List of pseudosciences
|Style over substance
This is a list of fields of endeavors and concepts that have been regarded as pseudoscientific by (1) organizations that are representative of the international scientific community and/or (2) mainstream skeptical organizations. They may have explicitly called a field or concept "pseudoscience" or used words to that effect. Also included are important concepts associated with the main entries, and concepts that, while notable, have not elicited commentary from mainstream scientific bodies. Notable parodies of pseudoscientific concepts are also included.
- Astrology refers to any of several systems of understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence, based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies.
- Planetary alignments are events where two or more planets and the Sun and Moon line up from the perspective of Earth. Much of astrology has been developed around such alignments.
- Sun signs are astrological signs that are determined by the location of the Sun at a particular moment in time such as an individual's birth.
- Climate change denial has been described as a form of pseudoscience by various groups including the National Center for Science Education.
- Creation science is the belief that the origin of everything in the universe is the result of a first cause, brought about by a creator deity, and that this thesis is supported by geological, biological, and other scientific evidence. This "evidence" is either Biblical in nature, or it attacks a tenet of evolution, incorrectly assuming that if any part of evolution is wrong, the whole thing is wrong and creationism is right.
- Baraminology is an attempt to create a bible-friendly version of biological species without invoking evolution.
- Biblical scientific foreknowledge asserts that the Bible makes accurate statements about the world that science verifies thousands of years later. A favorite of kdbuffalo/Conservative. Suffers from the problem that prophesy should predict the future, not the past. Kinda the whole point.
- Catastrophic plate tectonics
- Creationist cosmologies are ones which, among other things, allow for a universe that is only thousands of years old.
- Flood geology, the creationist form of geology, advocates a global flood can account for most of the geologic features on Earth.
- Intelligent Design is a version of creation science stated in secular terms, viz. that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not [by] an undirected process such as natural selection."
- The banana fallacy is an argument about how things are designed to suit humans, while ignoring other explanations such as artificial selection.
- Irreducible complexity is the claim that some systems are so complex that they cannot have evolved from simpler systems. Proponents of intelligent design use irreducible complexity to argue that evolution by natural selection alone is incomplete or flawed, and that some additional mechanism (an "Intelligent Designer") is required to explain the origins of life.
- Specified complexity is the claim that when something is simultaneously complex and specified, one can infer that it was produced by an intelligent cause (i.e., that it was designed) rather than being the result of natural processes.
- Modern geocentrism cites uniform gamma-ray burst distribution as evidence that we are at the center of the universe, and other ideas of this type.
- Crop circles are geometric designs of crushed or knocked-over crops
createdoccurring in a field. Aside from skilled farmers or pranksters working through the night, explanations for their formation include UFOs and anomalous, tornado-like air currents. The study of crop circles is termed "cerealogy" by proponents.
- Dogon people and Sirius B is a series of claims that the Dogon tribe knew about the white-dwarf companion of Sirius despite it being invisible to the naked eye.
- Erich von Däniken's proposal of ancient astronauts.
- Flat Earth is the claim that Earth is flat despite over 2,000 years of evidence showing otherwise.
- Full moon lunacy is the belief that the full moon is correlated with the manifestation of lunacy.
- Non-materialist neuroscience is the attempt to scientifically prove the existence of a "mind" (separate from the material brain), and is closely related to dualism.
- Paranormal subjects
- Channeling is the communication of information to or through a person — allegedly from a spirit or from some other paranormal entity
- Dowsing refers to practices said to enable one to detect hidden water, metals, gemstones, or other objects.
- Electronic voice phenomenon is the alleged communication by spirits through tape recorders and other electronic devices.
- Extra-sensory perception is the paranormal ability (independent of the five main senses or deduction from previous experience) to acquire information by means such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychic abilities, and remote viewing.
- Levitation, in this sense, is the act of rising up from the ground without any physical aids, usually by the power of thought.
- Materialization is the supposed creation or appearance of matter from unknown sources.
- Psychokinesis is the paranormal ability of the mind to influence matter or energy at a distance.
- Spiritualism is a religious movement which holds the belief that communication with the dead can occur through the powers of individuals called mediums.
