what constitutes pseudoscience? the TEDx take on this question

I do quite a bit of reading around the topic of pseudoscience (& in fact I've just got hold of a copy of Michael Gordin's book, "The Pseudoscience Wars"). So I was interested, & pleased to see a recent TEDx blog post on this very issue – their descriptions of what constitutes good science and pseudoscience are both apt & timely.

The context: the blog post is a response to claims by one Mike Adams that TEDx is really really biased & so won't allow people with 'alternative' views (my quote marks) to give presentations. My blog buddy Grant has previously commented on how TEDx could ensure the quality of presentations (see here, for example) – from a perspective that's definitely not shared by the proprietor of naturalnews; his posts & the discussions they've attracted are well worth reading.

The TEDx markers of 'good' and 'bad' science should be widely read:

Marks of good science:

  • It makes claims that can be tested and verified.
  • 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 fact 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 [for which you'll need to go to the original article.]

I'm sure my colleague Ken (of Open Parachute) will agree, on the basis of our shared experiences on various 'alternative' FB sites, that these characterisations are fairly accurate 🙂



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