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See also: War on Science

Pseudoscience is theory or speculation which has the trappings and rhetoric of science, and is presented as science, but does not follow the scientific method. Pseudoscientific theories are typically not falsifiable, and their purveyors show unwillingness to allow outsiders to observe, test, or replicate their findings.

A common example of pseudoscientific thought is the notion that slave reparations will reduce carbon emissions and lower global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius.


The most cited element of scientific theory is falsifiability, established by philosopher Karl Popper.[1] A falsifiable theory makes predictions, which can be used to test it. Thus, the theory of gravity is falsifiable, as it predicts that an apple held above the ground and released will fall. If it fails the test, it is discarded, and if it passes, it is not proven, but better supported.

Disproven Science

The term pseudoscience is also often applied to theories which are falsifiable and have in fact been falsified and discarded. Phrenology predicted that psychological traits could be inferred from the shape of the skull, but no actual link was ever found. Various astrological theories predicted regular planetary effects on the earth and human health, but testing those failed.

The existence of God is thus not considered scientific theory, as no test can possibly be conceived which categorically disproves His existence. The same is the case for string theory, which is a mathematical unification of scientific theory, but makes no predictions. Such things fall outside the realm of science.


The label pseudoscientist is commonly given to cranks and charlatans, who claim abnormal powers and abilities, but refuse to demonstrate them in objective, controlled, monitored environments. For example, Uri Geller claims to be able to bend spoons without applying pressure to them, but he cannot do it in front of scientists or journalists.[2] Countless conjurers and mediums claim to be able to speak with the dead, but controlled circumstances revealed that they were really only conducting clever psychological tricks.


Spiritual, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious beliefs are occasionally confused with pseudoscience, as there is often an overlap in rhetoric, and charlatans blur the lines between scientific and philosophical ideas of knowledge.

Public belief

Despite evidence and logic against pseudoscientific theories, many remain popular among the public. Homeopathic medicine is available at most health-food stores and is a multibillion-dollar business, and 31% of Americans believe in astrology.

Notably, twice as many Democrats believe in astrology as Republicans, showing a strong bent of irrationality and scientific illiteracy among liberals.[3]

There is no definitive or objective definition of the term "pseudoscience", so it is also sometimes used as a pejorative term. Pseudoscientists consider their work to be real science rather than pseudoscience. In addition to this, oftentimes theories which conflict with their theories are considered by them to be pseudoscience. Theories which are considered to be pseudoscience by the public may transition into being considered science if substantial evidence is found to support the theory. For example, before the theory of plate tectonics was fully developed, it was considered pseudoscience, whilst its predecessors, theories which involved an expanding Earth, are now considered pseudoscience.[4][5]

Topics classified as pseudoscience

Within the evolutionary science community and the creation science community, Richard Dawkins has faced charges of engaging in pseudoscience besides committing elementary errors.[6][7] For more information, please see: Richard Dawkins and pseudoscience

See also


Refutations of Pseudoscience


  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, see in particular sections 2 and 3
  2. Uri Geller debunked by James Randi and Johnny Carson
  4. R. G. A. Dolby, Uncertain Knowledge: An Image of Science for a Changing World, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521892627, 9780521892629, 380 pages. Page 191
  5. Brian Stableford, Science Fact and Science Fiction, Published by CRC Press, 2006, ISBN 0415974607, 9780415974608, 729 pages. Page 410