List of topics characterized as pseudoscience
This is a list of topics that have, at one point or another in their history, been characterized as pseudoscience by academics or researchers. Discussion about these topics is done on their main pages. These characterizations were made in the context of educating the public about questionable or potentially fraudulent or dangerous claims and practices—efforts to define the nature of science, or humorous parodies of poor scientific reasoning. Criticism of pseudoscience, generally by the scientific community or skeptical organizations, involves critiques of the logical, methodological, or rhetorical bases of the topic in question. Though some of the listed topics continue to be investigated scientifically, others were only subject to scientific research in the past, and today are considered refuted but resurrected in a pseudoscientific fashion. Other ideas presented here are entirely non-scientific, but have in one way or another infringed on scientific domains or practices. Many adherents to or practitioners of the topics listed here dispute their characterization as pseudoscience. Each section summarizes the pseudoscientific aspects of that topic.
Astronomy and space sciences
- 2012 millenarianism – a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or otherwise transformative events would occur on or around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar and as such, festivities to commemorate the date took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Maya civilization (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala.
- Ancient astronauts a concept based on the belief that intelligent extraterrestrial beings visited Earth and made contact with humans in antiquity and prehistoric times. Proponents suggest that this contact influenced the development of modern cultures, technologies, and religions. A common claim is that deities from most, if not all, religions are actually extraterrestrial in origin, and that advanced technologies brought to Earth by ancient astronauts were interpreted as evidence of divine status by early humans.
- Anunnaki from Nibiru (Sitchin) (variant) – Zecharia Sitchin proposed in his series The Earth Chronicles, beginning with The 12th Planet (1976) revolves around Sitchin's unique interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts, megalithic sites, and artifacts from around the world. He hypothesizes that the gods of old Mesopotamia were actually astronauts from the planet "Nibiru", which Sitchin claims the Sumerians believed to be a remote "12th planet" (counting the Sun, Moon, and Pluto as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit our sun on a 3,600-year elongated orbit.
- Ancient astronauts from the Sirius star-system (Temple) (variant) – Robert K. G. Temple's proposal in his book The Sirius Mystery (1976) argues that the Dogon people of northwestern Mali preserved an account of extraterrestrial visitation from around 5,000 years ago. He quotes various lines of evidence, including supposed advanced astronomical knowledge inherited by the tribe, descriptions, and comparative belief systems with ancient civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Sumer.
- Astrology (see also astrology and science) – consists of a number of belief systems that hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events or descriptions of personality in the human world. Several systems of divination are based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies.
- Dogon people and Sirius B – a series of claims that the Dogon tribe knew about the white dwarf companion of Sirius despite it being invisible to the naked eye (and knew about it for reasons other than being told about it by visiting Europeans).
- Creationist cosmologies are explanations of the origins and form of the universe in terms of the Genesis creation narrative (Genesis 1), according to which the God of the Bible created the cosmos in eight creative acts over the six days of the "creation week".
- The Face on Mars – (in Cydonia Mensae) is a rock formation on Mars asserted to be evidence of intelligent, native life on the planet. High-resolution images taken recently show it to appear less face-like. It features prominently in the works of Richard C. Hoagland and Tom Van Flandern.
- Geocentric model – In astronomy, the Geocentric model (also known as Geocentrism, or the Ptolemaic system) is a superseded description of the universe with the Earth at the center. Under the geocentric model, the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets all circled Earth. The geocentric model served as the predominant description of the cosmos in many ancient civilizations, such as those of Aristotle and Ptolemy.
- Lunar effect – the belief that the full Moon influences human behavior.
- Modern flat Earth beliefs – proposes that the earth is a flat, disc-shaped planet that accelerates upward, producing the illusion of gravity. Proposers of a flat Earth, such as the Flat Earth Society, do not accept compelling evidence, such as photos of planet Earth from space.
- Moon landing conspiracy theories – claim that some or all elements of the Apollo program and the associated Moon landings were hoaxes staged by NASA with the aid of other organizations. The most notable claim is that the six manned landings (1969–72) were faked and that twelve Apollo astronauts did not actually walk on the Moon. Various groups and individuals have made claims since the mid-1970s, that NASA and others knowingly misled the public into believing the landings happened, by manufacturing, tampering with, or destroying evidence including photos, telemetry tapes, radio and TV transmissions, Moon rock samples, and even some key witnesses.
- Nibiru cataclysm – a prediction first made by contactee Nancy Lieder that a mythological planet Nibiru would collide with Earth. After having adjusted her prediction many times, she later claimed the year of the occurrence to be 2012.
- Worlds in Collision – writer Immanuel Velikovsky proposed in his book Worlds in Collision that ancient texts and geographic evidence show mankind was witness to catastrophic interactions of other planets in our Solar system.
- Vaimānika Shāstra – a Hindu nationalist claim that airplanes were invented in ancient India during the Vedic period. A 1974 study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore found that the heavier-than-air aircraft that the Vaimānika Shāstra described were aerodynamically unfeasible. The authors remarked that the discussion of the principles of flight in the text were largely perfunctory and incorrect, in some cases violating Newton's laws of motion.
- 366 geometry or Megalithic geometry – posits the existence of an Earth-based geometry dating back to at least 3500 BC, and the possibility that such a system is still in use in modern Freemasonry. According to Alexander Thom and, later, Alan Butler and Christopher Knight, megalithic civilizations in Britain and Brittany had advanced knowledge of geometry, mathematics, and the size of the Earth. Butler correlates Thom's megalithic yard to the polar circumference of Earth using a circle divided into 366 degrees.
- The Bermuda Triangle – a region of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and (in its most popular version) Florida. Ship and aircraft disasters and disappearances perceived as frequent in this area have led to the circulation of stories of unusual natural phenomena, paranormal encounters, and interactions with extraterrestrials.
- Climate change denial – is part of the global warming controversy. It involves denial, dismissal, unwarranted doubt or contrarian views which depart from the scientific opinion on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions.
- Flood geology – creationist form of geology that advocates most of the geologic features on Earth are explainable by a global flood.
- Hollow Earth – a proposal that Earth is either entirely hollow or consists of hollow sections beneath the crust. Certain folklore and conspiracy theories hold this idea and suggest the existence of subterranean life.
- Lysenkoism, or Lysenko-Michurinism – was a political campaign against genetics and science-based agriculture conducted by Trofim Lysenko, his followers and Soviet authorities. Lysenko served as the director of the Soviet Union's Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Lysenkoism began in the late 1920s and formally ended in 1964. The pseudo-scientific ideas of Lysenkoism built on Lamarckian concepts of the heritability of acquired characteristics. Lysenko's theory rejected Mendelian inheritance and the concept of the "gene"; it departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection.
- Gasoline pill, which was claimed to turn water into gasoline.
- Hongcheng Magic Liquid – was a scam in China where Wang Hongcheng (Chinese: 王洪成; pinyin: Wáng Hóngchéng), a bus driver from Harbin with no scientific education, claimed in 1983 that he could turn regular water into a fuel as flammable as petrol by simply dissolving a few drops of his liquid in it. Around that time, in 1994, the Chinese Government, alarmed by an increase in pseudoscience and superstitions since the death of Mao Zedong, made a declaration decrying the deterioration of science education in the country, taking several measures to improve science education and to improve the prevalence of science and technology in courts.
- Hydrinos – are a supposed state of the hydrogen atom that, according to proponent Randell Mills of Brilliant Light Power, Inc., are of lower energy than ground state and thus a source of free energy.
- Free energy – particular class of perpetual motion which purports to create energy (violating the first law of thermodynamics) or extract useful work from equilibrium systems (violating the second law of thermodynamics). This is in contrast to proposals made most notably by Harold Puthoff a real energy which in quantum mechanics is thought not to be available to do work.
- Water-fueled cars – an instance of perpetual motion machines. Such devices are claimed to use water as fuel or produce fuel from water on board with no other energy input.
- Orgone is a pseudoscientific concept described as an esoteric energy or hypothetical universal life force, originally proposed in the 1930s by Wilhelm Reich.
