The term “pseudoscience” is regularly used to discredit various belief systems. But what does this term mean?
This guide will help you to understand everything that you need to know about pseudoscience in simple terms. This includes the definition of pseudoscience, as well as its characteristics.
What Does Pseudoscience Mean?
The word “pseudoscience” is defined as practices or beliefs that are allegedly scientific but conflict with scientific methods. Essentially, this means that they are belief systems that are not truly based on the scientific method.
The etymology of the word “pseudoscience” comes from the Greek word “pseudo” and the Latin word “scientia”.
“Pseudo” means false while “scientia” translates to “knowledge”. Essentially, the etymology of this word gives away its true meaning, which is false knowledge.
Pseudoscience Vs Science: What’s The Difference?
On the face of it, science and pseudoscience seem very similar. Yet, there are some key differences between them.
While pseudoscience will enter the realm of the supernatural, science will only be an exploration of the natural world.
Science will rely on facts and data that can be proven, which will not be the case when it comes to pseudoscience.
On the other hand, facts can rarely be proven when it comes to pseudoscience. Hence, they are not a true science. This also makes pseudoscience claims difficult to refute, since they cannot be proven or disproven.
Characteristics Of A Pseudoscience
To help you identify a pseudoscience, here are some of the key characteristics to search for:
This means that the claims of pseudoscience cannot be disproven. This is because there is no way of using data to prove or disprove these claims.
This is what places pseudoscience in direct opposition to science, which relies heavily on hard data.
These belief systems can make vague claims that simply cannot be measured. For instance, fortune telling is often considered a pseudoscience because these fortunes cannot be tested.
Unfortunately, many forms of pseudoscience will rely on deception.
Some practitioners of these belief systems will not believe in what they preach. Instead, they will merely be promoting these ideas for personal gain.
It’s worth noting that deception is not a requirement for something to be classified as a pseudonym. This is because many people who follow these systems will believe in them.
Misleading wording and language may also be used to make the beliefs of a pseudoscience appear to be true. This misleading language can be used intentionally or unintentionally.
Rather than relying upon hard evidence, such as facts and statistics, a pseudoscience will be built upon anecdotal evidence. Essentially, this means that the proof is based on observations and stories.
Testimonials are widely used in pseudoscience in an attempt to prove a statement. These spoken or written comments will act as an endorsement of a declaration.
Many people who hold these beliefs will not take the time to critically interrogate these systems.
They may also become quite defensive when someone else tries to question their beliefs.
Sometimes, pseudoscience can be rooted in fact. Unfortunately, these facts are often exaggerated so that practitioners can make bold claims.
Consequently, many of the declarations made by pseudoscience practitioners are too good to be true.
Pseudoscientific beliefs will rarely evolve. Instead, they will likely stay the same as when they were originally conceived.
This is one of the key methods of differentiating between science and pseudoscience. While science will constantly evolve as new research is conducted, fake science will not change.
Examples Of Pseudosciences
Ultimately, whether or not something is classified as pseudoscience is objective, meaning that it is reliant on individual evaluation.
If a belief system fits the definition and shares many of the aforementioned characteristics, the chances are that it is a pseudoscience.
There are numerous examples of beliefs that are widely considered to be pseudosciences, including:
This refers to the belief that numbers and patterns have a mystical significance.
Numerology also promotes the idea that there are important relationships between these numbers. Many scientists consider numerology to be a prime example of pseudoscience.
Astrology is a divinatory practice that relies on studying stars.
Namely, the movements of these celestial bodies are believed to influence human behavior. The validity of this practice cannot be proven, meaning that it is classified as a pseudoscience.
With its history in ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the process of stimulating the body by sticking needles into the skin.
This is intended to heal the person. Unfortunately, the healing properties of this practice have not been proven.
Related to the world of architecture, feng shui is another pseudoscientific belief system of Chinese origin. It is the practice of arranging physical structures to promote a healthy energy flow.
For instance, many people will arrange furniture in their rooms according to the principles of feng shui.
Many faiths rely on the spiritual power of prayer. A significant number of people believe that this prayer can allow people to heal. It not only focuses on spiritual healing but also physical healing.
While faith healing may have spiritual benefits, its impact on physical healing has not yet been proven.
Is It Okay To Believe In Pseudoscience?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to have faith in one of these belief systems. Just because it fits into the category of pseudoscience does not mean that you should abandon your beliefs.
You should continue to follow these systems if you truly believe that they are real.
For example, if you believe in acupuncture and have faith that it is improving your health, then there is no harm in continuing to receive acupuncture.
Yet, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of pseudoscience. Even if you firmly believe in pseudoscience, you should acknowledge that its legitimacy simply cannot be proven by solid data.
Trying to promote pseudoscience as a genuine science is not acceptable.
As mentioned, the classification of pseudosciences is objective. As a consequence, you may not consider something to be a pseudoscience even though many other people believe that it fulfills this category.
It’s important to make a distinction between science and pseudoscience.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you to understand the key distinctions between these two different forms of science. While one can be proven, the other will rely on unfalsifiable assertions.