Loaded Words Alert! — Pseudoscience

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Pseudoscience is a term that I come across on the Web quite often. There is, I’ve noticed, a tendency to incorrectly apply the word by those unfamiliar with scientific literacy to whatever idea they happen to find disagreeable, and they understandably dislike it when it is used to refer to their own ideas.

Somehow it’s always the claims of others that this is applied to, and with little sound justification for doing so. Scientists use the term with a specific meaning in mind, and not just those claims that they are alleged by proponents to be uncomfortable with…

Particularly, conservative political writers and religious apologists, some fringe-proponents, a few on the far Left, and science-rejectionists in general will sometimes use the term to deride any idea of the scientific and/or medical mainstream that they oppose simply because it doesn’t jibe with their personal ideology, their system of core beliefs and values.

Pseudoscience, with the implications of the ‘pseudo-‘ prefix, has obvious negative connotations. Not exactly what I would consider a neutral term. It is abused as a term of ridicule and an instant conversation stopper. I think it’s a good idea to use it sparingly in the context of specific ideas and claims unless derision is both appropriate and intended, when being respectful of an idea would lend it false and often dangerous credibility, and depending on the nature and tendencies of who I’m addressing in a post.

Let me propose a workable definition of pseudoscience, more in line with it’s actual scientific and skeptical usage, all straw-person arguments aside, as I’ve seen it employed on the skeptical websites I surf.

Any tenet, doctrine, claim, or belief-system that attempts to present itself as science, but which does not abide by its benchmarks or criteria and makes often demonstrably false claims or at least untestable ones, in rejecting scientific reasoning, method, or its process, and which because its claims are not in accord with compelling evidence must promote and perpetuate itself by way of a mix of fabricated propaganda, logical fallacies, conspiracy theory, and/or anecdotal reasoning.

Note that an idea is not pseudoscience if [A] it’s claims are testable and found to be in agreement with the data, or [B] it does not attempt to pose as science.

Sorry, but specific non-scientific claims and those scientific statements well-supported by continued testing are not pseudoscience just because you don’t like them.

This includes the Left, the Right, and everyone else along the political continuum, everyone’s brand of anti-science, anti-medicine, and yes, I’ll use the word here, so get over it, pseudoscience.

Yes, it’s offensive, but I’m an equal opportunity offender… I’m skeptical of anyone’s ideological leanings, especially my own. You’ve been warned.

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