Talk:Pseudoscience/Archive1

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This is an archive page, last updated 2 March 2018. Please do not make edits to this page.
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A few more[edit]

I've put a few more in here before we do a bit more on the pseudoscience articles in general. See discussion at Talk:Disproving Creationism ... --Bobbing up and down 10:08, 4 September 2007 (CDT)

The answer to the von Daniken Elephant Island riddle is in the book "The Space Gods Revealed" by Ronald Story (1976) which has a map of Elephant Island and it is shaped like a piece of elephant poo -not an elephant at all. This illustrates Daniken's other pseudoscientific technique- lying. Dreadnought 07:21, 15 December 2007 (EST)

Copy editing[edit]

I've been doing a bit of copy editing on this after a helpful IP started off. I suspect that it needs more work though.--BobNot Jim 09:39, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Covermaterial?[edit]

How far off from cover story status is this? Totnesmartin (talk) 15:18, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

I like it, and it's 100% on-mission and actually important. If anyone comes up with objections, they and the rest of us should fix them ASAP - David Gerard (talk) 17:18, 3 May 2010 (UTC)
There's a couple of red-links, it looks a little messy in places and there's fuck-all in terms of external links and references. Granted this is kind of a "description of what RW is about" sort of thing, but these are still needed if you want it in the top flight of articles. Scarlet A.pngsshole 17:22, 3 May 2010 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with redlinks as a "don't cover feature" criterion. Redlinks are what lure new cultists in for us. But referencing, yeah, needs good stuff there - David Gerard (talk) 17:31, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Newby to RationalWiki[edit]

As a newcomer to RationalWiki I note the differences to Wikipedia, and similarities. This site seems more topical, full of discussions, ongoing campaigns etc, where Wikipedia is naturally more involved in the minutia of cataloging facts. The differences are both subtle and obvious. This site shows the thought processes of people and attitudes to science as a dominant issue. Thanks to all concerned for refining the debate and discussion of science.Ern Malleyscrub (talk) 01:14, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

One would hope we are not rendered insensible of absurdity and incapable of ordinary discrimination. - David Gerard (talk) 09:35, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Making this a cover story[edit]

I would love to see such a foundational article reach cover story status. To me this is what I would like to see added:

The big points[edit]

  • The costs of pseudoscience, both in terms of dollars, life and health, and general rational and critical thinking skills
  • Causes and commonalities of pseudoscience, the similarities between pseudoscience across fields should be highlighted and looking at how these similarities might point to some under lying psychological reasons for its persistence
  • Data on who believes what, that new Rasmussen poll just came out and there are others
  • The demarcation problem at least outlined
I am finding it difficult to find exact figures, although I am looking to start just pulling numbers for differing areas and listing them as I find them. But one thing we may want to speak about as well is the opportunity cost of pseudoscience, which I imagine to be enormous as well. While being able to find the amount of money wasted on this non-sense would be excellent, if we could find any study that looked at the opportunity cost of some of these therapies/what have yous (if someone has access to a Uni database) it would bolster the case even more. This is an excellent example of what I mean. But I am personally having trouble finding anything specific that can be sourced using Google.

The finer details[edit]

  • We definitely need references
  • Images, there is plenty of material here for an image or two or three

tmtoulouse 17:33, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

I slapped a few pictures in it to jazz it up a little. Redchuck.gif ГенгисRationalWiki GOLD member 08:31, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Jazzy. Scarlet A.pngsshole 08:40, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, having looked at it with a monitor resolution less than 8 billion pixels, perhaps it's too jazzy. It's kind of reminiscent of the CP homosexuality article. :S Scarlet A.pngsshole 09:51, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Margaret Mead[edit]

Uhm, Mead is a very respected and influential anthropologist, in no small part because of the book mentioned here; the article makes her appear like a crackpot. The WP article on the book mentions controversy about her methods, but more so about her results. There's nothing pseudoscientific about the book as far as I can determine. That is a very serious accusation against a classic of anthropology that needs to be substantiated. It seems that her main critic is Derek Freeman, but the overwhelming majority of anthropologists support her work. --84.151.186.218 (talk) 09:20, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

I've read through the WP articles on Mead and her book now and come to the conclusion that the allegations of pseudoscience are without substance. Rather, it is Freeman whose allegations against Mead are highly suspect. Also, most of the opposition against Mead comes from right-wing circles, and there was also a right-wing editor trying to push his anti-Mead POV in WP. Therefore I have decided to remove the part about Mead, which isn't even sourced. --84.151.186.218 (talk) 10:23, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Oh, it seems that this has been inserted by our Dear Leader in 2009 and remained unchallenged since then. I vaguely recall reading about the controversy somewhere (apparently not here). I need to remember where...--ZooGuard (talk) 11:21, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Ah, yes, eSkeptic (i.e. Skeptic Magazine) via Deltoid.--ZooGuard (talk) 11:40, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Psychic Sillyness[edit]

Within one of the Palladium pen and paper games, is the character class "Negapsychic." These folks are interesting because (as its a fantasy world) they have psychic powers, but do not and cannot believe in such things existing. They always have an excuse, despite the completely impossible events going on around them. This results in a dampening psychic field (again, game..Bear with me.) that actually makes other psychics who do understand their powers less effective in using them.