- Feng-shui – Feng shui, a Chinese system of architecture is often regarded as a pseudoscience for its superstitious elements. See below for Feng-shui as a religion.
- Vastu shastra is the ancient Hindu system of architecture, which lays down a series of rules for building houses in relation to ambiance. Scientists like Jayant Narlikar write that it has no "logical connection" with the environment and notes that sometimes what has already been built is demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the rules. In another instance a minister ordered the demolition of a slum to change the entrance of his office, as per Vastu consultants who claimed that changing the entrance to an east-facing gate would solve his political problems.
- Autodynamics – a physics theory proposed by Ricardo Carezani in the early 1940s as a replacement for Einstein's theories of special relativity and general relativity. Autodynamics never gained status as a viable alternative model within the physics community, and today is wholly rejected by mainstream science.
- Einstein–Cartan–Evans theory – was an attempted unified theory of physics proposed by Myron W. Evans, which claimed to unify general relativity, quantum mechanics and electromagnetism. The hypothesis was largely published in the journal Foundations of Physics Letters between 2003 and 2005. Several of Evans' central claims were later shown to be mathematically incorrect and, in 2008, the editor of Foundations of Physics published an editorial note effectively retracting the journal's support for the hypothesis.
- Electrogravitics – is claimed to be an unconventional type of effect or anti-gravity propulsion created by an electric field's effect on a mass. The name was coined in the 1920s by the discoverer of the effect, Thomas Townsend Brown, who spent most of his life trying to develop it and sell it as a propulsion system.
- Baraminology – taxonomic system that classifies animals into groups called "created kinds" or "baramins" according to the account of creation in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible.
- Creation biology – subset of creation science that tries to explain biology without macroevolution.
- Intelligent design – states that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no testable or tenable hypotheses. Proponents argue that it is "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States. Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.
- Irreducible complexity – claim that some biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler systems. It is used by proponents of intelligent design 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 – 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.
- Biodynamic agriculture – method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms. Biodynamics uses a calendar which has been characterized as astrological. The substances and composts used by biodynamicists have been described as unconventional and homeopathic. For example, field mice are countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.
Health and medicine
Pseudoscientific medical practices are often known as quackery.
- Alternative or fringe medicine is any practice claimed to have the healing effects of medicine that is proven not to work, has no scientific evidence showing that it works, or is solely harmful. Alternative medicine is not a part of medicine, or science-based healthcare systems. It consists of a wide variety of practices, products, and therapies—ranging from those that are biologically plausible but not well tested, to those with known harmful and toxic effects. Despite significant costs in testing alternative medicine, including $2.5 billion spent by the United States government, almost none have shown any effectiveness beyond that of false treatments (placebo). Perceived effects of alternative medicine are caused by the placebo effect, decreased effects of functional treatment (and thus also decreased side-effects), and regression toward the mean where spontaneous improvement is credited to alternative therapies.
- Anthroposophic medicine, or anthroposophical medicine – is a form of alternative medicine. Devised in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) in conjunction with Ita Wegman (1876–1943), anthroposophical medicine is based on occult notions and draws on Steiner's spiritual philosophy, which he called anthroposophy. Practitioners employ a variety of treatment techniques based upon anthroposophic precepts, including massage, exercise, counselling, and substances. Many drug preparations used in anthroposophic medicine are ultra-diluted substances, similar to those used in homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are not medically effective and are generally considered harmless, except when used as a substitute for a scientifically proven and effective cure. In certain European countries, people with cancer are sometimes prescribed remedies made from specially harvested mistletoe, but research has found no convincing evidence of clinical benefit. Some anthroposophic doctors oppose childhood vaccination, and this has led to preventable outbreaks of disease. Professor of complementary medicine Edzard Ernst and other critics have characterized anthroposophic medicine as having no basis in science, pseudoscientific, and quackery.
- Applied kinesiology (AK) – is a technique in alternative medicine claimed to be able to diagnose illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness. According to their guidelines on allergy diagnostic testing, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology stated there is "no evidence of diagnostic validity" of applied kinesiology, and another study has shown that as an evaluative method, AK "is no more useful than random guessing", and the American Cancer Society has said that "scientific evidence does not support the claim that applied kinesiology can diagnose or treat cancer or other illness".
- Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques are a form of alternative medicine which proponents claim can treat allergies and related disorders. The techniques were devised by Devi Nambudripad, a California-based chiropractor and acupuncturist, in 1983, drawing on a combination of ideas from applied kinesiology, acupuncture, acupressure, nutritional management and chiropractic methods. NAET is considered by mainstream medical practitioners to be a pseudoscience. Among alternative practitioners it is considered to be a rather new and small field. There is no mainstream medical evidence to support its effectiveness in assessing or treating allergies.
- Bates method for better eyesight – is an alternative therapy aimed at improving eyesight. Eye-care physician William Horatio Bates, M.D. (1860–1931) attributed nearly all sight problems to habitual strain of the eyes, and felt that glasses were harmful and never necessary. Bates self-published a book, Perfect Sight Without Glasses, as well as a magazine, Better Eyesight Magazine, (and earlier collaborated with Bernarr MacFadden on a correspondence course) detailing his approach to helping people relax such "strain", and thus, he claimed, improve their sight. His techniques centered on visualization and movement. He placed particular emphasis on imagining black letters and marks, and the movement of such. He also felt that exposing the eyes to sunlight would help alleviate the "strain". Despite continued anecdotal reports of successful results, including well-publicised support by Aldous Huxley, Bates' techniques have not been objectively shown to improve eyesight. His main physiological proposition—that the eyeball changes shape to maintain focus—has consistently been contradicted by observation. The Bates method has been criticized not only because there is no good evidence it works, but also because it can have negative consequences for those who attempt to follow it: they might damage their eyes through overexposure of their eyes to sunlight, put themselves and others at risk by not wearing their corrective lenses while driving, or neglect conventional eye care, possibly allowing serious conditions to develop.
- Biorhythms – is an attempt to predict various aspects of a person's life through simple mathematical cycles. Most scientists believe that the idea has no more predictive power than chance and consider the concept an example of pseudoscience. For the scientific study of biological cycles such as circadian rhythms, see chronobiology.
- Body memory – is a hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. The idea could be pseudoscientific as there are no known means by which tissues other than the brain are capable of storing memories. Body memory is used to explain having memories for events where the brain was not in a position to store memories and is sometimes a catalyst for repressed memory recovery. These memories are often characterised with phantom pain in a part or parts of the body – the body appearing to remember the past trauma. The idea of body memory is a belief frequently associated with the idea of repressed memories, in which memories of incest or sexual abuse can be retained and recovered through physical sensations. Other ideas of body memory can be the transfer of memories from one person to the next through organ donations, the organ carrying past memories to the new receiver of the organ. Another example of body memory is based on decapitated animals that upon regrowing their head seem to recall past memories and training. This may suggest evidence that such means may be available to simpler forms of life.
- Brain Gym – is a nonprofit organization promoting a series of exercises claimed to improve academic performance. 26 Brain Gym activities are claimed to improve eye teaming (binocular vision), spatial and listening skills, hand–eye coordination, and whole-body flexibility, and by doing this manipulate the brain, improving learning and recall of information. Numerous books have been written describing research and case studies in which use of the Brain Gym activities benefited specific populations, including children recovering from burn injuries and those diagnosed with autism. The Brain Gym activities have been incorporated into many educational, sports, business, and seniors programs throughout the world. They are also widely used in British state schools. The program has been criticised as pseudoscience for the lack of references in some of the theories used in the 1994 Brain Gym: Teacher's Edition (revised in 2010) and for the absence of peer-reviewed research that performing the activities has a direct effect on academic performance.
