The following is unashamedly and with gratitude taken from a presentation by Steven D. Schafersman, President of Texas Citizens for Science.
In that presentation he used rigorous science to dismantle the pseudoscience that claims the Turin Shroud is a genuine relic; but pseudoscience is a widely applicable term and a creeping menace, and even meteorology stumbles across it now and then.
Pseudoscientists must believe in a false methodology to obtain knowledge and therefore must actively pervert the integrity and methods of science to promote their beliefs. This effort is harmful to all because it undermines the accepted procedures humans use to discover reliable knowledge.
Pseudoscientists are also credulous and self-deceived, but because good evidence always exists to refute their beliefs, they must actively resist acknowledging the veracity of the evidence, instead engage in distorting and misrepresenting the nature of the conflicting evidence when promoting their own fallacious evidence. This is credulity-mongering and nonsense-peddling – a greater epistemic and ethical lapse than the simple credulous, unskeptical beliefs of paranormalists. Pseudoscientists try to convince others of their claims and publicize them.
Pseudoscience means “False Science,” an activity that doesn’t play by the same rules as legitimate science. It promotes extraordinary claims about nature without possessing the corresponding and necessary extraordinary evidence that supports those claims. Indeed, pseudoscience usually ignores or rejects the reliable and convincing existing evidence that contradicts its claims.
Pseudoscientists exploit the integrity and public trust of scientists by pretending to be scientists, thus undeservedly sharing the legitimacy and prestige real scientists possess. This is especially bad because pseudoscientists thereby confuse the public about the nature of true science.
- Start with belief in the desired conclusion and create evidence to support it, even when the conclusion requires supernormal or supernatural action.
- Do not test the conclusion or, if tested, do not test it competently or thoroughly, even when the simplest tests are completely adequate to reveal the truth.
- Ignore evidence that refutes their conclusions or attempt to explain the evidence away using bizarre and specious arguments.
- Misrepresent or wilfully misinterpret facts that are not consistent with the desired conclusion, and engage in “over-reaching” and credulity-mongering to promote the conclusion.
- Disparage those scientists who discover and publish the solid evidence that reveals that their desired pseudoscientific conclusions are false.
- Publish their “scientific” results and conclusions in unedited or poorly edited journals, usually with no or incompetent peer review. In this fashion, some legitimate popular technology and science journals have published pseudoscientific papers.
- Present frequent public lectures and symposia, and writing popular books and articles, to try to convince the public directly, rather than building one’s case through proper scientific channels.
- Fraudulently manufacture evidence to support their beliefs and publish such “evidence” in poorly edited journals, thus making it available for other honest but credulous scientists to use in subsequent studies.