the general public can be misled. More often, pseudoscientists use established technical terms in idiosyncratic ways, thereby demonstrating unfamiliarity with mainstream work in the discipline.
And here’s another tip to my readers: Please visit Skeptical Raptor’s blog and use the excellent search function that is available there. Skeptical Raptor is a very prolific and clever blogger! A brave warrior not afraid of fighting pseudoscientific magical and (pseudo)religious woo-bullshit thinking (for instance the crazy antivax movement; you know the morons telling their neighbors that if God according to His special plan of creation has decided that your little girl or boy must die at an early age, then you shouldn’t try to stop the fulfilment of this divine plan by vaccinating your child against contagious and dangerous, life threatening diseases, because that would be seen as blasphemy and insubordination by Almighty God – and who wants to make God pissed off?).