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Pseudoscience are theories, beliefs, and claims which are given a semblance to science but do not adhere to the strict standards of science. Pseudosciene will more often than not immunise itself against falsification by applying terms they do not properly define and by refusing to commit themselves to falsifiable predictions.

The term "pseudoscience" has been in use since the 18th century and one of the first recorded uses of the word "pseudo-science" was in 1844 in the Northern Journal of Medicine, I 387: "That opposite kind of innovation which pronounces what has been recognized as a branch of science, to have been a pseudo-science, composed merely of so-called facts, connected together by misapprehensions under the disguise of principles". The current definition is more or less based on the works of Thomas Huxley and Karl Popper. Popper proposed falsifiability as an important criterion in distinguishing science from pseudoscience[1][2]


There is a multitude of criteria which distinguish science from pseudoscience. Generally speaking any aberrance from the basis of scientific approach may be an indication of pseudoscience. Distinguishing between bad or deceptive research within science on the one hand and pseudoscience on the other, however, may often be problematic. Pseudoscience is most often characterized by being especially designed to support a certain prefabricated construct of ideas. Furthermore, pseudoscientific results will be in contradiction of empiric scientific theories, while cases of fraud within established science will predominantly attempt to incorporate "results" into existing theories. Scientific jokes and fraud may not be considered as pseudoscience.

The construct of a particular pseudoscience often bases on one person whose authority must not be doubted. The original statements of its initiator will be presented in dogmatic ways, and both theoretic approaches of explanation and possible series of experiments will always be interpreted in accordance with the original dogma.

Pseudoscience often uses "experiments" and takes random data from the statistical noise which support fake desired effects by handy selection and manipulation.[3] Often an "Inverted Occam's Razor" will be applied: Complex or absurd theories are preferred over approaches with an economical application of hypotheses. One of the characteristics of pseudoscience is that it does not recognize any method of detecting mistakes of its studies or conclusions, let alone correct them in the first place.

Many esoterics tend to look for a substitute of or complement to science and thus eventually appear to be fighting science.

Typical Characteristics

  • Claims which will not be substantiated by experiment or are not deductible mathmatically: Often, such claims will be in contradiction to experiments, mathmatic theories, and very often also to so-called common sense.
  • will quote sources which cannot be reproduced and therefore cannot be validated
  • will be based on experiments which cannot be reproduced (or yield different results)
  • will be contradictory to Occam's Razor
  • will systematically suppress evidence or select evidence and observations particularly convenient.

The seven sins of pseudoscience

Several science theoreticians have compiled lists of the sins distinguishing pseudoscience from real science. This includes lists by Langmuir ([1953] 1989), Gruenberger (1964), Dutch (1982), Bunge (1982), Radner and Radner (1982), Kitcher (1982, 30–54), Hansson (1983), Grove (1985), Thagard (1988), Glymour and Stalker (1990), Derkson (1993, 2001), Vollmer (1993), Ruse (1996, 300–306) and Mahner (2007)[4][5]. These are usually:

  1. Belief in authority: It is contended that some person or persons have a superior comprehension and thus their statement is to be accepted.
  2. Irreproducible experiments: Reliance is put on experiments which cannot be repeated by others with the same result.
  3. Handpicked examples: Handpicked examples are used although they are not representative of the general category the investigation refers to.
  4. Unwillingness to test: A theory is not tested although it is possible to test it.
  5. Unfounded immunisation: critical arguments will be dismissed, while arguments supporting one's own conceptions will be cultivated systematically.
  6. Embedded deception: Testing of a theory is arranged in such ways that a theory may only be confirmed by results, but never falsified.
  7. Explanations are removed without replacement. Tenable explanations are eliminated so that the new theory explains less than the previous one. (Hansson 1983)


  • In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis --saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact--he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof [...][6]

Versions of this article in other languages



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  1. T. H. Huxley: Science and Pseudo-Science
  2. „Incidentally, the philosopher Karl Popper coined the term, ‘pseudo-science’. The examples he gave were (Western) astrology and homeopathy, the medical system developed in Germany.“ V. V. S. Sarma: Natural calamities and pseudoscientific menace. Current Science 90:2 (25. Januar 2006); „The notion of pseudoscience, as coined by philosopher Karl Popper is discussed in the context of its application to library science and its implications for selection.“ Graham Howard: Pseudo Science and Selection. Collection Management 29:2 (24. Mai 2005)
  3. Gerhard Bruhn, Erhard Wielandt, Klaus Keck: Pseudowissenschaften an der Universität Leipzig
  4. Science and Pseudo-Science, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  5. Deerksen A.A: The seven sins of pseudo-science, Journal for General Philosophy of Science, Volume 24, Number 1 / März 1993
  6. Marcello Truzzi, On Pseudo-Skepticism