- Chiropractic is an alternative medicine practice focused on finding vertebral subluxations and treating them with spinal adjustments. Many modern chiropractors target solely mechanical dysfunction, and offer health and lifestyle counseling. Many others, however, base their practice on the vitalism of D.D. Palmer and B. J. Palmer, maintaining that all or many organic diseases are the result of hypothetical spinal dysfunctions known as vertebral subluxations and the impaired flow of Innate intelligence, a form of putative energy. These ideas are not based in science, and along with the lack of a strong research base are in part responsible for the historical conflict between chiropractic and mainstream medicine. Recent systematic reviews indicate the possibility of moderate effectiveness for spinal manipulation in the management of nonspecific lower back pain. The effectiveness of chiropractic spinal manipulation has not been demonstrated according to the principles of evidence-based medicine for any other condition. Adverse symptomatic events, which are all qualified as relatively mild in the referenced report, with possible neurologic involvement following spinal manipulation, particularly upper spinal manipulation, occur with a frequency of between 33% and 61%. Most events are minor, such as mild soreness, fainting, dizziness, light headedness, headache, or numbness or tingling in the upper limbs; serious complications such as subarachnoid hemorrhage, vertebral artery dissection, or myelopathy are observed infrequently.
- Innate intelligence – form of putative energy, the flow of which is considered by some chiropractors to be responsible for patient health. Chiropractic historian Joseph C. Keating, Jr. stated: "So long as we propound the 'One cause, one cure' rhetoric of Innate, we should expect to be met by ridicule from the wider health science community. Chiropractors can't have it both ways. Our theories cannot be both dogmatically held vitalistic constructs and be scientific at the same time. The purposiveness, consciousness and rigidity of the Palmers' Innate should be rejected."
- Vertebral subluxation – a Chiropractic term that describes variously a site of impaired flow of innate or a spinal lesion that is postulated to cause neuromusculoskeletal or visceral dysfunction. Scientific consensus does not support the existence of chiropractic's vertebral subluxation.
- Colon cleansing (colonics, colon hydrotherapy) – encompasses several alternative medical therapies intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract. Practitioners believe that accumulations of putrefied feces line the walls of the large intestine and that they harbor parasites or pathogenic gut flora, causing nonspecific symptoms and general ill-health. This "auto-intoxication" hypothesis is based on medical beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and was discredited in the early 20th century.
- Craniosacral therapy – is a form of bodywork or alternative therapy using gentle touch to manipulate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. A practitioner of cranial-sacral therapy may also apply light touches to a patient's spine and pelvis. Practitioners believe that this manipulation regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and aids in "primary respiration". Craniosacral therapy was developed by John Upledger, D.O. in the 1970s, as an offshoot osteopathy in the cranial field, or cranial osteopathy, which was developed in the 1930s by William Garner Sutherland. According to the American Cancer Society, although CST may relieve the symptoms of stress or tension, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that craniosacral therapy helps in treating cancer or any other disease". CST has been characterized as pseudoscience and its practice has been called quackery. Cranial osteopathy has received a similar assessment, with one 1990 paper finding there was no scientific basis for any of the practitioners' claims the paper examined.
- Crystal healing – belief that crystals have healing properties. Once common among pre-scientific and indigenous peoples, it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s with the New Age movement.
- Detoxification – Detoxification in the context of alternative medicine consists of an approach that claims to rid the body of "toxins" – accumulated substances that allegedly exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. Many mainstream media web sites offer articles on this practice, despite a lack of scientific evidence for either the presence of the toxins, harm from their presence, or efficacy of the removal techniques.
- Ear candling – an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. Medical research has shown that the practice is both dangerous and ineffective and does not help remove earwax or toxicants. The claim by one manufacturer that ear candles originated with the Hopi tribe is also false.
- Earthing therapy or Grounding – a therapy that is claimed to ease pain, provide a better night's sleep, and assist in diseases with symptoms of inflammation by being in direct physical contact with the ground or a device connected to electrical ground. Purportedly, the earth has an excess of electrons which people are missing due to insulating shoes and ground cover. Being in electrical contact with the earth provides the body with those excess electrons which then act as antioxidants.
- Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) – reported sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation of various frequencies at exposure levels well below established safety standards. Symptoms are inconsistent, but can include headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and similar non-specific indications. Provocation studies find that the discomfort of sufferers is unrelated to hidden sources of radiation, and "no scientific basis currently exists for a connection between EHS and exposure to [electromagnetic fields]."
- Faith healing – act of curing disease by such means as prayer and laying on of hands. No material benefit in excess of that expected by placebo is observed.
- Health bracelets and various healing jewelry that are purported to improve the health, heal, or improve the chi of the wearer, such as ionized bracelets, hologram bracelets, and magnetic jewelry. No claims of effectiveness made by manufacturers have ever been substantiated by independent sources.
- Homeopathy – the belief that giving a patient with symptoms of an illness extremely dilute remedies that are thought to produce those same symptoms in healthy people. These preparations are often diluted beyond the point where any treatment molecule is likely to remain. Studies of homeopathic practice have been largely negative or inconclusive. No scientific basis for homeopathic principles has been substantiated.
- Iridology – means of medical diagnosis which proponents believe can identify and diagnose health problems through close examination of the markings and patterns of the iris. Practitioners divide the iris into 80–90 zones, each of which is connected to a particular body region or organ. This connection has not been scientifically validated, and disorder detection is neither selective nor specific. Because iris texture is a phenotypical feature which develops during gestation and remains unchanged after birth (which makes the iris useful for Biometrics), iridology is all but impossible.
- Leaky gut syndrome – in alternative medicine, a proposed condition caused by the passage of harmful substances outward through the gut wall. It has been proposed as the cause of many conditions including multiple sclerosis and autism, a claim which has been called pseudoscientific. According to the UK National Health Service, the theory is vague and unproven. Some skeptics and scientists say that the marketing of treatments for leaky gut syndrome is either misguided or an instance of deliberate health fraud.
- Lightning Process – a system claimed to be derived from osteopathy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and life coaching. Proponents claim that the Process can have a positive effect on a long list of diseases and conditions, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, despite no scientific evidence of efficacy. The designer of the Lightning Process, Phill Parker, suggests certain illnesses such as ME/CFS arise from a dysregulation of the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system, which the Lightning Process aims to address, helping to break the "adrenaline loop" that keep the systems' stress responses high.
- Magnet therapy – practice of using magnetic fields to positively influence health. While there are legitimate medical uses for magnets and magnetic fields, the field strength used in magnetic therapy is too low to effect any biological change, and the methods used have no scientific validity.
- The above is not to be confused with current health treatments involving electromagnetism on human tissue, such as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (see: Electromagnetic therapy).
- Maharishi Ayurveda – traditional Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old alternative medical practice with roots in ancient India based on a mind-body set of beliefs. Imbalance or stress in an individual's consciousness is believed to be the cause of diseases. Patients are classified by body types (three doshas, which are considered to control mind-body harmony, determine an individual's "body type"); and treatment is aimed at restoring balance to the mind-body system. It has long been the main traditional system of health care in India, and it has become institutionalized in India's colleges and schools, although unlicensed practitioners are common. As with other traditional knowledge, much of it was lost; in the West, current practice is in part based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1980s, who mixed it with Transcendental Meditation; other forms of Ayurveda exist as well. The most notable advocate of Ayurveda in America is Deepak Chopra, who claims that Maharishi's Ayurveda is based on quantum mysticism.
- Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a type of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy has been characterized as pseudoscience. It has particularly been criticized for its unproven, disproven, or dangerous treatments. Natural methods and chemicals are not necessarily safer or more effective than artificial or synthetic ones; any treatment capable of eliciting an effect may also have deleterious side effects.
- Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) – the core technique of osteopathic medicine. OMM is based on a philosophy devised by Andrew Taylor Still (1828–1917) who held that the body had self-regulating mechanisms that could be harnessed through manipulating the bones, tendons and muscles. It has been proposed as a treatment for a number of human ailments including Parkinson's disease, pancreatitis, and pneumonia but has only been found to be effective for lower back pain by virtue of the spinal manipulation used. It has long been regarded as rooted in "pseudoscientific dogma". In 2010 Steven Salzberg referred to the OMT-specific training given by colleges of osteopathic medicine as "training in pseudoscientific practices".
