Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; the term pseudoscience is considered pejorative because it suggests something is being presented as science inaccurately or deceptively. Those described as practicing or advocating pseudoscience dispute the characterization; the demarcation between science and pseudoscience has scientific implications. Differentiating science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, science education. Distinguishing scientific facts and theories from pseudoscientific beliefs, such as those found in astrology, alternative medicine, occult beliefs, religious beliefs, creation science, is part of science education and scientific literacy. Pseudoscience can cause negative consequences in the real world.
Antivaccine activists present pseudoscientific studies that falsely call into question the safety of vaccines. Homeopathic remedies with no active ingredients have been promoted as treatment for deadly diseases; the word pseudoscience is derived from the Greek root pseudo meaning false and the English word science, from the Latin word scientia, meaning "knowledge". Although the term has been in use since at least the late 18th century the concept of pseudoscience as distinct from real or proper science seems to have become more widespread during the mid-19th century. Among the earliest uses of "pseudo-science" was in an 1844 article in the Northern Journal of Medicine, issue 387: That opposite kind of innovation which pronounces what has been recognized as a branch of science, to have been a pseudo-science, composed of so-called facts, connected together by misapprehensions under the disguise of principles. An earlier use of the term was in 1843 by the French physiologist François Magendie.
During the 20th century, the word was used pejoratively to describe explanations of phenomena which were claimed to be scientific, but which were not in fact supported by reliable experimental evidence. From time-to-time, the usage of the word occurred in a more formal, technical manner in response to a perceived threat to individual and institutional security in a social and cultural setting. Philosophers classify types of knowledge. In English, the word science is used to indicate the natural sciences and related fields, which are called the social sciences. Different philosophers of science may disagree on the exact limits – for example, is mathematics a formal science, closer to the empirical ones, or is pure mathematics closer to the philosophical study of logic and therefore not a science? – but all agree that all of the ideas that are not scientific are non-scientific. The large category of non-science includes all matters outside the natural and social sciences, such as the study of history, religion and the humanities.
Dividing the category again, unscientific claims are a subset of the large category of non-scientific claims. This category includes all matters that are directly opposed to good science. Un-science includes pseudoscience, thus pseudoscience is a subset of un-science, un-science, in turn, is subset of non-science. Pseudoscience is differentiated from science because – although it claims to be science – pseudoscience does not adhere to accepted scientific standards, such as the scientific method, falsifiability of claims, Mertonian norms. A number of basic principles are accepted by scientists as standards for determining whether a body of knowledge, method, or practice is scientific. Experimental results should be verified by other researchers; these principles are intended to ensure experiments can be reproduced measurably given the same conditions, allowing further investigation to determine whether a hypothesis or theory related to given phenomena is valid and reliable. Standards require the scientific method to be applied throughout, bias to be controlled for or eliminated through randomization, fair sampling procedures, blinding of studies, other methods.
All gathered data, including the experimental or environmental conditions, are expected to be documented for scrutiny and made available for peer review, allowing further experiments or studies to be conducted to confirm or falsify results. Statistical quantification of significance and error are important tools for the scientific method. During the mid-20th century, the philosopher Karl Popper emphasized the criterion of falsifiability to distinguish science from nonscience. Statements, hypotheses, or theories have falsifiability or refutability if there is the inherent possibility that they can be proven false; that is, if it is possible to conceive of an argument which negates them. Popper used astrology and psychoanalysis as examples of pseudoscience and Einstein's theory of relativity as an example of science, he subdivided nonscience into philosophical, mythological and metaphysical formulations on one hand, pseudoscientific formulations on the other, though he did not provide clear criteria for the differences.
Another example which shows the distinct need for a claim to be f
History of alternative medicine
The history of alternative medicine refers to the history of a group of diverse medical practices that were collectively promoted as "alternative medicine" beginning in the 1970s, to the collection of individual histories of members of that group, or to the history of western medical practices that were labeled "irregular practices" by the western medical establishment. It includes the histories of integrative medicine. "Alternative medicine" is a loosely defined and diverse set of products and theories that are perceived by its users to have the healing effects of medicine, but do not originate from evidence gathered using the scientific method, are not part of biomedicine, or are contradicted by scientific evidence or established science. "Biomedicine" is that part of medical science that applies principles of anatomy, chemistry, biology and other natural sciences to clinical practice, using scientific methods to establish the effectiveness of that practice. Much of what is now categorized as alternative medicine was developed as independent, complete medical systems, was developed long before biomedicine and use of scientific methods, was developed in isolated regions of the world where there was little or no medical contact with pre-scientific western medicine, or with each other's systems.
