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Thread: Definition of "Pseudoscience"

  1. #1 Definition of "Pseudoscience" 
    pmb
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    I thought I'd share the definition and trademarks of pseudoscience as defined in my logic text Practical Logic: An Antidote for Uncritical Thinking by Soccio and Barry. From page 384-385
    Pseudoscience, a term coined by MArtin Gardner, refers to a certain category of theories, systems and explanations, which though claiming to be "scientific," in fact use only the trappings of genuine science and avoid the rigors of checks and balances of the scientific method or the scrutiny of disinterested experts.
    ...What, then, are the basic characteristics of the pseudoscientists?

    1. "First and foremost of these traits is that [they] work in almost total isolation from their collages ... isolation in the sense of having no fruitful contacts with fellow researchers.

    2. The pseudoscientist submits his or her work not to bona fide experts in the field but to the general public, though the publich is not qualified to evaluate it.

    3. The pseudoscientist speaks through organizations he or she has founded, thus avoiding genuine peer review and conveying an aura of professional expertise.

    4. The pseudoscientist considers himself or herself to be a genius (most likely misunderstood and persecuted).

    5. The pseudoscientist regards colleagues to be, almost without exception, "blockheads" (Gardner's term)

    6. The pseudoscientist compares himself or herself to Galileo, Bruno, Pasteur, or other well-known, well-respected scientists whose work met initial hostility and resistance. The pseudoscientist repeatedly cites comparisons between his or her own case and historical ases of persecution of true scientific genius, which was initially misunderstood. (This functions as a form of the fallacy of positioning).

    7. The pseudoscientist exibits strong compulsion to focus criticism on the greatest scientists and/or best-established theories of the day.

    8. The pseudoscientist tends to write in complex jargon often making use of phrases, terms and locutions he or she has coined. This rhetoric can be quite persuasive, creating a beautifully crafted jigsaw puzzle of assertions. Clever use of circular reasoning, equivocations, and other persuasive tricks makes it difficut to refute pseudoscience by logic and authentic scientific evidence.


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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    So? Do you agree with these identifiers? Do you think any are missing? Would you not agree that many of these characteristics could also be applied to bona fide mainstream scientists? Is it not, perhaps, the case that these descriptions of the pseudoscientist are as qualitative and lacking in evidential support as any exposition by a pseudoscientist? It's just that they might be a little better written, assuming their disregard for collages was your error, not Soccio and Barry's intent.


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  4. #3  
    pmb
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    So? Do you agree with these identifiers? Do you think any are missing?
    Some people try to pass of their misguided beliefs as mainstream physics. When an advanced text on the subject is quoted to them they claim the book is wrong. I think that's bogus science but I'm not sure if its pseudoscience. What about you?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Would you not agree that many of these characteristics could also be applied to bona fide mainstream scientists?
    Pseudoscientist don't always toss out pseudoscience. But I've never seen a case where a mainstream scientist puffed out pseudoscience.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Is it not, perhaps, the case that these descriptions of the pseudoscientist are as qualitative and lacking in evidential support as any exposition by a pseudoscientist? It's just that they might be a little better written, assuming their disregard for collages was your error, not Soccio and Barry's intent.
    What is this "disregard for collages " that you speak of??? What error do you think I made.

    I forgot to metion it but the purpose of this thread was in hopes of starting a discussion on a possible sticky defining pseudoscience for this forum. When it comes to definitions I always go the the literature to start with. What possible error could I have made on post #1???

    The one thing I've noticed is that out of all the scientists I've met over the years none of them displayed any of the characteristics of a pseudoscientist.
    Last edited by pmb; July 20th, 2012 at 08:21 AM.
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    My opinion?- Most science began as pseudo. Most ideas were met with great scrutiny [maybe not the wheel or fire, but practically all of astronomy]. It has taken a great amount of convincing for some ideas to become accepted and some ideas are too easily accepted. Many times it depends on who someone may be and the position they are in and have been given. There are many commonly accepted ideas today that are actually pseudo and a great number of ideas considered to be pseudo that deserve credit.