- Radionics – means of medical diagnosis and therapy which proponents believe can diagnose and remedy health problems using various frequencies in a putative energy field coupled to the practitioner's electronic device. The first such "black box" devices were designed and promoted by Albert Abrams, and were definitively proven useless by an independent investigation commissioned by Scientific American in 1924. The internal circuitry of radionics devices is often obfuscated and irrelevant, leading proponents to conjecture dowsing and ESP as operating principles. Similar devices continue to be marketed under various names, though none is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy or underlying premise of radionics devices. The radionics of Albert Abrams and his intellectual descendants should not be confused with similarly named reputable and legitimate companies, products, or medical treatments such as radiotherapy or radiofrequency ablation.
- Reflexology, or zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet, hands, or ears with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body. A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled trials concludes that the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition. There is no consensus among reflexologists on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one's qi. Reflexologists divide the body into ten equal vertical zones, five on the right and five on the left. Concerns have been raised by medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of appropriate medical treatment.
- Rolfing (also called Structural Integration) – body manipulation devised by Ida Rolf (1896–1979) claimed by practitioners to be capable of ridding the body of traumatic memories storied in the muscles. There is no evidence that rolfing is effective as a treatment for any condition.
- Therapeutic touch – form of vitalism where a practitioner, who may be also a nurse, passes his or her hands over and around a patient to "realign" or "rebalance" a putative energy field. A recent Cochrane Review concluded that "[t]here is no evidence that [Therapeutic Touch] promotes healing of acute wounds." No biophysical basis for such an energy field has been found.
- Tin foil hat – A tin foil hat is a hat made from one or more sheets of aluminium foil, or a piece of conventional headgear lined with foil, worn in the belief it shields the brain from threats such as electromagnetic fields, mind control, and mind reading. At this time no link has been established between the radio-frequency EMR that tin foil hats are meant to protect against and subsequent ill health.
- Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) – traditional medical system originating in China and practiced as an alternative medicine throughout much of the world. It contains elements based in the cosmology of Taoism, and considers the human body more in functional and vitalistic than anatomical terms. Health and illness in TCM follow the principle of yin and yang, and are ascribed to balance or imbalance in the flow of a vital force, qi. Diagnostic methods are solely external, including pulse examination at six points, examination of a patient's tongue, and a patient interview; interpractitioner diagnostic agreement is poor. The TCM description of the function and structure of the human body is fundamentally different from modern medicine, though some of the procedures and remedies have shown promise under scientific investigation.
- Acupuncture – use of fine needles to stimulate acupuncture points and balance the flow of qi. There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians. Some acupuncturists regard them as functional rather than structural entities, useful in guiding evaluation and care of patients. Dry needling is the therapeutic insertion of fine needles without regard to TCM knowledge. Acupuncture has been the subject of active scientific research since the late 20th century, and its effects and application remain controversial among medical researchers and clinicians. Because it is a procedure rather than a pill, the design of controlled studies is challenging, as with surgical and other procedures. Some scholarly reviews conclude that acupuncture's effects are mainly placebo, and others find likelihood of efficacy for particular conditions.
- Cupping therapy – an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps). Only one controlled trial of cupping has been conducted, and it did not demonstrate any effectiveness for pain relief. A book by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst claims that no evidence exists of any beneficial effects of cupping for any medical condition.
- Meridians – are the channels through which qi flows, connecting the several zang-fu organ pairs. There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians.
- Moxibustion – application on or above the skin of smoldering mugwort, or moxa, to stimulate acupuncture points.
- Qi – vital energy whose flow must be balanced for health. Qi has never been directly observed, and is unrelated to the concept of energy used in science.
- TCM materia medica – a collection of crude medicines used in traditional Chinese medicine. These include many plants in part or whole, such as ginseng and wolfberry, as well as more exotic ingredients such as seahorses. Preparations generally include several ingredients in combination, with selection based on physical characteristics such as taste or shape, or relationship to the organs of TCM. Most preparations have not been rigorously evaluated or give no indication of efficacy. Pharmacognosy research for potential active ingredients present in these preparations is active, though the applications do not always correspond to those of TCM.
- Zang-fu – concept of organs as functional yin and yang entities for the storage and manipulation of qi. These organs are not based in anatomy.
- Urine therapy – drinking either one's own undiluted urine or homeopathic potions of urine for treatment of a wide variety of diseases is based on pseudoscience.
- Promotion of a link between autism and vaccines, in which the vaccines are accused of causing autism-spectrum conditions, triggering them, or aggravating them, has been characterized as pseudoscience. Many epidemiological studies have found a lack of association between either the MMR vaccine and autism, or thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no causal link between either of these varieties of vaccines and autism.
- Vitalism – doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining. The book Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience stated "today, vitalism is one of the ideas that form the basis for many pseudoscientific health systems that claim that illnesses are caused by a disturbance or imbalance of the body's vital force." "Vitalists claim to be scientific, but in fact they reject the scientific method with its basic postulates of cause and effect and of provability. They often regard subjective experience to be more valid than objective material reality."
- Technical analysis is a security analysis methodology for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume. Behavioral economics and quantitative analysis use many of the same tools of technical analysis, which, being an aspect of active management, stands in contradiction to much of modern portfolio theory. The efficacy of both technical and fundamental analysis is disputed by the efficient-market hypothesis which states that stock market prices are essentially unpredictable. It is still considered by many academics to be pseudoscience. Academics such as Eugene Fama say the evidence for technical analysis is sparse and is inconsistent with the weak form of the efficient-market hypothesis.
- Attachment therapy – common name for a set of potentially fatal clinical interventions and parenting techniques aimed at controlling aggressive, disobedient, or unaffectionate children using "restraint and physical and psychological abuse to seek their desired results." (The term "attachment therapy" may sometimes be used loosely to refer to mainstream approaches based on attachment theory, usually outside the USA where pseudoscientific form of attachment therapy is less known.) Probably the most common form is holding therapy in which the child is restrained by adults for the purpose of supposed cathartic release of suppressed rage and regression. Perhaps the most extreme, but much less common, 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. Despite the practice's name it is not based on traditional attachment theory and shares no principles of mainstream developmental psychology research. In 2006 it was the subject of an almost entirely critical Taskforce Report commissioned by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC). Not all forms of attachment therapy are coercive and since the Candace Newmaker case there has been a move towards less coercive practices by leaders in the field.
- Brainwashing or mind control – A theoretical indoctrination process which results in "an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations. In this context, brainwashing refers to the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values". The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making. In 1983, the American Psychological Association (APA) asked Margaret Singer to chair a taskforce called the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC) to investigate whether brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" did indeed play a role in "cult" recruitment. The APA found that brainwashing theories were without empirical proof, and rejected the DIMPAC report because the report "lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur". Two critical letters from external reviewers Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Jeffery D. Fisher accompanied the APA's rejection memo. The letters criticized "brainwashing" as an unrecognized theoretical concept and Singer's reasoning as so flawed that it was "almost ridiculous."
- Conversion therapy – sometimes called reparative therapy, seeks to change a non-heterosexual person's sexual orientation so they will no longer be homosexual or bisexual. The American Psychiatric Association defines reparative therapy as "psychiatric treatment ... which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change their sexual homosexual orientation."
- Graphology – psychological test based on a belief that personality traits unconsciously and consistently influence handwriting morphology – that certain types of people exhibit certain quirks of the pen. Analysis of handwriting attributes provides no better than chance correspondence with personality, and neuroscientist Barry Beyerstein likened the assigned correlations to sympathetic magic. Graphology is only superficially related to forensic document examination, which also examines handwriting.
- Hypnosis – state of extreme relaxation and inner focus in which a person is unusually responsive to suggestions made by the hypnotist. The modern practice has its roots in the idea of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, originated by Franz Mesmer. Mesmer's explanations were thoroughly discredited, and to this day there is no agreement amongst researchers whether hypnosis is a real phenomenon, or merely a form of participatory role-enactment. Some aspects of suggestion have been clinically useful. Other claimed uses of hypnosis more clearly fall within the area of pseudoscience. Such areas include the use of hypnotic regression beyond plausible limits, including past life regression. Also see false memory syndrome.