In this world, say, James Randi could be a negapsychic, which would account for everyone's dismal failures to present any powers in his presence. (Its supposed to take place 20 minutes in the future in the real world, so yeah.) 96.28.157.126 (talk) 19:11, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

In 40k they just say that physics disappeared or somesuch for several 1000 years. ТyPlease do not click on this 19:20, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

How does RationalWiki judge "pseudoscience"?[edit]

Pseudoscience is defined according to a list of characteristics, but is sometimes used on RationalWiki without any attempt to show that the field bears those marks. It then, becomes a pseudoskeptical claim, certainly not a rational one or scientific one.

There is an example in on this page, itself:

Cold fusion, similar to free energy, had its heyday in the media before its original perpetrators were exposed as frauds. However, cranks regularly rant on internet forums that they have cold fusion powering their freezers right now.
  • "The original perpetrators" must refer to Pons and Fleischmann, 1989. Fleischmann was the world's foremost electrochemist, or certainly very well-known as expert, who, with Pons, decided to investigate the accuracy of the predictions of 2-body quantum mechanics, known to be approximations as applied to the condensed matter environment. Fleischmann later wrote that they expected to find nothing, that any difference would be below measurement error. Then one of their experiments melted down.
  • They were doing basic scientific research, following the protocols of science. They were not ready to announce, it was forced by University legal. As shown quite well in Undead Science, Science Studies and the Afterlife of Cold Fusion, (Simon, Rutgers University Press, 2002), the very rapid widespread rejection of cold fusion (which included claims it was pseudoscience) was a political phenomenon, not a scientific one.
  • Fraud was never shown, and, in fact, the basic work (finding anomalous heat) was eventually and massively confirmed. Fraud was claimed with regard to the work of Brockris, and that claim was rejected (and the alleged fraud would have involved adding tritium to the experiment; other work has confirmed tritium as an occasional low-level byproduct of whatever is behind the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect). The FPHE itself remains controversial in some circles, but half the U.S. DoE panel in 2004 considered evidence for anomalous heat to be "convincing" -- certainly worthy of consideration and further investigation. And it's clear that some of the experts rejected it out-of-hand, considering it impossible.
  • I've been reading in this field, now, for about three years. I've never seen someone claim to have cold fusion powering their freezer, or anything more than a Stirling engine (Arata, recent, using gas-loaded PdD, no energy input). Claims of commercial-level power are very unusual, and widely regarded with suspicion, even within the field. (I.e., Energy Catalyzer).
  • Cold fusion doesn't meet the standards laid out for pseudoscience, but the claim that it is impossible does, for it is routinely used to reject experimental evidence. "Impossible" is not falsifiable, except by evidence of existence, and if the evidence of existence is rejected because it's impossible, we have set up an unscientific, circular argument.
  • Failure of the impossibility argument is not proof of existence, for sure. "Cold fusion" is a popular name, not a scientific one; however, there has been, for almost twenty years, strong evidence that the reaction involved in the FPHE produces helium commensurate with the heat, at a ratio of about 25 +/- 5 MeV/He-4, which is very strong circumstantial evidence that the reaction is some kind of fusion. And that's the state of the science in mainstream journals and publications of late. It's not even close, the highly skeptical position has entirely disappeared, while positive publication has been accelerating for about six years.
  • The impossibility arguments that are reasonably legitimate apply only to a specific reaction, i.e., d+d -> He-4, as raw collision, which is highly unlikely. In other words, the FPHE doesn't somehow replicate the very high temperatures of ordinary fusion, it must do something else, because that reaction, besides being very rare in ordinary hot fusion of deuterium, will also produce gamma rays, not detected.

Clear political and religious motivation[edit]

re:

"Clear political and religious motivation" A huge red "pseudoscience flag" should go up when an idea is pushed against the backdrop of a strong agenda that has nothing to do with the idea being proposed at all.

I believe it should say something like:

Clear political, religious, or commercial motivation

Or perhaps simply:

Clear motivation at odds with science

- although that might be a bit too broad to be meaningful.

