Pseudoscience!


 

      With the recent discussions concerning pseudo-news sources, it reminds me of the effects that pseudoscience on advancement. First, it must be known however that there is a clear distinction between fringe science and pseudoscience. Fringe science is still experimentally verifiable. Fringe science are topics not generally supported by the scientific community. Notable examples of previously considered fringe science are Plate Tectonics, Heliocentrism, and the Big Bang Theory. These topics are of little debate on validity any longer.

     Pseudoscience however cannot be experimentally verifiable or cannot derive physical laws. Richard Feynman once classified most social sciences such as economics and psychology as a kind of pseudoscience. At least in the sense of economics, we can say that there are physical laws that can be found, such as the law of Supply & Demand. One particularly popular pseudoscience is holistic medicine. Not that it doesn't have merit. After all, in the context of say, herb-lore, the bark of a certain willow tree was known for centuries to aide in inflammation and pain. Today however we know it as the active ingredient salicylic acid, which we buffer as acetylsalicylic acid and sell as Aspirin.

     However when we begin to argue against established principles, as in the case of vaccinations, a great deal of harm may be done. I won't argue any points either way on that particular subject but I would demand of any topic that one check your sources and ask for repeatably verifiable evidence as established by the scientific method. In the case of the everyday reader however learning how to read scientific literature is a rather involved task but worth it if one takes the time. As such, we rely upon resources to disseminate relevant information for us and provide it in an easily digestible manner, IE: Journalism. So it would fall to this resource to present information backed up by the evidence but the news site or information provider must be trusted to do so properly. Baseless claims as well as fake news are a virus on social media which could be easily solved by simply checking the source of the content to be reputable. If two sites are discussing the same topic but opposing each other, I would trust for example Nature.com before I trust bobsscience.com.

     In short, check who's telling you something, then ask them to back it up with strong, verifiable evidence.

© 2016 Zachary G Wolfe -- Remember to turn your brain off for a reboot sometimes...