Examples are Traditional Chinese medicine, European humoral theory and the Ayurvedic medicine of India. Other alternative medicine practices, such as homeopathy, were developed in western Europe and in opposition to western medicine, at a time when western medicine was based on unscientific theories that were dogmatically imposed by western religious authorities. Homeopathy was developed prior to discovery of the basic principles of chemistry, which proved homeopathic remedies contained nothing but water, but homeopathy, with its remedies made of water, was harmless compared to the unscientific and dangerous orthodox western medicine practiced at that time, which included use of toxins and draining of blood resulting in permanent disfigurement or death. Other alternative practices such as chiropractic and osteopathic manipulative medicine, were developed in the United States at a time that western medicine was beginning to incorporate scientific methods and theories, but the biomedical model was not yet dominant.
Practices such as chiropractic and osteopathic, each considered to be irregular by the medical establishment opposed each other, both rhetorically and politically with licensing legislation. Osteopathic practitioners added the courses and training of biomedicine to their licensing, licensed Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine holders began diminishing use of the unscientific origins of the field, without the original practices and theories, is now considered the same as biomedicine; until the 1970s, western practitioners that were not part of the medical establishment were referred to "irregular practitioners", were dismissed by the medical establishment as unscientific or quackery. Irregular practice became marginalized as quackery and fraud, as western medicine incorporated scientific methods and discoveries, had a corresponding increase in success of its treatments. In the 1970s, irregular practices were grouped with traditional practices of nonwestern cultures and with other unproven or disproven practices that were not part of biomedicine, with the group promoted as being "alternative medicine".
Following the counterculture movement of the 1960s, misleading marketing campaigns promoting "alternative medicine" as being an effective "alternative" to biomedicine, with changing social attitudes about not using chemicals, challenging the establishment and authority of any kind, sensitivity to giving equal measure to values and beliefs of other cultures and their practices through cultural relativism, adding postmodernism and deconstructivism to ways of thinking about science and its deficiencies, with growing frustration and desperation by patients about limitations and side effects of science-based medicine, use of alternative medicine in the west began to rise had explosive growth beginning in the 1990s, when senior level political figures began promoting alternative medicine, began diverting government medical research funds into research of alternative and integrative medicine. The concept of alternative medicine is problematic as it cannot exist autonomously as an object of study in its own right but must always be defined in relation to a non-static and transient medical orthodoxy.
It divides medicine into two realms, a medical mainstream and fringe, which, in privileging orthodoxy, presents difficulties in constructing an historical analysis independent of the biased and polemical views of regular medical practitioners. The description of non-conventional medicine as alternative reinforces both its marginality and the centrality of official medicine. Although more neutral than either pejorative or promotional designations such as “quackery” or “natural medicine”, cognate terms like “unconventional”, “heterodox”, “unofficial”, “irregular”, "folk", "popular", "marginal", “complementary”, “integrative” or “unorthodox” define their object against the standard of conventional biomedicine, entail particular perspectives and judgements carry moral overtones, can be inaccurate. Conventional medical practitioners in the West have, since the nineteenth century, used some of these and similar terms as a means of defining the boundary of "legitimate" medicine, marking the division between that, scientific and that, not.
The definition of mainstream medicine understood to refer to a system of licensed medicine which enjoys state and legal protection in a jurisdiction, is al
Auriculotherapy is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a micro system, which reflects the entire body, represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear. Conditions affecting the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient are assumed to be treatable by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Similar mappings are used in many areas of the body, including the practices of reflexology and iridology; these mappings are not based on or supported by any medical or scientific evidence, are therefore considered to be pseudoscience. Auriculotherapy was proposed in the “Treatise of Auriculotherapy”, by the neurologist Paul Nogier; the developments were made by clinical trials based upon a phrenological method of projection of a fetal Homunculus on the ear, for reference of physical complaints and points for medical treatment. Nogier soon presented his discovery to the public, where members of the Chinese Army picked up the map and took it to the barefoot doctors of China, farmers with minimal training in basic medical and in paramedical skills, so provide medical services in rural China.
Moreover, Nogier published what he called the “Vascular Autonomic Signal”, a distinct change in the amplitude of the pulse felt with the tip of the thumb at the radial artery. That mechanism would only produce a signal upon the introduction of new information to the electromagnetic field of the patient. Nogier was working with the principle of matching resonance, said that he could use the vascular autonomic signal to detect the active points of the auricular microsystem
Magnet therapy, magnetic therapy is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine practice involving a weak static magnetic fields produced by a permanent magnet. It is similar to the alternative medicine practice of electromagnetic therapy, which uses a magnetic field generated by an electrically powered device. Practitioners claim that subjecting certain parts of the body to weak electric or magnetic fields has beneficial health effects; these physical and biological claims are unproven and no effects on health or healing have been established. Although hemoglobin, the blood protein that carries oxygen, is weakly diamagnetic or paramagnetic, the magnets used in magnetic therapy are many orders of magnitude too weak to have any measurable effect on blood flow; this is not to be confused with trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, a scientifically valid form of therapy Magnet therapy involves applying the weak magnetic field of permanent magnets to the body, for purported health benefits. Different effects are assigned to different orientations of the magnet.
