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.[1] 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.

Physical sciences

Astronomy and space sciences

  • 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.

Earth sciences




Life sciences

Agricultural sciences

Applied sciences

Health and medicine

Pseudoscientific medical practices are often known as quackery.


Social sciences


Racial theories

  • Aryanism, the claim that there is a distinct "Aryan race" which is superior to other putative races,[182] was an important tenet of Nazism, and "the basis of the German government policy of exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and other 'non-Aryans.'"[183]
  • 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.[184][185]


Paranormal and ufology

Paranormal subjects[16][188][189][190] have been subject to critiques from a wide range of sources including the following claims of paranormal significance:


Main article: Pseudohistory


Religious and spiritual beliefs

Spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, are normally not classified as pseudoscience.[222] 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.[222] The following religious/spiritual items have been related to or classified as pseudoscience in some way:

Creation science

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.[226]

  • 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.[238][239][240]
  • 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.[166][237]



Consumer products

Idiosyncratic ideas

The following concepts have only a very small number of proponents, yet have become notable:

See also


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  243. 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.
  244. 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.
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  246. 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.
  247. 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."
  248. 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"
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Further reading

  • Park, Robert (2000). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Oxford University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-19-514710-0. 
  • Singer, Barry; Abell, George O. (1983). Science and the paranormal: probing the existence of the supernatural. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-17820-6. 
  • Collins, Paul (2002). Banvard's folly: thirteen tales of people who didn't change the world. New York: Picador USA. ISBN 0-312-30033-6. 
  • Gardner, Martin (1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (2nd, revised & expanded ed.). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-20394-8. Retrieved 14 November 2010  Originally published 1952 by G.P. Putnam's Sons, under the title In the Name of Science 
  • Gardner, Martin (1981). Science – good, bad and bogus. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-144-4. 
  • Randi, James (1982). Flim-flam!: psychics, ESP, unicorns, and other delusions. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-198-3. 
  • Sagan, Carl (1997). The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-40946-9. 
  • Vaughn, Lewis; Schick, Theodore (1999). How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age. Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield Pub. ISBN 0-7674-0013-5. 
  • 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. 
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