- Hypnotherapy – therapy that is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis. It is widely considered a branch of complementary and alternative Medicine though its founder, James Braid, has been described as "one of the most ardent and influential critics of pseudo-science."
- It should be noted that using hypnosis for relaxation, mood control, and other related benefits (often related to meditation) is regarded as part of standard medical treatment rather than alternative medicine, particularly for patients subjected to difficult physical emotional stress in chemotherapy.
- Law of attraction – the maxim that "like attracts like" which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. Skeptical Inquirer magazine criticized the lack of falsifiability and testability of these claims. Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias. Physicist Ali Alousi, for instance, criticized it as unmeasurable and questioned the likelihood that thoughts can affect anything outside the head.
- Memetics – approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept that units of information, or "memes", have an independent existence, are self-replicating, and are subject to selective evolution through environmental forces. Starting from a proposition put forward in the writings of Richard Dawkins, it has since turned into a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture. It has been proposed that just as memes are analogous to genes, memetics is analogous to genetics. Memetics has been deemed a pseudoscience on several fronts. Its proponents' assertions have been labeled "untested, unsupported or incorrect" though the same book contains Susan Blackmore's counter article "Memes as Good Science". Supporters of memetics include EO Wilson, Douglas Hofstadter and many others.
- Neuro-linguistic programming – an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created in the 1970s. The title refers to a stated connection between the neurological processes ("neuro"), language ("linguistic") and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience ("programming") and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life. According to certain neuroscientists psychologists and linguists, NLP is unsupported by current scientific evidence, and uses incorrect and misleading terms and concepts. Reviews of empirical research on NLP indicate that NLP contains numerous factual errors, and has failed to produce reliable results for the claims for effectiveness made by NLP's originators and proponents. According to Devilly, NLP is no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Criticisms go beyond the lack of empirical evidence for effectiveness; critics say that NLP exhibits pseudoscientific characteristics, title, concepts and terminology. NLP is used as an example of pseudoscience for facilitating the teaching of scientific literacy at the professional and university level. NLP also appears on peer reviewed expert-consensus based lists of discredited interventions. In research designed to identify the "quack factor" in modern mental health practice, Norcross et al. (2006) list NLP as possibly or probably discredited, and in papers reviewing discredited interventions for substance and alcohol abuse, Norcross et al. (2008) list NLP in the "top ten" most discredited, and Glasner-Edwards and Rawson (2010) list NLP as "certainly discredited".
- Parapsychology – controversial discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities and life after death using the scientific method. Parapsychological experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal subjects and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception.
- Phrenology – now defunct system for determining personality traits by feeling bumps on the skull proposed by 18th-century physiologist Franz Joseph Gall. In an early recorded use of the term "pseudo-science", François Magendie referred to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day". The assumption that personality can be read from bumps in the skull has since been thoroughly discredited. However, Gall's assumption that character, thoughts, and emotions are located in the brain is considered an important historical advance toward neuropsychology (see also localization of brain function, Brodmann's areas, neuro-imaging, modularity of mind or faculty psychology).
- Polygraphy ("lie detectors") – an interrogation method which measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions. The belief is that deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers. Many members of the scientific community consider polygraphy to be pseudoscience. Polygraphy has little credibility among scientists. Despite claims of 90–95% validity by polygraph advocates, and 95–100% by businesses providing polygraph services, critics maintain that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance. Critics also argue that even given high estimates of the polygraph's accuracy a significant number of subjects (e.g. 10% given a 90% accuracy) will appear to be lying, and would unfairly suffer the consequences of "failing" the polygraph.
- Primal therapy – sometimes presented as a science. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2001) states that: "The theoretical basis for the therapy is the supposition that prenatal experiences and birth trauma form people's primary impressions of life and that they subsequently influence the direction our lives take ... Truth be known, primal therapy cannot be defended on scientifically established principles. This is not surprising considering its questionable theoretical rationale." Other sources have also questioned the scientific validity of primal therapy, some using the term "pseudoscience" (see Primal therapy § Criticism).
- Psychoanalysis – body of ideas developed by Austrian physician Sigmund Freud and his followers, which is devoted to the study of human psychological functioning and behavior. It has been controversial ever since its inception. Karl Popper characterized it as pseudoscience based on psychoanalysis failing the requirement for falsifiability. Frank Cioffi argued that "though Popper is correct to say that psychoanalysis is pseudoscientific and correct to say that it is unfalsifiable, he is mistaken to suggest that it is pseudoscientific because it is unfalsifiable. […] It is when [Freud] insists that he has confirmed (not just instantiated) [his empirical theses] that he is being pseudoscientific."
- Subliminal advertising, a visual or auditory information that is discerned below the threshold of conscious awareness and claims to have a powerful enduring effect on consuming habits. It went into disrepute in the late 1970s but there has been renewed research interest recently. The mainstream of accepted scientific opinion does not hold that subliminal perception has a powerful, enduring effect on human behaviour.
- Scientific racism – claim that scientific evidence shows the inferiority or superiority of certain races.
- Aryanism, the claim that there is a distinct "Aryan race" which is superior to other putative races, was an important tenet of Nazism, and "the basis of the German government policy of exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and other 'non-Aryans.'"
- Drapetomania, was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity.
- Melanin theory – belief founded in the distortion of known physical properties of melanin, a natural polymer, that posits the inherent superiority of dark-skinned people and the essential inhumanity and an inferiority of light-skinned people.
- Unilineal evolution: Before Darwin's work On the Origin of Species, some models incorporated Enlightenment ideas of social progress, and thus, according to philosopher of science Michael Ruse, were pseudoscientific by current standards, and may have been viewed as such during the 18th century, as well as into the start of the 19th century (though the word pseudoscience may not have been used in reference to these early proposals). This pseudoscientific, and often political, incorporation of social progress with evolutionary thought continued for some one hundred years following the publication of Origin of Species.
Paranormal and ufology
Paranormal subjects have been subject to critiques from a wide range of sources including the following claims of paranormal significance:
- Animal mutilations – cases of animals, primarily domestic livestock, with seemingly inexplicable wounds. These wounds have been said to be caused by extraterrestrials, cults, covert government organizations, or cryptids such as el chupacabra, when in fact they were caused by natural predation.
- Channeling – communication of information to or through a person allegedly from a spirit or other paranormal entity.
- Crop circles – geometric designs of crushed or knocked-over crops created 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 has become known as "cerealogy".
- Cryptozoology – search for creatures that are considered not to exist by most biologists. Well known examples of creatures of interest to cryptozoologists include Bigfoot, Yeren, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster. According to leading skeptical authors Michael Shermer and Pat Linse, "Cryptozoology ranges from pseudoscientific to useful and interesting, depending on how it is practiced."
- Dowsing refers to practices said to enable one to detect hidden water, metals, gemstones or other objects.
- Electronic voice phenomenon – purported communication by spirits through tape recorders and other electronic devices.
- Extra-sensory perception – 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.
- Ghost hunting – use of scientific methods and instrumentation in an unverifiable manner to prove supposed hauntings.
- Levitation – act of rising up from the ground without any physical aids, usually by the power of thought.
- Palmistry – the belief that the future can be foretold through palm reading. Predictions are based on the shape, line, and mounts of the hands. Palmists use cold reading in order to appear psychic.
- Parapsychology – (see Psychology section above.)
- Pseudoarchaeology – investigation of the ancient past using alleged paranormal or other means which have not been validated by mainstream science.
- Psychic surgery – type of medical fraud, popular in Brazil and the Philippines. Practitioners use sleight of hand to make it appear as though they are reaching into a patient's body and extracting "tumours". Psychic surgery is usually explicit deception; i.e., the "practitioners" are aware that they are practicing fraud or "quackery".
- Psychokinesis – paranormal ability of the mind to influence matter or energy at a distance.
- Rumpology – neologism referring to a pseudoscience akin to physiognomy, performed by examining crevices, dimples, warts, moles and folds of a person's buttocks in much the same way a chirologist would read the palm of the hand.
- Séances – ritualized attempts to communicate with the dead.
