ARS TECHNICA – As a scientist heavily engaged in science communication, I’ve seen it all.
- People have come to my public talks to argue with me that the Big Bang never happened.
- People have sent me handwritten letters explaining how dark matter means that ghosts are real.
- People have asked me for my scientific opinion about homeopathy — and scoffed when they didn’t like my answer.
- People have told me, to my face, that what they just learned on a TV show proves that aliens built the pyramids and that I didn’t understand the science.
- People have left comments on my YouTube videos saying… well, let’s not even go there.
I encounter pseudoscience everywhere I go. And I have to admit, it can be frustrating.
But in all my years of working with the public, I’ve found a potential strategy.
And that strategy doesn’t involve confronting pseudoscience head-on but rather empathizing with why people have pseudoscientific beliefs and finding ways to get them to understand and appreciate the scientific method.
Unfortunately, there’s no universally agreed-upon definition for us to turn to, and the lines between science and pseudoscience can get a little blurry.
“Instead of getting into an argument, I would rather find a way to get someone to see the world the same way that I do: as a Universe filled with mystery and wonder, revealed by a powerful toolset for investigating those mysteries.”
For example, some people accuse super-theoretical investigations like string theory of veering into pseudoscience (I disagree, but that’s another story).
And then there’s science that doesn’t live up to expectations.
“That reality is that homeopathy is a fraud, a scam, and pseudoscientific nonsense. Homeopathy doesn’t work, and it can’t work. Those who manufacturer homeopathy and those who sell it are defrauding those who buy and use it.” – Center for Inquiry, April 15, 2022
There are some bad scientists who create junk, lazy scientists who don’t do their homework, fraudulent scientists who tune their findings for a buck, and all manner of not-quite-good-enough scientific output.
All of these blur the lines, too, even within disciplines that generally sit on firm foundations.
So, figuring out what we can classify as pseudoscience is complicated …