The Language of Pseudoscience

If Google were to characterise me based on my YouTube views, they would probably list me as some major conspiracy theory junkie. I watch a lot of conspiracy theory rubbish on YouTube, but for me it is light entertainment. I find it amusing to see how they try to present a bunch of random nonsense as science. Watch any of this stuff and you will hear the same types of phrases again and again…

  • “Many experts now believe” : Nice work. They are experts and there are many of them, so it must be true right? No qualification of who these experts actually are, what qualifies them as experts and how many of them constitutes “many”.
  • “There is a growing belief” : So yesterday there was one person that believed this and today there are three. That’s a belief that is certainly growing, so this is proof of that theory right?

Along these same lines, there is this idea that popularity is in some way related to truth. According to Wikipedia, the most popular religion in the world in 2012 was Christianity, so by this measure Christianity is scientifically proven to be true right?

There seems to be this strange disconnect these days between actual science and the public perception of what science really is. I get quite frustrated when I watch science shows on TV that have been dumbed down to the point where they sound more like pseudoscience. When real science is presented like pseudoscience, how is the general public meant to differentiate between that and your average Daily Mail story?

The term pseudoscience itself is open for interpretation, but the first paragraph of it’s definition on Wikipedia is quite interesting.

“Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.”

Real science is not a popularity contest and it’s not about vague statements. All information must be presented in the correct context with the appropriate caveats where necessary. If what you are reading/hearing/watching is not qualified properly at best it is watered down for public consumption. At worst it is total bullshit!

Rant over…



Update: Following on from Noons comment, disproof is the other side of the same coin. Same rules apply!