- The Tunguska event was an actual large explosion, possibly caused by a meteoroid or comet, in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia in June 1908. Night skies as far away as London were markedly brighter for several evenings. Unsupported theories regarding the event include the impact of a miniature black hole or large body of antimatter, ball lightning, a test by Nikola Tesla of the apparatus at Wardenclyffe Tower, and a UFO crash. Another theory is that the explosion was caused by a piece of Biela's Comet from 1883.
- Ufology – the study of unidentified flying objects (UFO) that frequently includes the belief that UFOs are evidence for extraterrestrial visitors.
- Fomenko's chronology – argues that the conventional chronology is fundamentally flawed, that events attributed to antiquity such as the histories of Rome, Greece and Egypt actually occurred during the Middle Ages.
- Holocaust denial – The Leuchter report attempted to demonstrate on a forensic level that mass homicidal gassings at Nazi extermination camps did not take place.
- Numerology (including the numerology practices of Kabbalah) – a set of beliefs in a divine, mystical, or other special relationship between a number and coinciding events. Numerology is regarded as pseudomathematics or pseudoscience by modern scientists. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.
- Scriptural codes — the belief that a book or fragment of holy scripture contains encoded messages that impart esoteric knowledge. One such decoding method involves identifying "equidistant letter sequences" that spell out such messages.
Religious and spiritual beliefs
Spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, are normally not classified as pseudoscience. However, religion can sometimes nurture pseudoscience, and "at the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion", and some religions might be confused with pseudoscience, such as traditional meditation. The following religious/spiritual items have been related to or classified as pseudoscience in some way:
- Koranic scientific foreknowledge (Islam) – Koranic Science (or Qur'anic science or Hadeeth science) asserts that foundational Islamic religious texts made accurate statements about the world that science verified hundreds of years later. This belief is a common theme in Bucailleism.
- Christian Science is generally considered a Christian new religious movement. However, some have called it "pseudoscience" because its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, used "science" in its name, and because of its former stance against medical science. Also, "Eddy used the term Metaphysical science to distinguish her system both from materialistic science and from occult science." The church now accepts the use of medical science. Vaccinations were banned, but in 1901, Eddy, at the age of 80, advised her followers to submit to them.
Creation science or scientific creationism, 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.
- Creationist cosmologies – cosmologies which, among other things, allow for a universe that is only thousands of years old.
- Baraminology – taxonomic system that classifies animals into groups called "created kinds" or "baramins" according to the account of creation in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible.
- Creation biology – subset of creation science that tries to explain biology without macroevolution.
- Flood geology – creationist form of geology that advocates most of the geologic features on Earth are explainable by a global flood.
- Searches for Noah's Ark – attempts to find the burial site of Noah's Ark, that according to the Genesis flood narrative is located somewhere in the alleged "Mountains of Ararat". There have been numerous expeditions with several false claims of success; the practice is widely regarded as pseudoscience, more specifically pseudoarchaeology.
- Intelligent design – maintains that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." These features include:
- Irreducible complexity – claim that some biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler systems. It is used by proponents of intelligent design 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 – 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.
- Dianetics, a therapeutic technique promoted by Scientology, purports to treat a hypothetical reactive mind. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of an actual reactive mind, apart from the stimulus response mechanisms documented in behaviorist psychology.
- Scientology's Purification Rundown and Narconon programs purport to clean the human body of toxins and drugs respectively. Their methodology consists of very long saunas over many days, extremely large (possibly toxic) doses of vitamins including niacin, and Scientology 'training routines', sometimes including attempts at telekenesis. The programmes have been described as "medically unsafe", "quackery" and "medical fraud", while academic and medical experts have dismissed Narconon's educational programme as containing "factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling". In turn, Narconon has claimed that mainstream medicine is "biased" against it, and that "people who endorse so-called controlled drug use cannot be trusted to review a program advocating totally drug-free living." Narconon has said that criticism of its programmes is "bigoted", and that its critics are "in favor of drug abuse … they are either using drugs or selling drugs".
- Feng shui – ancient Chinese system of mysticism and aesthetics based on astronomy, geography, and the putative flow of qi. Evidence for its effectiveness is based on anecdote, and there is a lack of a plausible method of action; this leads to conflicting advice from different practitioners of feng shui. Feng shui practitioners use this as evidence of variations or different schools; critical analysts have described it thus: "Feng shui has always been based upon mere guesswork." Modern criticism differentiates between feng shui as a traditional proto-religion and the modern practice: "A naturalistic belief, it was originally used to find an auspicious dwelling place for a shrine or a tomb. However, over the centuries it... has become distorted and degraded into a gross superstition."
- Quantum mysticism – builds on a superficial similarity between certain New Age concepts and such seemingly counter-intuitive quantum mechanical concepts as the uncertainty principle, entanglement, and wave–particle duality, while generally ignoring the limitations imposed by quantum decoherence. One of the most abused ideas is Bell's theorem, which proves the nonexistence of local hidden variables in quantum mechanics. Despite this, Bell himself rejected mystical interpretations of the theory.
- Cosmetics and cleaning products frequently make pseudoscientific claims about their products. Claims are made about both the benefits or toxicity of certain products or ingredients. Practices include angel dusting, the addition of minuscule amounts of active ingredients to products which are insufficient to cause any measurable benefit. Examples of products include:
- Laundry balls – spherical or toroidal objects marketed as soap substitutes for washing machines.
The following concepts have only a very small number of proponents, yet have become notable:
- Lawsonomy – proposed philosophy and system of claims about physics made by baseball player and aviator Alfred William Lawson.
- Morphic resonance – The idea put forth by Rupert Sheldrake that "natural systems, such as termite colonies, or pigeons, or orchid plants, or insulin molecules, inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind". It is also claimed to be responsible for "mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms".
- N rays – A hypothesized form of radiation "discovered" by Prosper-René Blondlot in 1903, which briefly inspired significant scientific interest but were subsequently found to have been a result of confirmation bias.
- Penta Water – claimed acoustically-induced structural reorganization of liquid water into long-lived small clusters of five molecules each. Neither these clusters nor their asserted benefits to humans have been shown to exist.
- Polywater – hypothetical polymerized form of water proposed in the 1960s with a higher boiling point, lower freezing point, and much higher viscosity than ordinary water. It was later found not to exist, with the anomalous measurements being explained by biological contamination. Chains of molecules of varying length (depending on temperature) tend to form in normal liquid water without changing the freezing or boiling point.
- Time Cube – a website created by Gene Ray, in 1997, where he sets out his personal model of reality, which he calls Time Cube. He suggests that all of modern physics is wrong, and his Time Cube model proposes that each day is really four separate days occurring simultaneously.
- Timewave zero – numerological formula that was invented by psychonaut Terence McKenna with the help of the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine. After discovering 2012 doomsday predictions, he redesigned his formula to have a "zero-point" at the same date as the Mayan longcount calendar.
- Torsion field – hypothetical physical field responsible for ESP, homeopathy, levitation, and other paranormal phenomena.
- Welteislehre – notion by the Austrian Hanns Hörbiger that ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes.
- Blood types in Japanese culture
- Cargo cult science
- Church of the SubGenius
- Crank (person)
- Critical thinking
- Fan death
- Fringe science
- Fringe science organizations
- James Randi Educational Foundation
- List of books about skepticism
- List of cognitive biases
- List of common misconceptions
- List of cryptids
- List of fallacies
- List of memory biases
- List of protosciences
- List of questionable diseases
- Observational error
- Occam's razor
- Paradigm shift
- Pathological science
- Philosophy of science
- Scientific consensus
- Superseded scientific theories
- Pollak 2002.
- Röösli, M; Moser, M; Baldinini, Y; Meier, M; Braun-Fahrländer, C (February 2004). "Symptoms of ill health ascribed to electromagnetic field exposure – a questionnaire survey". International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. 207 (2): 141–50. doi:10.1078/1438-4639-00269. PMID 15031956.
- Rubin, G James; Das Munshi, Jayati; Wessely, Simon (2005). "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review of Provocation Studies". Psychosomatic Medicine. 67 (2): 224–32. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000155664.13300.64. PMID 15784787.
