Handout for pseudo science presentation

Handout for pseudo science presentation - Distinguishing...

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Distinguishing Science and Pseudoscience Rory Coker, Ph.D. The word "pseudo" means fake. The surest way to spot a fake is to know as much as possible about the real thing—in this case, about science itself. Knowing science does not mean simply knowing scientific facts (such as the distance from earth to sun, the age of the earth, the distinction between mammal and reptile, etc.) It means understanding the nature of science—the criteria of evidence, the design of meaningful experiments, the weighing of possibilities, the testing of hypotheses, the establishment of theories, the many aspects of scientific methods that make it possible to draw reliable conclusions about the physical universe. Because the media bombard us with nonsense, it is useful to consider the earmarks of pseudoscience. The presence of even one of these should arouse great suspicion. On the other hand, material displaying none of these flaws might still be pseudoscience, because its adherents invent new ways to fool themselves every day. Most of the examples in this article are related to my field of physics, but similar beliefs and behavior are associated with iridology, medical astrology, meridian therapy, reflexology, subluxation-based chiropractic, therapeutic touch, and other health- related pseudosciences. Pseudoscience displays an indifference to facts. Instead of bothering to consult reference works or investigating directly, its advocates simply spout bogus "facts" where needed. These fictions are often central to the pseudoscientist's argument and conclusions. Moreover, pseudoscientists rarely revise. The first edition of a pseudoscience book is almost always the last, even though the book remains in print for decades or even centuries. Even books with obvious mistakes, errors, and misprints on every page may be reprinted as is, over and over. Compare this to science textbooks that see a new edition every few years because of the rapid accumulation of new facts and insights. Pseudoscience "research" is invariably sloppy. Pseudoscientists clip newspaper reports, collect hearsay, cite other pseudoscience books, and pore over ancient religious or mythological works. They rarely or never make an independent investigation to check their sources. Pseudoscience begins with a hypothesis—usually one which is appealing emotionally, and spectacularly implausible—and then looks only for items which appear to support it. Conflicting evidence is ignored. Generally speaking, the aim of pseudoscience is to
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rationalize strongly held beliefs, rather than to investigate or to test alternative possibilities. Pseudoscience specializes in jumping to "congenial conclusions," grinding ideological axes, appealing to preconceived ideas and to widespread misunderstandings. Pseudoscience is indifferent to criteria of valid evidence.
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This note was uploaded on 10/25/2011 for the course AMERICAN H 100 taught by Professor Dr,holland during the Fall '08 term at BYU.

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Handout for pseudo science presentation - Distinguishing...

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