    I admit to symptoms of pseudo for a couple/few? of my ideas, but mainly because that is what others consider those ideas to be. Although, I am sure there are many "pseudoists" that will continue to ignore the obvious, there are many considered pseudoists that invite scrutiny and are trying to convince the possibility. When the inviting pseudoists are ignored, it then brings scrutiny to the scientific community. If there is any idea that has a chance for merit, is offered up for study and has not been fully investigated, then why would it be so easily discarded?Mmm$?!

    Pseudoscience is "the cutting edge", it is where most real science begins, and once a pseudoscientists idea has been discovered to be factual [as mine will be!-SO, being too sure may be another symptom], then the reward is that much sweeter!

    Maybe I need to become "Bona Fide" [Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?]
    Last edited by Kalopin; July 20th, 2012 at 01:03 PM.
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  6. #5  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin
    My opinion?- Most science began as pseudo.
    And immediately you head down the wrong passage. Pseudoscience does not merely consist out of speculations, it consists out of pursuits of speculations that do not follow the scientific method. Read through the Wiki page on pseudoscience. Honestly...
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  7. #6  
    pmb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin View Post
    My opinion?- Most science began as pseudo. Most ideas were met with great scrutiny [maybe not the wheel or fire, but practically all of astronomy].
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin View Post

    Great scrutiny is the hallmark of great science. We shouldn’t accept scientific ideas unless we have plenty of experimental data to confirm it. Only after a hypothsis has met with a great deal of skepticism should it be accepted into the cannon of scientific laws.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin View Post
    I admit to symptoms of pseudo for a couple/few? of my ideas, but mainly because that is what others consider those ideas to be.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin View Post

    Ideas in and of themselves are not pseudoscience. Its what one does with them and critism which makes it pseudoscience or not. Since you changed according to criticism it wasn’t pseudoscience in my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin
    My opinion?- Most science began as pseudo.
    And immediately you head down the wrong passage. Pseudoscience does not merely consist out of speculations, it consists out of pursuits of speculations that do not follow the scientific method. Read through the Wiki page on pseudoscience. Honestly...
    I may not be able to speak in others defense but, as far as my ideas, I believe that I am always trying to follow the scientific method. To find all the facts and investigate all possible evidence and present as much evidence as possible to "qualified" scientists [oh, that qualified thing may have been my problem!].

    If it is not accepted by certain people and is hidden, then others that may have a better understanding have been denied the chance to review the facts. This is when the scientific community has failed due to bad opinions of overly zealous individuals. [again- my opinion]
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    Time Lord Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    No its not been your qualifications that are the problem, its your lack of understanding of multiple areas of science, and your refusal to learn when the correct information has been supplied to you.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

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    I forgot to metion it but the purpose of this thread was in hopes of starting a discussion on a possible sticky defining pseudoscience for this forum.
    The most important 'defining' issue for Pseudoscience for this forum is the existence of the Trash Can category.

    Pseudo is the place for things that don't make the grade in terms of mainstream science, but it might be a bit of an insult for it to go straight to Trash. And that's all. There's really nothing deep or meaningful in the distinction any more than there's much of a distinction between trash and recycling from a householder's point of view. Either way, the item's no benefit to the household.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    No its not been your qualifications that are the problem, its your lack of understanding of multiple areas of science, and your refusal to learn when the correct information has been supplied to you.
    What will you think about yourself if/when I am proven correct?

    P.S. oh, hey, check out my site again, [and "draw the line"] http://koolkreations.wix.com/kalopins-legacy 'preciate it!
    Last edited by Kalopin; July 20th, 2012 at 03:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I forgot to metion it but the purpose of this thread was in hopes of starting a discussion on a possible sticky defining pseudoscience for this forum.
    The most important 'defining' issue for Pseudoscience for this forum is the existence of the Trash Can category.