- Goldacre, Ben. "Electrosensitives: the new cash cow of the woo industry". BadScience/The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
- "Electromagnetic fields and public health". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
- Shermer 2002.
- National Science Foundation (2002). "ch. 7". Science and Engineering Indicators – 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. ISBN 978-0-16-066579-0. "Belief in pseudoscience is relatively widespread... Polls also show that one quarter to more than half of the public believes in ... faith healing."
- Frazier, Kendrick (January 2005). "In the Land of Galileo, Fifth World Skeptics Congress Solves Mysteries, Champions Scientific Outlook". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
The majority of rigorous trials show no effect beyond placebo. (Edzard Ernst)
- Copper and Magnetic Bracelets Do Not Work for Rheumatoid Arthritis; randi.org
- Quackwear: Big Pseudoscience Wants to Sell You Wearable Metal to Improve Your Health; Alternet; January 10, 2015.
- Kayne, SB; Caldwell, IM (2006). Homeopathic pharmacy: theory and practice (2nd. ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-443-10160-1.
- Goldacre, Ben (17 November 2007). "Benefits and Risks of Homoeopathy". The Lancet. 370 (9600): 1672–73. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61706-1. PMID 18022024.
Five large meta-analyses of homoeopathy trials have been done. All have had the same result: after excluding methodologically inadequate trials and accounting for publication bias, homoeopathy produced no statistically significant benefit over placebo.
- "Homoeopathy's benefit questioned". BBC News. 25 August 2005. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
Professor Egger said: "We acknowledge to prove a negative is impossible. But good large studies of homeopathy do not show a difference between the placebo and the homoeopathic remedy, whereas in the case of conventional medicines you still see an effect."
- "Homeopathy: systematic review of systematic reviews". Bandolier. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
None of these systematic reviews provided any convincing evidence that homeopathy was effective for any condition. The lesson was often that the best designed trials had the most negative result
- "Questions and Answers About Homeopathy". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. April 2003. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
In sum, systematic reviews have not found homeopathy to be a definitively proven treatment for any medical condition.
- Beyerstein, BL (1997). "Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2007.
- CSICOP, cited in National Science Foundation Subcommittee on Science & Engineering Indicators (2000). "Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding: Science Fiction and Pseudoscience". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
- "NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy". National Council Against Health Fraud. 1994. Retrieved 14 July 2007.
- Tyler, Chris (September 2006). "Sense About Homeopathy" (PDF). Sense About Science. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
The scientific evidence shows that homeopathy acts only as a placebo and there is no scientific explanation of how it could work any other way.
- "Questions and Answers About Homeopathy". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. April 2003. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
a number of its key concepts do not follow the laws of science (particularly chemistry and physics)
- "What is Homeopathy". American Cancer Society. 5 January 2000. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
Most scientists say homeopathic remedies are basically water and can act only as placebos.
- "Scientists attack homeopathy move.". BBC News. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
In a statement, the Royal College of Pathologists said they were "deeply alarmed" that the regulation of medicine had "moved away from science and clear information for the public"
- "Iridology". Natural Standard. 7 July 2005. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
Research suggests that iridology is not an effective method to diagnose or help treat any specific medical condition.
- Ernst, E (January 2000). "Iridology: not useful and potentially harmful". Archives of ophthalmology. 118 (1): 120–21. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.1.120. PMID 10636425.
- "H-175.998 Evaluation of Iridology" (PDF). American Medical Association. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
Our AMA believes that iridology, the study of the iris of the human eye, has not yet been established as having any merit as a diagnostic technique.
- Kalichman, Seth C. (16 January 2009). Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Springer. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-387-79476-1.
- "Leaky gut syndrome". NHS Choices. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Cormier, Zoe (2008-03-08). "'Talk Therapy' Takes On Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Coming Soon To Canada". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- Felstein, Roma (2007-01-09). "Could ME be caused by too much adrenaline?". The Daily Mail. London.
- Park, Robert L. (2000). "The Virtual Astronaut". Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-19-513515-6.
Not only are magnetic fields of no value in healing, you might characterize these as "homeopathic" magnetic fields.
- National Science Foundation (2002). "7". Science and Engineering Indicators – 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. ISBN 978-0-16-066579-0.
Among all who had heard of [magnet therapy], 14 percent said it was very scientific and another 54 percent said it was sort of scientific. Only 25 percent of those surveyed answered correctly, that is, that it is not at all scientific.
- "Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A-97)". American Medical Association. 1997.
- "Ayurvedic medicine". Quackwatch. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
- Sharp, Lesley A. (December 2003). "Review of Fluent bodies: Ayourvedic Remedies for Postcolonial Imbalance". Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 17 (4): 511–12. doi:10.1525/maq.2003.17.4.512. Retrieved 16 August 2008.
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This subtle field cannot be accessed using our conventional senses. Radionic practitioners use a specialised dowsing technique to both identify the sources of weakness in the field and to select specific treatments to overcome them.
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This is a total quack procedure that has actually killed children.
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BSERP thanks the Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control for its service but is unable to accept the report of the Task Force. In general, the report lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur.
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they simply interpret the way we form these various features on the page in much the same way ancient oracles interpreted the entrails of oxen or smoke in the air. I.e., it's a kind of magical divination or fortune telling where 'like begets like.'
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On the other hand, in properly controlled, blind studies, where the handwriting samples contain no content that could provide non-graphological information upon which to base a prediction (e.g., a piece copied from a magazine), graphologists do no better than chance at predicting the personality traits
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In summary, then, it seems that graphology as currently practiced is a typical pseudoscience and has no place in character assessment or employment practice. There is no good scientific evidence to justify its use, and the graphologists do not seem about to come up with any.
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There have been abundant illustrations of pseudoscientific theories-monocausal theories of human behavior that were hailed as "scientific"-that have been applied with disastrous results. Examples: … Many racists today point to IQ to justify a menial role for blacks in society and their opposition to affirmative action.
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For the first one hundred and fifty years evolution was – and was seen to be – a pseudoscience.
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- Shermer, Michael; Linse, Pat (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. ISBN 1-57607-653-9.
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Thagard (1978) op cit 223 ff
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- extrasensory perception. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
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Belief in pseudoscience is relatively widespread... At least half of the public believes in the existence of extrasensory perception (ESP).
- Ettkin 2008.
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[M]ost scientists, both psychologists and physicists, agree that it has yet to be convincingly demonstrated.
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- National Science Foundation (2002). "ch. 7". Science and Engineering Indicators – 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. ISBN 978-0-7567-2369-9.
Belief in pseudoscience is relatively widespread... A sizable minority of the public believes in UFOs and that aliens have landed on Earth.
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- Edwin 2004, pp. 95-109.
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- Such as the existence of the geologic column; see Morton, Glenn. "The Geologic Column and its Implications for the Flood". TalkOrigins Archive.
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- Isaak, Mark (2007). "Creationist claim CD750". p. 173.
Much geological evidence is incompatible with catastrophic plate tectonics.
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- "Questions About Intelligent Design: What is the theory of intelligent design?". Discovery Institute, Center for Science and Culture.
The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
- Jones, John (2005). "Ruling, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Conclusion".
In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
- "We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large." [[s:Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District/4:Whether ID Is Science#Page 79 of 139 |Ruling, Judge John E. Jones III, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District]]
- Shulman 2006, p. 13
Mu, David (Fall 2005). "Trojan Horse or Legitimate Science: Deconstructing the Debate over Intelligent Design" (PDF). Harvard Science Review. 19 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-24.
Perakh, M (Summer 2005). "Why Intelligent Design Isn't Intelligent – Review of: Unintelligent Design". Cell Biol Educ. 4 (2): 121–22. doi:10.1187/cbe.05-02-0071. PMC 1103713.
- Decker., Mark D. "Frequently Asked Questions About the Texas Science Textbook Adoption Controversy". College of Biological Sciences, General Biology Program, University of Minnesota.
