Archive for Desembre de 2012

What is bad science/pseudoscience? (TEDx and bad science)

07/12/2012
What is bad science/pseudoscience?
There is no bright and shining line between pseudoscience and real science, and purveyors of false wisdom typically share their theories with as much sincerity and earnestness as legitimate researchers. Needless to say, this makes it all terribly hard to detect and define.
   
But here are some basic guidelines.
   
Marks of good science:
  • It makes claims that can be tested and falsified

  • It has been published in a peer reviewed journal (but beware… there are some dodgy journals out there that seem credible, but aren’t.)

  • It is based on theories that are discussed and argued for by many experts in the field

  • It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy

  • Its proponents are secure enough to accept areas of doubt and need for further investigation

  • It does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge

  • The proposed speaker works for a university and/or has a phD or other bona fide high level scientific qualification

   
Marks of bad science:
  • Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth

  • Is not based on experiments that can be reproduced by others

  • Contains experimental flaws or is based on data that does not convincingly corroborate the experimenter’s theoretical claims

  • Comes from overconfident fringe experts

  • Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new, completely untested theories.

  • Speaks dismissively of mainstream science

  • Includes some of the red flags listed in the two sections below

Red flag topics:
Food science: anti or pro Genetically modified foods, Food as medicine.
Causes of and cures for autism hoaxes
“Healing,” including reiki, energy fields, alternative health and placebos, crystals, pyramid power
“Free energy” and perpetual motion machines, alchemy, time travel
The neuroscience of [fill in the blank] — not saying this will all be non-legitimate, but that it’s a field where a lot of goofballs are right now
The fusion of science and spirituality. Be especially careful of anyone trying to prove the validity of their religious beliefs and practices by using science