    Pseudo is the place for things that don't make the grade in terms of mainstream science, but it might be a bit of an insult for it to go straight to Trash. And that's all. There's really nothing deep or meaningful in the distinction any more than there's much of a distinction between trash and recycling from a householder's point of view. Either way, the item's no benefit to the household.
    All pseudo better be kept from the trash until it has been PROVEN wrong, or it will make the one/s who put it there look like [well you know!]
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmb View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    So? Do you agree with these identifiers? Do you think any are missing?
    Some people try to pass of their misguided beliefs as mainstream physics. When an advanced text on the subject is quoted to them they claim the book is wrong. I think that's bogus science but I'm not sure if its pseudoscience. What about you?
    You haven't told me whether or not you agree that the list of identifiers is a good one. You have instead made a statement that is unrelated to the question. The statement may be true and even interesting, but I'd still like to know if you think the quoted list offers a good way of identifying pseudoscientists.

    As to your question, I should think that claiming a textbook was wrong without offering justification for the claim would constitute pseudoscience, or at least an element of it. Of course textbooks do contain errors, so I would be cautious about accepting their contents unreservedly.


    Quote Originally Posted by pmb View Post
    [
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Would you not agree that many of these characteristics could also be applied to bona fide mainstream scientists?
    Pseudoscientist don't always toss out pseudoscience. But I've never seen a case where a mainstream scientist puffed out pseudoscience.
    I think you miss my point. Many scientists did and some scientists do, work in isolation from their colleagues.
    Some scientists publish their concepts as books rather than research papers.
    Some scientists have a scathing view of their supposed peers and consider themselves to be great geniuses. Etc,

    If these are attributes of 'proper scientists' how can we use this behvaviour to identify pseudoscientists?


    Quote Originally Posted by pmb View Post
    What is this "disregard for collages " that you speak of??? What error do you think I made.
    I was quoting you quoting Soccio and Barry as follows: "First and foremost of these traits is that [they] work in almost total isolation from their collages ... ". I'm not sure why pseudoscientists should be taking care to avoid their very own artwork, so I assume this was meant to be either colleagues or colleges. Either makes sense, though the former is a better fit.

    I forgot to metion it but the purpose of this thread was in hopes of starting a discussion on a possible sticky defining pseudoscience for this forum.
    And as part of that discussion I am questioning whether the provided list is a satisfactory one. It seems to me to fail to identify clearly actions associated with pseudoscience. Also it lacks any quantitative assessment. As such the description of pseudoscience appears as vague as the outpourings of pseudoscientists. If that is a valid assessment then the list is a poor choice for your objective.
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    Any claim that has "and then some magic happened" before it = pseudoscience.
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    You haven't told me whether or not you agree that the list of identifiers is a good one.
    Sorry for the confustion? I meant that I agree with the entire list but was unsure about the aspect I mentioned. I have no delusions that a simple list could possible tell you whether something was pseudoscience or not. I hope you didn't get that impression from me merely posting a list I found in a book. Yes. The list is very good at hitting some of the more readily recognized marks of pseudoscience. No list could possibly catch all the trademarks of pseudoscientists dead in their tracks.

    Here is one that could be in such a list - information hiding. Ever watch one of those programs of the history channel on ancient astronauts? They talk about some plain in the mountains which have ancient drawings on them. They claim that some of the marks appear to be runways and the tops of the mountains appeared to have to been sheared off because they look like what a mountant migh look like if someone were to cut the top off. They calim that the symbols can only be meant for people high above the ground in flying craft. They don't even hint at the idea that such drawings could be directed at their gods? They also never mention that such cut-off-top mountains appear elsewhere in the worldwith no symbols or man-made lines on them. To me that's information hiding and is a good trademark of pseudoscience. Of course it could be that they're just too dumb to think of these things.

