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Old 15-11-2008, 08:15 PM   #1
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Default Beyerstein on types of pseudoscience

Here's the paper yet again, Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience.

On page 5, Beyerstein begins a long section that effectively and succinctly highlights various broad areas of pseudoscience that have cast long shadows over legitimate fields of science and have had to be actively weeded out. The list includes:
1. Biology: (Lysenkoism, "Scientific" creationism - the creationists are still at it but have repositioned themselves as intelligent designers, and every so often rise up politically.)
2. Chemistry: (Polywater, Additives and nostrums)
3. Physics: (N-rays, "energies", mysticism and quantum mechanics, crop circles, free energies for all)
4. Medicine: (homeopathy, quack cures for arthritis and cancer, vitamin fads, grey areas like chelation "therapy", chiropractic, acupuncture, psychological effects on disease)
5. Psychology: (astrology, graphology, subliminal self-help tapes, pop-psychology, false memory creation, parapsychology)

In Box 2, Beyerstein lists "Kinds of claims considered doubtful by the majority of the scientific community":
1. Extra-sensory perception: (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retro-cognition (seeing the past), psychokinesis (mind over matter), fetal memories, angel sightings)
2. Alleged evidence of survival after death: (Spiritualism, mediums, past-life regression, ghosts, poltergeists, spirit (or demonic) possession, near-death experience interpretations, out-of-body experience interpretations, Ouija boards, past-life memories, exorcism
3. Alleged extraterrestrial influences on human behaviour: (UFO's, Alien abductions, astrology, lunar effects on human behaviour, ancient astronauts, crop circles, cattle mutilation by extraterrestrials)
4. Divination and fortune telling: (psychic reading, tarot cards, I Ching, palmistry, numerology, tea leaves, crystal ball, astrology, graphology, entrail reading, dream prophesy, Nostradamus, etc.)
5. Spell casting/supernatural powers: (witchcraft, satanism, sorcery, voodoo, evil eye, Carlos Casteňeda)
6. Monsters: (Bigfoot, Yeti, Saskquatch, LochNess, Ogopogo, etc)
7. Physical anomalies: (Bermuda triangle, great lakes triangle, Devil's sea (Japan), corrupt versions of quantum mechanics, pyramid power, Kirilian photography, psychokinesis, teleportation, moon effects on behaviour, spontaneous human combustion, perpetual motion machines)
8. Unproven medical procedures and psychic healing: (faith healers, psychic surgeons, bogus cancer drugs, copper bracelets, Bates method (sight without glasses), high colonics, naturopathy, hoeopathy, crystal healing, "therapeutic touch" (off body), reflexology, iridology, QiGong, herbal "cures" (e.g., blue-green algae), bee venom therapy, environmental sensitivity syndrome, fad diets, lots of food "supplements" and "health" foods)
9. Unproven psychological theories and treatments: (scientology, EST, rebirthing, NLP, past life therapy, aroma therapy, pop-biorhythm charts, astrology, handwriting analysis, primal scream, rolfing, Reichian orgone therapy, new-age self-improvement schemes, TM (other than simple relaxation), subliminal perception)
10. "Applied" psychic powers: (psychic detectives, psychic archeologists, psychic dentists, psychic historians, (name a field and put "psychic" in front of it as a modifier) dowsers and diviners).

On page 23 Beyerstein asks the question, "What do these questionable phenomena have in common"? (Refer to Bunge for detail of his preamble.)
And here is his list (greatly abbreviated):

Pseudosciences - Characteristics of the fields:

