Pseudoscience has become a buzzword for skeptics to brush off practices such as ghost hunting. This article asks the question, is psuedoscience a word that carries any weight or well defined meaning, or simply a way of brushing off ideas we don’t believe need considering?
I have recently started writing on a range of issues that are not consdered to be mainstream science. I was very conscious about the issue of “psuedoscience”, and the implications that the term has on my belief and pledge to myself that I would never claim a ‘monopoly on the truth’. Iwrote this article to clear this issue up; the term pseudoscience does not sit right with me, especially in certain circumstances.
The word is derived from the greek psuedo, meaning false, and the latin scientia, meaning knowledge. Branding something as ‘false knowledge’ is dangerous for those aiming to be truly skeptical. The word has condescending and pejorative connotations which, in my opinion should be avoided where possible. My view of this is influenced by philosophers such as Larry Laudan who argues instead of dismissing ideas, we should encourage them, and apply the scientific method to them.
I prefer to use the term not simply as an attack on ideas I do not agree with or fully understand, but those that use incorrect or distorted science as a veil to make a case for something. There is a distinct difference. Let me give you an example:
A ghosthunter claims to have found a ghost when electromagnetic signals are detected, when it is absolutely clear that the signals come from background radiation from, say, wiring in the room or metallic items.
However, on researching numerology, I came across several different sources mentioning the relation between quantum science and numerology. Instead of dismissing the idea immediately, I would be fascinated to learn more, especially as quantum mechanics is hardly an area of expertise. Once I understand the arguments and its flaws then I’ll call them pseudoscience. Until then, it would be arrogant and unscientific to do so.
The important thing for me is that pseudoscience can be subjective here, and it actually isn’t a very well defined word at all when used in certain contexts. Until we know the full truth, we can not rightfully call something “false knowledge”. If we continually dismissed new ideas, science would come to a standstill.
And that’s the last thing we want.
For similar discussions on a variety of issues, please visit my website at theskepticview.wordpress.com. Thank You.