My concern, especially in the area of medicine, is that much pseudoscience exists in the presence of commercial interests. And that this type of pseudoscience is ignored - well not just ignored, not even noticed by RationalWiki.

There is much 'pseudoscience' that is motivated simply by a desire to appease organizations that might fund research, and much more pseudoscience that is motivated by the desire to sell products. This pseudoscience seems to be invisible - and does not appear on the RationalWiki pages - at least not on any page I have viewed.

There is much more pseudoscience motivated by the desire to sell a product or treatment. Salespeople are, quite frankly, liars and woo guns. (Yes, I recognize that I am 'selling' my ideas, but not for money.)

Examples? Hmm... Part of the problem is that these examples are much less blatant that simple political or religious motivations. They tend to be about specific aspects of treatment, rather than general areas of medicine. And they are typically presented as 'science', not pseudoscience.

There are many 'safe drugs' designed to treat 'specific diseases' and tested in 'scientific studies' before they were sold to the public. Years later, in many cases, the drugs were found to harm the health of the patient, in some cases leading to death. Many others have been found to be totally useless as treatments for the target illness. These drugs are clearly supported by pseudoscience that is commercially motivated and at odds with science.

Specific examples: Thalidomide - the most obvious example. Supported by clinical science, motivated by commerce. There is some indication that the clinical trials were 'hastily done and questionable', but they were still accepted as real science, not recognized as pseudoscience.

Liver toxicity - many drugs pass clinical trials and are later found to be very 'liver toxic' and withdrawn for that reason.

One of the biggest problem for drug manufacturers is the requirement to do better than placebos in clinical trials. The manufacturers see, and present, placebo effect as 'a problem'. That concept - that placebos are a nuisance - is also a pseudoscience. Placebo effect is a real, measurable result and may possibly be a powerful tool to prevent and treat illness - but it has limited commercial potential, so it is demonized. By the way, I slipped out to read your page on the placebo effect and it is totally off base, probably due to unconscious absorption of the 'commerce pseudoscience' effect - I will go over to that page to leave some comments.

A similar situation exists with arthroscopic knee surgery, which after years of being recognized as a useful medical technique was tested in clinical trials and found to be no better than sham surgery. We might say, on reflection, that the result of arthroscopic knee surgery was a placebo effect on the surgeon, as well as on the patient.

Pseudoscience is not limited to religion and politics. Commerce is rife with pseudoscience.

I did write this myself - and look forward to merciless editing! I consider all feedback to be constructive - I learn from it. — Unsigned, by: Tracychess / talk / contribs

I'd say that could fall under politics. BTW, the US FDA never approved thalidomide even though it was prescribed in Europe. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 18:55, 3 September 2012 (UTC)
Science can be wrong, even when the science is done exactly right. Experiments are done, studies are done, that all fit the standards and practices that make science science. It does not make them pseudoscience if they are shown later to be in error through larger studies. Medications face a significant issue where the average large scale trial might be a few thousand people, but use of the medicine after approval is millions. Not all side effects can be found in the early stages. This does not mean there was some grand conspiracy or that efficacy and safety studies were some how pseudoscience. 19:00, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

Biases of the article[edit]

This page displays a significant bias against ideas which are socially frowned upon. Popular opinion often coincides with scientific findings but often does not. The definition of a 'conspiracy theory' is, for instance used subjectively to describe "conspiratorial explanations which most people don't believe are true" instead of noting that they have been systematically disproven (though of course, many of them are disproven over time). We have a host of accepted beliefs in conspiracies in our society which are not listed as "conspiracy theories" despite fitting the description perfectly. Examples include any military coup in history, the Knights Templar, the Catholic Church, the Black Hand that helped begin WWI, the CIA which is so secret it could hypothetically not exist, corporate trusts which were formed in secret then later exposed, the GM Streetcar Conspiracy... The use of this language obscures political bias; it would be better to abandon the term altogether because its very use is politically-charged. 108.49.97.48 (talk) 17:08, 14 November 2012 (UTC)mytyde

Need section on Economics.[edit]

I don't really know how to edit wikis or properly cite things in the desired format, or else I'd do it myself, but I think the Social Sciences section should have a link to the Austrian Economics page. As many of you may be aware Austrian economics is pretty much bunk, going so far as to reject the notion that their ideas can even be proven or disproven. 66.215.163.31 (talk) 19:27, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Cover story[edit]

This here is a proper bureaucratic cover nomination. I think it's basically ready too. But we should let it cook for (say) a week first, lure lots of eyes to it, etc - David Gerard (talk) 16:30, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Search engines[edit]

As of this posting, this article is third in line in Google's results for "pseudoscience", behind only WP and Scientific American. That's something!