The Discovery Institute and ID proponents have a number of goals that they hope to achieve using disingenuous and mendacious methods of marketing, publicity, and political persuasion. They do not practice real science because that takes too long, but mainly because this method requires that one have actual evidence and logical reasons for one's conclusions, and the ID proponents just don't have those. If they had such resources, they would use them, and not the disreputable methods they actually use.
- Gardner, Martin (1957). "Chapter 22". Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover Publications Inc. ISBN 0-486-20394-8.
- Farley, Robert (30 March 2003). "Detox center seeks acceptance". St Petersburg Times.
When Narconon opened its Chilocco facility in 1991, the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health issued a blistering assessment in denying its application for certification. "There is no credible evidence establishing the effectiveness of the Narconon program to its patients," the board concluded. It attacked the program as medically unsafe; dismissed the sauna program as unproven; and criticized Narconon for inappropriately taking some patients off prescribed psychiatric medication.
- Robert W. Welkos; Joel Sappell (27 June 1990). "Church Seeks Influence in Schools, Business, Science". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
A fourth article did not mention Hubbard by name, but reported favorably on Narconon, his drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, which is run by Scientologists.
- Kyle Smith (20 April 2007). "DON'T BE TRICKED BY $CI-FI TOM-FOOLERY". New York Post.
Those who want a tan from his celebrity glow will urge a fair hearing for his quackery. Obscure City Councilman Hiram Monserrate suddenly finds himself talked about after issuing a proclamation of huzzahs for L. Ron Hubbard. Three: The Ground Zero maladies are so baffling that workers will try anything. Anyone who feels better will credit any placebo at hand – whether Cruise or the Easter Bunny. In 1991, Time called Scientology's anti-drug program "Narconon" a "vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult" – which the magazine said "invented hundreds of goods and services for which members are urged to give up 'donations' " – such as $1,250 for advice on "moving swiftly up the Bridge" of enlightenment. That's New Age techno-gobbledygook for advice on buying swiftly up the Bridge of Brooklyn. Scientology fronts such as the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project – its Web site immediately recognizable as the work of Hubbardites by its logo, which looks like the cover of a Robert Heinlein paperback from 1971 – hint that their gimmicks might possibly interest anyone dreaming of weight loss, higher I.Q. or freedom from addiction. And you might be extra-specially interested if you've faced heart disease, cancer, Agent Orange or Chernobyl. As Mayor Bloomberg put it, Scientology "is not science." Nope. It's science fiction.
- "30 arrested in Paris crackdown on Scientologists". Agence France-Presse. 14 January 1992.
About 30 Scientologists were arrested – and 19 of them later indicted – between May and October 1990 on charges of fraud, conspiracy to defraud and the illegal practice of medicine following the 1988 suicide of a church member in Lyon, eastern France. … The sect has often found itself in trouble with officialdom the world over, accused of defrauding and brainwashing followers and, in France, of quackery at its illegal anti-drug clinics called "Narconon."
- Abgrall, Jean-Marie (2001). Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age (PDF). p. 193. ISBN 1-892941-51-1. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
Narconon, a subsidiary of Scientology, and the association "Yes to Life, No to Drugs" have also made a specialty of the fight against drugs and treating drug addicts. … Drug addicts are just one of the Scientologists’ targets for recruitment. The offer of care and healing through techniques derived from dianetics is only a come-on. The detoxification of the patient by means of "dianetics purification" is more a matter of manipulation, through the general weakening that it causes; it is a way of brainwashing the subject. Frequently convicted for illegal practice of medicine, violence, fraud and slander, the Scientologists have more and more trouble getting people to accept their techniques as effective health measures, as they like to claim. They recommend their purification processes to eliminate X-rays and nuclear radiation, and to treat goiter and warts, hypertension and psoriasis, hemorrhoids and myopia. . . why would anyone find that hard to swallow? Scientology has built a library of several hundreds of volumes of writings exalting the effects of purification, and its disciples spew propaganda based on irresponsible medical writings by doctors who are more interested in the support provided by Scientology than in their patients’ well-being. On the other hand, responsible scientific reviews have long since "eliminated" dianetics and purification from the lists of therapies – relegating them to the great bazaar of medical fraud. … Medical charlatans do not base their claims on scientific proof but, quite to the contrary, on peremptory assertions – the kind of assertions that they challenge when they come out of the mouths of those who defend "real" medicine.
- Asimov, Nanette (2 October 2004). "Church's drug program flunks S.F. test / Panel of experts finds Scientology's Narconon lectures outdated, inaccurate". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
The program, Narconon Drug Prevention & Education, "often exemplifies the outdated, non-evidence-based and sometimes factually inaccurate approach, which has not served students well for decades," concluded Steve Heilig, director of health and education for the San Francisco Medical Society. In his letter to Trish Bascom, director of health programs for the San Francisco Unified School District, Heilig said five independent experts in the field of drug abuse had helped him evaluate Narconon's curriculum. … "One of our reviewers opined that 'this (curriculum) reads like a high school science paper pieced together from the Internet, and not very well at that,' " Heilig wrote Bascom. "Another wrote that 'my comments will be brief, as this proposal hardly merits detailed analysis.' Another stated, 'As a parent, I would not want my child to participate in this kind of 'education.' " Heilig's team evaluated Narconon against a recent study by Rodney Skager, a professor emeritus at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, describing what good anti-drug programs should offer students. "We concurred that … the Narconon materials focus on some topics of lesser importance to the exclusion of best knowledge and practices," Heilig wrote, and that the curriculum contained "factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling."
- Asimov, Nanette (27 March 2005). "Doctors back schools dropping flawed antidrug program". San Francisco Chronicle.
The California Medical Association has declared unanimous support for school districts that have dropped Narconon and other "factually inaccurate approaches" to antidrug instruction from their classrooms, and will urge the American Medical Association to do the same. Nearly 500 California doctors also endorsed "scientifically based drug education in California schools"
- "Families question Scientology-linked drug rehab after recent deaths". NBC Rock Center. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
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[People] long to be told that modern science validates the teachings of some ancient scripture or New Age guru. The purveyors of pseudoscience have been quick to exploit their ambivalence.
- Stenger, Victor J. (January 1997). "Quantum Quackery". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
Capra's book was an inspiration for the New Age, and "quantum" became a buzzword used to buttress the trendy, pseudoscientific spirituality that characterizes this movement.
- Gell-Mann, Murray (1995). The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and Complex. Macmillan. p. 168. ISBN 0-8050-7253-5.
Then the conclusion has been drawn that quantum mechanics permits faster-than-light communication, and even tha claimed "paranormal" phenomena like precognition are thereby made respectable! How can this have happened?
- Kuttner, Fred; Rosenblum, Bruce (November 2006). "Teaching physics mysteries versus pseudoscience". Physics Today. American Institute of Physics. 59 (11): 14–16. Bibcode:2006PhT....59k..14K. doi:10.1063/1.2435631. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
We should not underestimate how persuasively physics can be invoked to buttress mystical notions. We physicists bear some responsibility for the way our discipline is exploited.
- Bell, J. S. (1988). Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 0-521-52338-9.
So I think it is not right to tell the public that a central role for conscious mind is integrated into modern atomic physics. Or that 'information' is the real stuff of physical theory. It seems to me irresponsible to suggest that technical features of contemporary theory were anticipated by the saints of ancient religions … by introspection.
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True in this latest creationist variant, advocates of so-called intelligent design … use more slick, pseudoscientific language. They talk about things like 'irreducible complexity' … For most members of the mainstream scientific community, ID is not a scientific theory, but a creationist pseudoscience.
- Trefil, James (March 2007). "Who Were the Ancient Engineers of Egypt?". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 17 (1). Retrieved 1 December 2007.
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- Shermer, Michael (2002). Why people believe weird things: pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time. New York: A.W.H. Freeman/Owl Book. ISBN 0-8050-7089-3.
- 'Reading room' of Skeptic Society website. Various articles on pseudoscience and related topics can be found here at any given time.
- Essays by Michael Shermer at Scientific American. Shermer is a regular contributor to Scientific American, writing a column dealing with issues relating to skepticism and pseudoscience.
- Baloney Detection Kit on YouTube (10 questions we should ask when encountering a pseudoscience claim)