- Séances are ritualized attempts to communicate with the dead.
- Perpetual motion is a class of proposed machines that violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Perpetual motion has been recognized as extrascientific since the late 18th century, but inventors continue to make proposals and patents for such devices to the present day.
- Racialism is the theory that humans can be separated into distinct races and that race is an indicator of IQ.
- Torsion field physics is a theory about some new kind of fields that travel much faster than light. Torsion fields are often used to "mathematically describe" other pseudoscientific topics.
- Hyperdimensional physics is a concept that has been very vaguely described by Tom Bearden. Mike Bara once summed it up as "a rotating body pulls energy from its higher state". None of the examples he gives are actually valid.
- Ufology is the study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and frequently includes the belief that UFOs are evidence for extraterrestrial visitors.
- The Face on Mars (in Cydonia Mensae) is a rock formation on Mars asserted to be evidence of intelligent, native life on the planet. Higher-resolution images show it to appear less face-like. It features prominently in the pseudoscientific theories of Richard C. Hoagland.
- Alien abductions are events where people claim to have been taken into a spaceship for medical experiments by aliens before being returned to Earth.
- Close encounters are events where persons witness UFOs, or purportedly meet and/or communicate with alien beings.
- Immanuel Velikovsky's proposals that ancient texts refer to the collision of astronomical bodies as in Worlds in Collision.
- Anti-vaccination movement is the idea that vaccines cause autism or other ailments.
- Aromatherapy is the attempt to use oils for therapeutic purposes.
- Applied kinesiology is pushing on muscles to find out what's wrong with someone.
- Aura analysis is is the theory of diagnosis through visualization of human aura. This is closely connected to paranormal subjects.
- Chelation therapy is therapy that is used to flush heavy metals from the body, by encasing them in soluble molecules. While it does have valid uses, like treating lead-poisoning, some idiots claim that it will cure autism, likely from the idea that autism is caused by mercury poisoning.
- A cleanse purports to take substances claimed to remove "toxins" from the colon, liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, or other organs.
- Colonic hydrotherapy: "What's in your colon makes you sick". Really, what's in your colon makes me sick. They never quite got that right.
- Color therapy involves looking at colored lights to cure whatever.
- Ear candling is the burning of a hollow candle placed over the ear canal, supposedly to remove wax.
- Faith healing is the act of curing disease by such means as prayer and laying on of hands.
- Folk remedies are unproven medical practices deriving from pre-scientific sources or word of mouth.
- Hair Analysis is the theory of diagnosis through the levels of minerals in hair.
- Herbalism is healing by the ingestion of various plant preparations — teas, tinctures, poultices and the like. A few herbalist remedies have been shown through controlled clinical trials to have a physiological effect, but the majority are simply folk remedies. Some (e.g. Aristolochia) are quite dangerous.
- Homeopathy is a medical practice that claims to work by diluting various things in a solute. While modern pharmacology works similarly, and indeed likely owes much of its history to homeopathy, there is a patent denial of the dose-response relationships that chemicals have with the body. Homeopathy is the exact opposite of modern pharmacology — homeopathy claims that things get more potent as they become more dilute. By current laws in most countries, in order for something to be labeled as "homeopathic", it must not contain anything but the solution that the treatment has been "distilled into" (usually purified water). Homeopathy is entirely "natural", but not always harmless (because of impurities, insufficient dilution, or avoiding actual medicine).
- Ivermectin is a totally fine medicine, except for the fact that it's for deworming horses and not for curing COVID-19.
- Laetrile is a quack cancer treatment, outlawed in the U.S. because it breaks down into cyanide in the body.
- Magnetic therapy is the practice of using magnetic fields to positively influence one's health.
- New German Medicine is a dubious and illegal cancer treatment, which applies a form of psychotherapy in treating a physical disease.
- Q-Ray is a ray of miraculous ability that offers healing in direct proportion to the user's gullibility.
- Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is the claim that there is an epidemic of children suddenly identifying as being transgender due to being "impressionable and naïve". The term came from one study that was widely criticized for its methodology.
- Reflexology deals with foot massages.
- Reiki is a no-touch healing technique where the therapist channels energy to the patient.