Also, what is currently keeping this article from cover story status? Frostbyte (talk) 01:58, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

To be honest, I think it's damn close. Be bold - "gold" it and write a cover story synopsis of the lead. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:49, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
"Pseudoscience is any belief system or methodology which tries to gain legitimacy by wearing the trappings of science, but fails to abide by the rigorous methodology and standards of evidence that demarcate true science. Although pseudoscience is designed to have the appearance of being scientific, it lacks any of the substance of science.

Promoters of pseudoscience often adopt the vocabulary of science, describing conjectures as theories or laws, often providing supposed evidence from observation, expert testimonials, or even developing what appear to be mathematical models of their ideas. However, in pseudoscience there is no real honest attempt to follow the scientific method, provide falsifiable predictions, or develop double blind experiments." Ought to work well (with the wiki links added back in). Do it. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:51, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Quod erat faciendum. Frostbyte (talk) 17:41, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Wikipedia[edit]

And, of course: What does the Wikipedia article have that we should have, and what can we put in that they can't? - David Gerard (talk) 16:34, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Pseudoscientific method[edit]

I have an '80s skeptical book that details the "pseudoscientific method", will dig that up and cite it - David Gerard (talk) 16:36, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Please do dig it up. In fact, we already have pseudoscientific method, but it is not linked from this article, nor from scientific method, strangely. Is the content substantially the same as what your book gives? --84.151.189.211 (talk) 17:12, 27 July 2014 (UTC)

"Pseudoscientific claims are never specific but rely on vague and ambiguous language, often encompassing grandiose claims."[edit]

Are they never specific?--Кřěĵ (ṫåɬк) 16:10, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

that doesn't ring true. certainly the cross-my-palm-with-silver crowd make vague claims, but what about the lot trying to impose something resembling science on the field? Time for a nose round the SPR, I think. SophieWilderModerator 18:58, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
They're giving at good go, at least. We can change that line. SophieWilderModerator 19:06, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
The society of homeopaths has a research section. Irony time: the statement that "pseudoscientists are never specific but only make vague claims" is itself non-specific and vague. SophieWilderModerator 19:11, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
I think this is problem of context. Homoeopaths will happily make explicit claims about the effectiveness of their products and faith healers will claim that God helps them to cure people.
But they will not usually submit their claims to rigorous scientific evaluation. The statement does need to be modified somewhat.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:15, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
There seem to be two types of pseudoscientist: those who think their field has scientific merit and try to use science to prove it, and those pushing an agenda/using it to make a living - and caring only about the trappings of science. SophieWilderModerator 19:26, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure that that distinction - if it exists - makes much difference in reality. They would be be both be equally guilty of abusing the scientific method.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 20:01, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
Ahh, i'm just making a feeble attempt to defend parapsychology. don't mind me. SophieWilderModerator 11:35, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

Fad diets[edit]

" Fad diets in particular are prone to this [Frequent changes in methodology without changing the conclusions], spewing out technobabble on how this newly discovered trick will trim the hell out of your waistline while not explaining why it dropped the previous dozens of claims." This seems to imply that fad diets have a single source, which simply brings out new ones when the old ones fail. Is this so? Fad diets have any number of origins, and may even (the current gluten free one being an example) have a scientific origin (in this case, that a small number of people need to exclude gluten, therefore "gluten is bad for you"). SophieWilderModerator 19:23, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Mention an evolutionary reason explaining where pseudo-science and conspiracy theories derive their attractiveness from[edit]

There is a TED conference where this was mentioned. It goes like, imagine humans several 10.000 years ago gathering food, and someone hearing a sound, viewing something strange that might indicate a major predator scouting for some well tasting human flesh? We better be 10 times wrong and flee, rather than being wrong 1 time and being eaten. Today this translates to why our eyes are often caught by conspiracy theories: we better read them because they sound quite deadly if the claims would be true, and live another day, rather than risking to skip them and missing out on some key information to survive. The downside of this is of course that we have to spend hours to read and verify stuff: it is easy to claim something just spending a couple of minutes, but it may take hours to analyse and go look for facts that debunk the conspiracy theory. Hence the raison d'être of rationalwiki: make a page on yet another conspiracy theory and use the available shared free time, knowledge to help debunk it in a collaborative effort instead of having to do all the debunking yourself. It's a time saver, so you can continue to focus on what's really important in your life. Where would be the most appropriate place to mention this? Sorry, no more time than this. Thy. newcomer --SvenAERTS228 (talk) 18:32, 24 October 2014 (UTC)