    Please recall the comment before the list
    Pseudoscience, a term coined by MArtin Gardner, refers to a certain category of theories, systems and explanations, which though claiming to be "scientific," in fact use only the trappings of genuine science and avoid the rigors of checks and balances of the scientific method or the scrutiny of disinterested experts.
    These marks are simply useful tools to help a person trying to identify pscudoscience.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    As to your question, I should think that claiming a textbook was wrong without offering justification for the claim would constitute pseudoscience, or at least an element of it. Of course textbooks do contain errors, so I would be cautious about accepting their contents unreservedly.
    I agree. I'm careful with that kind of thing. I usually consider several texts before I mention such a thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    I think you miss my point. Many scientists did and some scientists do, work in isolation from their colleagues.
    Some scientists publish their concepts as books rather than research papers.
    Some scientists have a scathing view of their supposed peers and consider themselves to be great geniuses. Etc,
    Then I'd say that some of those have characteristiss of being pseudoscientists. Some scientists don't chose to work in isolation. Its sometimes forced on them. But one has to use caution. As my text notes
    Although we must take care not to slip into the error of dismissing every "isoated" theorist or iconoclastic thinker as a pseudoscientist, a little careful thought about the "scientiic establishment" suggests that, as a rule, scientists do not "gang up" against each other.
    Underline is mine.

    If these are attributes of 'proper scientists' how can we use this behvaviour to identify pseudoscientists?
    By what they produce. Is it full of complex jargon that the author created himself? Does the author equivocate a great deal of the time? Does he use straw arguments against objections to his work? Are his arguments uncogent and filled with logical fallacies? Does it ignore facts in evidence? Does he submit his work to non-peer reviewed journals? These are the characteristis of pseudoscience. If a scientist works inisolation but his work has the flavor of good science such as constructing cogent arguments, doesn't make use of logical fallacies of any kind, references peer-reviewed articles from respected journals etc

    I think that one has to take the list as a whole and not as single items which tell you if someone is a pseudoscientist. For example, someone who works in isolation becuase, for example, he's disabled and can't get around doesn't in and of itself make him a pseudoscientist. If someone who is a scientist never published an article but writes a book could very well he a scientist. I thinik that's exactly what Darwin did, didn't he?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    I was quoting you quoting Soccio and Barry as follows: "First and foremost of these traits is that [they] work in almost total isolation from their collages ... ".
    Sorry. I misspelled colleague.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    And as part of that discussion I am questioning whether the provided list is a satisfactory one. It seems to me to fail to identify clearly actions associated with pseudoscience.
    Can you please provide a few illustratrative examples?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    And as part of that discussion I am questioning whether the provided list is a satisfactory one. It seems to me to fail to identify clearly actions associated with pseudoscience. Also it lacks any quantitative assessment. As such the description of pseudoscience appears as vague as the outpourings of pseudoscientists. If that is a valid assessment then the list is a poor choice for your objective.
    I myself would never expect a list to be sufficeint to capture all the possible marks of pseudoscience since pseudoscience is so diverse. There are a huge amount of ways to get something wrong.

    When I was in college I took a course called The Philosophy of Science. In that course we had two texts, one of which was called Science and Unreason by Radner and Radner. It has an entire chapter on the marks of pseudoscience. They couldn't simply put it all into a list. Same with my present text on critical thinking. I.e. Pseudosciece isn't defined jus by a list.

    BTW I highly recommend the book by Radner and Radner. See
    Amazon.com: Science and Unreason (9780534011536): Daisie Radner, Michael Radner: Books

    I think that you'd very much enjoy it. You can get a copy used for only penny!
    Last edited by pmb; July 20th, 2012 at 08:21 PM.
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  16. #15  
    pmb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalopin View Post
    What will you think about yourself if/when I am proven correct?
    Nothing other than sometimes people can get the right answer by invalid methods. That never occured to you?
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