- Reparative therapy is any treatment that attempts to change someone's sexuality or gender identity.
- Rolfing is the massage of the body's connective tissue, claimed to bring the posture back into correct alignment.
- Therapeutic touch is a form of vitalism where one passes one's hands over and around the body of a sick person so as to treat his/her illness.
- Pseudovitamins are substances not necessary in human nutrition but promoted as "vitamins" by those trying to market them.
- Wave genetics is cure of the disease by transferring the "image" of the DNA by means of sound, RF signals or lasers, often used in connection with other techniques.
- Halqeh Mysticism is a spiritual treatment which claims all illnesses are curable by connecting to the universe consciousness that is practiced by well-trained masters.
Other significant topics
The following are subjects regarded as pseudoscientific by notable skeptical bodies such as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP). Unless otherwise noted, the entries are referenced from The Skeptics Society's The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. Finally, some of these items are not considered pseudoscientific in and of themselves: only certain aspects, explanations, and/or applications of them. See an item's description text for more information on this.
- 2012 apocalypse: We're all gonna die, and it's gonna happen in 2012, because the Mayans said so, and they would know.[note 1]
- Anthroposophy is a philosophy which holds that that spirit world can be scientifically investigated.
- Anthroposophical medicine is the practice within the Anthroposophy belief system of various remedies intented for illnesses of a person's non-physical "soul."
- Attachment therapy is a psychotherapeutic treatment for aggressive, disobedient, and/or unaffectionate children (so-called attachment disorder). A minor version (relative to most other attachment therapies) involves the child being physically restrained by adults who then attempt to maintain prolonged eye contact. Perhaps the most extreme is "rebirthing," in which the child is wrapped tightly in a blanket and then made to simulate emergence from a birth canal. This is done by encouraging the child to struggle and pushing and squeezing him/her to mimic contractions.
- The Bermuda Triangle is a region of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and (in its most popular version) Florida. Frequent disappearances and ship and aircraft disasters in this area have led to claims of paranormal phenomena and extraterrestrial attacks and abductions.
- Biorhythms are alleged periodic cycles of human physiology and behavior that govern physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.
- Cyclical theory
- William Strauss and Neil Howe have a weird "theory" of historical repetition.
- Dianetics is L. Ron Hubbard's pseudoscience that purports to treat a theoretical "reactive mind" by means of an "E-Meter", a device which Hubbard was later legally forced to admit "does nothing".
- Dietary supplements are products marketed as health-promoting, but which have little or no evidence to support the claim. They are usually derived from exotic(-sounding) plant life and are often sold over the Internet.
- Earth changes is belief in a period of coming cataclysmic events on the earth based in New Age mysticism rather than scientific evidence.
- Earthquake prediction is the purported ability to accurately forecast the time, place, and size of earthquakes.
- Elves, fairies, gnomes, and pixies are creatures of mythical character which are sometimes alleged to be real. The testimonials, which are sometimes even accompanied by photographic evidence, have often been outed as hoaxes.
- Faster-than-light travel, sometimes referred to as superluminal travel, is the feat of breaking the light speed barrier of 299,792,458 meters per second. While there are a couple of theoretical models for how this may work, there's nothing that's really testable yet.
- Feng shui is the practice of aligning gravesites, buildings, and furniture a certain way with the aim to positively affect one's health and fortune.
- Food woo is the consumption or avoidance of certain foods for reasons not supportable by scientific evidence.
- Handwriting analysis/graphology is the practice of gleaning information about a person's personality through examination of his or her handwriting.
- Laundry balls are spherical or toroidal objects marketed as soap substitutes for washing machines.
- Meditation is the practice of quieting and calming the mind, often as a religious practice, to produce transcendental experiences. While most traditional explanations of the associated experiences and benefits are of a pre-scientific nature, scientific explanations have recently been advanced for the purported medical benefits of the practice.
- Metagenetics claims that each person's natural religion derives from their distant ancestry and a tendency to favor the religious beliefs and practices of one's ancient ancestors has been genetically passed down to them, regardless of what religion their more recent ancestors may have converted to.
- Mobile phone radiation and health concerns have occasionally been raised as possible causes of immune system dysfunction and cancers of the nervous system, brain, and blood.