1. Isolation: Pseudo-scientists do not participate enough to even know what's going on and how a field that might involve their concepts is changing.
As a result of their insularity, when pseudoscientists debate their critics, they seem surprisingly ignorant of basic concepts in academic fields that ought to inform their work.
In fact, many of them are openly antagonistic to the history of previous research in areas that impinge upon their own. Rather than standing on the shoulders of giants as Newton claimed to have done, many pseudoscientists prefer to stand in their faces.
Rarely do pseudoscientists submit their findings and theoretical work to the appropriate refereed academic journals. Instead, their work is likely to appear in the popular press or in proprietary journals belonging to their own organizations.
2. Nonfalsifiability:
any explanation for which there is no set of data that could possibly refute it is really no explanation at all...This kind of inability to be proven wrong is, by itself, sufficient grounds to declare a theory unscientific.
In addition to being non-falsifiable, most pseudosciences purport to be all-encompassing. Something that claims to explain everything usually explains nothing.
3. Misuse of data:
Pseudoscientists frequently distort or misuse reliable scientific data (e.g., phrenologists carried the quite defensible notion of cerebral localization of function to absurd lengths, and “scientific creationists” are fond of mangling the second law of thermodynamics for their own polemical purposes). In this way, pseudoscientists are often able to piggy-back nonsense upon reliable knowledge. It is common among advocates of bogus science to start with a position that oppon-ents will readily concede. They then proceed, almost imperceptibly, to add increasingly contentious and unsupported arguments until the shred of truth with which they began can no longer support the edifice that has been constructed upon it.
4. Sciences are cumulative and self-correcting, pseudosciences aren’t.
...oldness is venerated for its own sake, the assumption being that if it has survived so long, the field must be sound.
They rarely stop to think that racism and sexism, not to mention belief in a flat earth and a geocentric universe, are even older.

5. Special pleading:
pseudoscientists often venerate their long heritage and still plead for special treatment because they are engaged in new explorations that should entitle them to more time in which to “iron out the bugs.”
NCCAM seems to have become the latest concession to this. See Cory's thread on Endarkenment, are we coming or going?

6. Pseudosciences invariably purvey uplifting, congenial beliefs. Another box appears, Box 4, listing "Pseudoscience's comforting beliefs" (dopamemes):
a) healing can be effected painlessly, and without effort. (E.g., faith healers,
therapeutic touch, Xi Gong, fad diets, quack cancer cures, homeopathy, crystal healing....)
I expect he is referring to actual pathology as opposed to mere "pain." For sure, most ordinary pain is relatively easy to get rid of - "painlessly."
b) Talent, knowledge, and wisdom can be acquired instantaneously in secret ways that require little or no sacrifice or effort. (E.g., "brain tuners," "smart drugs," subliminal tapes, most self-help seminars....)
c) Nostalgia for the absolute. The old, comforting verities of the past can be scientifically supported; they need not merely be accepted as articles of faith. (E.g., "Creation Science,"
purportedly scientific evidence for an afterlife....)
d) We can have perfect prediction of the future allowing us to enhance the safety and economic well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. (E.g., pop-biorhythms, graphology, astrology, precognitive dreams....)
Ha. That last one fell sharply on its face these past few months.
e) There are foolproof ways of telling what people are really like and predicting what they will do. (E.g., graphology, astrology, and pop-psychology's other pseudoscientific character reading and aptitude tests)
f) There are no limitations on human ability and achievement (E.g., pop-psychology's selfimprovement seminars, such as Neurolinguistic Programming, EST, etc.; subliminal self-help tapes, ...)
g) The energy crisis can be banished forever. (paraphysics, perpetual motion machines, gasoline stretchers, pyramid power, cold fusion....)
Gasoline stretchers are back up in the public eye these days...
h) Even though we have despoiled our planet and seem to be perpetually disposed to engage in war, there are other worlds or dimensions that have solved these problems and are willing to take us under their wing. (E.g., channelers, UFOlogists....)
i) Death hath no sting. Our personalities will live on. (E.g., Near-death studies, channelling,
Attached Files
File Type: pdf beyerstein_science_vs_pseudoscience.pdf (461.0 KB, 0 views)
HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
Neurotonics PT Teamblog
Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

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Last edited by bernard; 25-03-2014 at 08:02 AM.
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