What is it?
How can I recognize it?
What is Pseudoscience?
A pseudoscience is a body of knowledge
which masquerades as science in an
attempt to claim a legitimacy it would not
be able to achieve on its own.
Also known as fringe-, alternative, or junk-
How can I recognize
There is no single test to determine if
something is science or pseudoscience.
There are characteristics that tend to
repeat themselves for both science and
Ask a few of the following questions to
determine if something is scientific or
What is the primary goal?
The primary goal of science is to
achieve greater knowledge.
The primary goal of pseudoscience
is usually power, fame, or fortune.
Has the information changed
much over time?
Science continues to evolve and
change as new information is
Pseudoscience changes very little
because little research is done to
gather new knowledge. New
information is often ignored if it is
What happens when the
information is challenged?
Scientists love to challenge each
other’s work. Good science is open
to being questioned and finding new
challenges hostile acts. There is no
questioning current “knowledge”.
What if new information is
In science, new observations and data
that disagree with current information
create lots of interest and require more
study. Sometimes this leads to changes.
(example: electrons do not orbit atoms in
rings as previously thought)
In pseudoscience, observations or data
that do not agree with the current ideas
How is the information
Scientists repeat experiments over and
over. They ASK other scientists to test
their results. If results ever disagree with
what was expected, they test some more.
Pseudoscientists often use information
that cannot be tested. Therefore, it cannot
be proven wrong. If it can be tested, they
ignore tests that show them to be wrong
or manipulate results.
Where is the focus?
In true science, the focus us on the
work, not the scientist. If the science
is good, the work will stand on its
Pseudosciences tend to use celebrity
endorsements or list their degrees.
They focus on individuals, not the
How is it presented?
Science uses clear, scientific terms
and exact information.
Pseudoscience uses vague
terminology. Words are used out of
context, or phrases are used that
sound impressive (energy vibrations,
revolutionary, breakthrough) but
Or, to put it another way….
Here are the facts. What conclusions
can we draw from them?
Here’s the conclusion. What facts can
we find to support it?
Psuedoscience often sounds
like a real science.
Summary - Copy to Your
– Goals of fame, fortune, power
– Contradictions ignored
– Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable
– Lack of openness to testing by other experts
– Little or no progress
– Personalization of issues
– Misleading language
Summary cont. (notes)
– Goal is to increase knowledge
– Contradictions explored
– Open to challenge by others
– Changes as new information found
– Focus on information not people
– Clear, scientific language
Not all pseudoscience is wrong. It
just doesn’t have the proper
methodology to be considered true
It’s not considered pseudoscience if
there is no claim of science. Some
traditional or cultural practices, such
as acupuncture, never claim to use
modern scientific methods.