- Near-death experiences are experiences reported by persons who nearly died or who experienced clinical death and then revived.
- Neoshamanism is a combination of shamanistic, new-age spiritual, and other philosophies which include belief in spirits, meditation and sometimes the use of entheogens.
- Out-of-body experiences are experiences where a person seems to see the world from a location outside of the physical body. Qua experience, OBEs are real and theory-neutral, but some explanations invoke the paranormal.
- Parapsychology is the study of certain types of paranormal phenomenon.
- Phrenology is a theory which claims to be able to determine character and personality traits on the basis of the shape of the head (reading "bumps").
- Polygraph/Lie detection are methods used to detect lying and truthfulness in a subject. Its use in police departments and other government agencies persists despite its questionable reliability.
- Prophecy deals with making predictions for the future.
- Pseudoarcheology is the investigation of the ancient past using alleged paranormal or otherwise scientifically dubious means.
- Reincarnation is the belief that souls inhabit a succession of physical bodies over the course of their existence. It is not usually believed that memories survive reincarnation, but some people have claimed to have remembered past lives, which can be scientifically studied.
- Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth alleged by some members of the Christian community to have been Jesus' death shroud.
- Subliminal perception is visual or auditory information that is allegedly discerned below the threshold of awareness and has the power to influence human behavior.
- Synchronicity is a phenomenon described by psychologist Carl Jung as "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." The inability to test for it has marginalized its scientific importance.
- Technical analysis is a "scientific" way of interpreting the stock market.
- Theosophy is Helena Blavatsky's pseudoscientific religion.
- Therianthropy is belief that some humans are born with the traits or personalities of other animals, or have a spiritual connection to same.
- Tutankhamun's curse was allegedly placed on the discoverers of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, causing widespread deaths and other disastrous events (though it was discovered that it was actually a toxic fungus).
Obscure and parody pseudoscience
The following are subjects that are sufficiently notable to warrant mention yet still too obscure for any mainstream group (of the sort cited above) to comment on them. They are nonetheless uncontroversially regarded as pseudoscientific: the only people insisting on the topics' scientific status appear to be their lone, respective proponents and, perhaps, a single digit quantity of devotees. Also included here are notable parodies of other pseudosciences and pseudoscientific concepts.
- Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of a parody religion founded by Oregon State University physics graduate Bobby Henderson. He created it in response to the 2005 evolution controversy sparked by Kansas's State Board of Education.
- Intelligent falling is a parody of intelligent design which attacks gravitation in the same way intelligent design attacks origin theories.
- Time Cube is a proposed theory of everything which holds that time is cubic. Its creator, Gene Ray, finds those who are ignorant of his theory to be "STUPID AND EVIL."
- The Magic 8 Ball knows! or does it?
- The Weekly World News was to pseudoscience what The Onion is to politics. Was it real or a spoof? You decide.
Those subjects that may be genuine science, but many people take them to extremes that surpass the ability of current science to justify, or verify, their claims.
- Alchemy is basically chemistry but without applying the scientific method.
- Audio woo is making claims for the fidelity of sound reproduction that are unable to be objectively measured or substantiated.
- Chiropractic healing is healing by the cracking of one's back. As long as your problem only lies with your back, then a chiropractor can be helpful (though neck cracking can be deadly). However, a lot of chiropractors go way above "I can help with back-aches!" to "I can cure autism!"
- Cryptozoology is the study of animals whose existence is suspect. Famous examples include Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the goat-killing "Chupacabra."
- Exobiology is the study of non-terrestrial life forms. Currently this is a branch of science without a single thing to do except theorise.
- Forteanism is scepticism beyond the bounds of reason.
- Hypnosis is an extremely relaxed state in which a person is unusually responsive to suggestions made by the hypnotist. While hypnosis in some sense is almost universally regarded as real, explanations of the phenomenon invoking anything more than just an especially cooperative subject have far less scientific support. In addition, certain applications of hypnosis in psychotherapy, such as smoking cessation and self-esteem improvement, also lack empirical support.
- Psychoanalysis is a genuine area of study, but the field has historically been and continues to be dominated by ideas lacking empirical support.
