Pseudoscientific Arguments — A Simple Guide For Proving Anything
While looking through the science section at EzineArticles.com, I found an article which disputed the reliability of twin studies in psychology research. This in itself is not a bad thing. There are some methodological issues with twin studies. But the author’s main arguments were that twin studies don’t involve DNA testing, that the research results are “dubious”, and that medical researchers are “wrong”. After making these accusations, he described how twins communicate psychically, and how this explains why they sometimes end up with similar characteristics.
It turned out the article was just an introduction/advertisement for his e-book about mental illness called “The Roots of Dysfunction”. He managed to spew out 461 pages explaining how all mental illness stems from subconscious communication between infant and parent.
Obviously the author is an expert. He studied something which is unobservable to most people, the subconscious mind. Plus, his theories are based on research. This research consisted of personal experiences and “encounters” with people, but it’s good enough to allow us to reject every single result of medical research.
This guy is making money from his revolutionary ideas. The good news is, you can make money too. Although, you don’t need to spend 30 years following around clairvoyants, as he would have you believe. You just need to learn how to use pseudoscience. Basically, pseudoscience is gibberish dressed up as science. It sounds like science, but it’s not.
What is it that makes pseudoscience look so much like science? It’s all about language and bad logic. Anyone can construct a pseudoscientific argument and prove anything. Scientific knowledge is unnecessary and discouraged. Here are 14 steps to get you started (in no particular order — you need to get used to a lack of structure):
- Refer to science as dogma, a few times if possible.
- Decide on your argumentative position and then cherry pick some evidence..
- Read up on logical errors — these are best used as part of a convoluted argument
- Find an Einstein quote that sounds like it might be relevant.
- Have a thesaurus on hand (a better vocabulary makes your argument stronger).
- Write with an authoritative tone.
- Use scientific jargon out of context.
- Tout your ideas as ones that scientists are incapable of or unwilling to consider.
- Dispute the whole concept of a scientific fact.
- Use scientific facts when necessary, but warp them to support your ideas.
- Use labels, slander, analogies, anecdotes etc. as evidence.
- Start out with your more scientifically-sound material (e.g. stuff you learned in school, or from wikipedia) to gain the reader’s trust, then degrade into the realm of nonsense.
- An accusatory tone can also help — everybody loves drama.
- Kick it up a notch with a full-blown conspiracy theory — guaranteed to get you a cult following.
So what separates pseudoscience from science? Well, using the methods of pseudoscience, almost anything can be proved. There is usually no possible way to test the theory. If the theory is testable, it can only be confirmed; it cannot be disproved. There is either no evidence to back up claims, or the evidence is specially picked from the vast field of conflicting data. The theories are often descriptive rather than explanatory, making them possibly correct, but redundant. The phenomena described are often not observable, let alone measurable. Lastly, the terms used in the argument are usually not defined at all, or at the very least are given fuzzy definitions.
On the other hand, the realm of scientific consensus is very exclusive. This is the way it should be. A scientific theory has some very important requirements. It must be able to be proved and disproved. The phenomena being studied must be observable and measurable. All of the terms used must be clearly defined. Any experiment must be able to be replicated, and multiple replications must produce the same results. Alternative theories should always be considered. Any limitations of a study must be addressed. Once there is a wealth of data, any scientific conclusion should be based on the entirety of the evidence that exists.
Scientific theories are constantly being challenged and replaced by new theories. Theories are made to fit the evidence, rather than evidence being made to fit the theory. Science is relevant and applicable in every culture, anywhere in the universe. Science is not based upon debate. It is based upon a common goal of understanding.