Ten points for detecting a pseudoscientist – finding even one point should be a warning.
Pseudoscience “research” is sloppy.
Pseudoscientists clip newspaper reports, cite other pseudoscience books, and pore over ancient religious or mythological texts. They don’t check the reliability of their data. They go for unverifiable eyewitness testimony, tall tales, hearsay, rumor, and anecdotes.
Pseudoscience only looks for evidence to support it.
Pseudoscientists ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their beliefs. They cherry-pick data and cherry-pick studies. They refuse to look at the big picture and make a sensible assessment based on all the data. For example, Jo says putting X on her head cures headaches. Hundreds of people try X for headaches but it doesn’t work. Jo doesn’t want to hear. Any scientist who runs the test must be biased she says. Jo doesn’t understand the power of the placebo.
Pseudoscience won’t test its claims
Pseudoscientists never carry out proper experiments. If one pseudoscientist claims to have done an experiment, no other pseudoscientist ever tries to duplicate it or to check him, instead they believe him.
Pseudoscience contradicts itself
Chapter 1 says that dowsers use newly cut twigs, because only “live” wood can channel and focus the “earth-radiation”. But Chapter 5 says dowsers use metal or plastic rods.
Pseudoscience deliberately creates mystery
Anything can be made “mysterious”. Simply ignore what we already know. Then present imaginary details instead. “Bermuda Triangle” books are classic examples.
Pseudoscience loves technical jargon
Pseudoscientists imitate science jargon by spouting gibberish that sounds scientific and technical. Baffle them with bullshit.
Pseudoscientists use rhetoric, not logic – the Galileo ploy
The pseudoscientist compares himself to Galileo and says Galileo was condemned by his contemporaries therefore the pseudoscientist must be right too, just as Galileo was.
Pseudoscience appeals to real science when it suits
The fact that someone got away with simple magic tricks in one scientific lab is “proof” that he is a psychic superman, while the fact that he was caught cheating in several other labs is ignored.
Pseudoscience knocks science and goes for emotion
The statement “Science cannot explain” is a favourite. Often the real science is clear, but this is ignored. Instead, emotional appeals are used – if you feel good, it must be true, if it works for you it must be true.
Pseudoscience says “skeptics” wreck the “energy”
Radios work. There is no radio which won’t work when skeptics are present. But a man who claims to be a concert-class violinist, but refuses to play when anyone is around might not be a very good violinist.
Don’t forget to use the cosmic structures in your brain. They are bullshit antennae, but be careful how you use them. As you get used to them you’ll find they focus on interesting things about the real world that can make a difference: it will change your life. Cosmic.
Better still, this is Naomi Oreskes on how real science works.