- Sigmund Freud and his ideas are the most prominent within psychoanalysis. Many of his ideas have since been refuted and lack empirical evidence but are still popular in psychoanalysis.
- Transactional Analysis is a non-Freudian approach to psychoanalysis popular during the late 20th century, also lacking in empirical support and best viewed as an arbitrary system of categorizing human interactions.
- Myers-Briggs Type Inventory claims to categorize human personality types.
While not entirely fields of pseudoscience, denialism is denying a robust scientific consensus. It often uses forms of pseudoscience such as highly flawed or misleading studies, huge conflicts of interest, cherry-picking, abusing statistics, making up statistics and, well, denying large swaths of evidence that say otherwise. Denialism by those who have power also tends to have devastating consequences, with many of these denialist movements being responsible for deaths of millions of people.
- Anti-vaccination movement is mentioned already, but they do deny or grossly understate the benefits of pretty much all vaccines.
- Climate change denialism is the delusion that humans aren't causing climate change despite mountains of evidence saying otherwise. The entire thing can be summed as dishonest cherry-picking on steroids and it is arguably as crazy as other pseudosciences. Also, the deniers in this one tend to be pretty nasty by abusing FOIA requests and otherwise mud slinging them. They also tend to be funded by oil interests such as the Heartland Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute. See Denialgate.
- HIV/AIDS denialism is purporting that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but by something else such as recreational drugs and malnutrition.
- Denialism about the negative effects of tobacco was rampant for decades, with paid tobacco shills downplaying or outright denying these effects, despite the tobacco industry being fully aware of the dangers long before anyone else.
- In general, whenever an industry is doing something dangerous, they will attempt to cover up studies that show the dangers, and try to fund pseudoscientific "studies" that try to downplay the dangers. The radium, lead, and asbestos industries, among others, have been through this song and dance, and any attempt to cover up their negative effects is certainly pseudoscientifical.
- Alternate historical chronology
- Crank (referencing a type of person)
- List of conspiracy theories
- List of protosciences
- Occam's razor
- Paradigm shift
- Nationalist pseudohistory
- Scientific arguments for a young Earth
- Scientific consensus (describes the majority views of scientists)
- Abell, George O. and Barry Singer, Science and the Paranormal: Probing the Existence of the Supernatural, Charles Scribner's, 1981, ISBN 0-684-17820-6
- Collins, Paul S. (2002) Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World. Picador. ISBN 0-312-30033-6
- Gardner, Martin, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science
- Gardner, Martin, Science, Good, Bad, and Bogus
- Randi, James, Flim-Flam: Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions, Prometheus, 1982, ISBN 0-87975-198-3
- Sagan, Carl, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark. Ballantine Books, March 1997 ISBN 0-345-40946-9, 480 pgs. 1996 hardback edition: Random House, ISBN 0-394-53512-X, xv+457 pages plus addenda insert (some printings).
- Schick, Theodore and Lewis Vaughn. (1998) How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age. Mayfield. ISBN 0-7674-0013-5
- Shermer, Michael. (2002) Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. Owl Books. ISBN 0-8050-7089-3
- A website covering a large list of pseudo-sciences and ways to determine fact from fiction
- Another helpful link from the University of Texas
- Forgetting that the Mayans have simply just added a new digit before… the idea that the end of the Mayan calendar is the end of the world has the same merit as "The world is going to end at the end of year 9/99/999/9999 AD because there are no more digits left".
- Chapter 8: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding. Belief in the Paranormal or Pseudoscience (2000) Science and Engineering Indicators, National Science Foundation (archived from October 25, 2015)>
- 2012 - A Scientific Reality Check by Donald Yeomans (2011) NASA (archived from March 13, 2013).
- What is the Bermuda Triangle? The Bermuda Triangle is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean in which ships, planes, and people are alleged to have mysteriously vanished. (January 4, 2010) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mermaids.html Are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.] (Last updated: 06/25/18) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Alternative Medicine Fraud (Last Updated: 10/25/2010) U.S. Food and Drug Administration (archived from April 2, 2016).
- NCSE Tackles Climate Change Denial: A new initiative in the struggle for quality science education. Science education is under attack—again. (January 13, 2012) National Center for Science Education.