Products include jewelry. Application is performed by the patient, it is similar to the alternative medicine practice of electromagnetic therapy, which uses the weak electric or magnetic fields as well, but generated by electrically powered devices. The most common suggested mechanism is that magnets might improve blood flow in underlying tissues; the field surrounding magnet therapy devices is far too weak and falls off with distance far too to appreciably affect hemoglobin, other blood components, muscle tissue, blood vessels, or organs. A 1991 study on humans of static field strengths up to 1 T found no effect on local blood flow. Tissue oxygenation is unaffected; some practitioners claim that the magnets can restore the body's hypothetical "electromagnetic energy balance", but no such balance is medically recognized. In the magnetic fields used in magnetic resonance imaging, which are many times stronger, none of the claimed effects are observed. If the body were meaningfully affected by the weak magnets used in magnet therapy, MRI would be impractical.
Several studies have been conducted in recent years to investigate what role, if any, static magnetic fields may play in health and healing. Unbiased studies of magnetic therapy are problematic, since magnetisation can be detected, for instance, by the attraction forces on ferrous objects. Incomplete or insufficient blinding tends to exaggerate treatment effects where any such effects are small. Health claims regarding longevity and cancer treatment are implausible and unsupported by any research. More mundane health claims, most about anecdotal pain relief lack any credible proposed mechanism and clinical research is not promising; the American Cancer Society states that "available scientific evidence does not support these claims". According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies of magnetic jewelry haven't shown demonstrable effects on pain, nerve function, cell growth or blood flow. A 2008 systematic review of magnet therapy for all indications found insufficient evidence to determine whether magnet therapy is effective for pain relief, as did a 2012 review focused on osteoarthritis.
Both reviews reported that small sample sizes, inadequate randomization, difficulty with allocation concealment all tend to bias studies positively and limit the strength of any conclusions. These devices are considered safe in themselves, though there can be significant financial and opportunity costs to magnet therapy when treatment or diagnosis are avoided or delayed; the worldwide magnet therapy industry totals sales of over a billion dollars per year, including $300 million per year in the United States alone. A 2002 U. S. National Science Foundation report on public attitudes and understanding of science noted that magnet therapy is "not at all scientific." A number of vendors make unsupported claims about magnet therapy by using pseudoscientific and new-age language. Such claims are unsupported by the results of clinical studies. Marketing of any therapy as effective treatment for any condition is restricted by law in many jurisdictions unless all such claims are scientifically validated.
In the United States, for example, U. S. Food and Drug Administration regulations prohibit marketing any magnet therapy product using medical claims, as such claims are unfounded. Magnetic Therapy: Can magnets alleviate pain? by Cecil Adams — The Straight Dope Magnetic Therapy: Plausible Attraction? by James D. Livingston — Skeptical Inquirer Magnet therapy in the Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll Magnet therapy — editorial in the British Medical Journal Magnet Therapy: A Skeptical View by Stephen Barrett — Quackwatch
Quackery synonymous with health fraud, is the promotion of fraudulent or ignorant medical practices. A quack is a "fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill" or "a person who pretends, professionally or publicly, to have skill, qualification or credentials they do not possess; the term quack is a clipped form of the archaic term quacksalver, from Dutch: kwakzalver a "hawker of salve". In the Middle Ages the term quack meant "shouting"; the quacksalvers sold their wares on the market shouting in a loud voice. Common elements of general quackery include questionable diagnoses using questionable diagnostic tests, as well as untested or refuted treatments for serious diseases such as cancer. Quackery is described as "health fraud" with the salient characteristic of aggressive promotion. Since it is difficult to distinguish between those who knowingly promote unproven medical therapies and those who are mistaken as to their effectiveness, United States courts have ruled in defamation cases that accusing someone of quackery or calling a practitioner a quack is not equivalent to accusing that person of committing medical fraud.
To be both quackery and fraud, the quack must know they are misrepresenting the benefits and risks of the medical services offered. In addition to the ethical problems of promising benefits that can not reasonably be expected to occur, quackery includes the risk that patients may choose to forego treatments that are more to help them, in favor of ineffective treatments given by the "quack". Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch defines quackery "as the promotion of unsubstantiated methods that lack a scientifically plausible rationale" and more broadly as: "anything involving overpromotion in the field of health." This definition would include questionable ideas as well as questionable products and services, regardless of the sincerity of their promoters. In line with this definition, the word "fraud" would be reserved only for situations in which deliberate deception is involved. Paul Offit has proposed four ways in which alternative medicine "becomes quackery": "...by recommending against conventional therapies that are helpful."
"...by promoting harmful therapies without adequate warning." "...by draining patients' bank accounts..." "...by promoting magical thinking..." Unproven ineffective, sometimes dangerous medicines and treatments have been peddled throughout human history. Theatrical performances were sometimes given to enhance the credibility of purported medicines. Grandiose claims were made for what could be humble materials indeed: for example, in the mid-19th century revalenta arabica was advertised as having extraordinary restorative virtues as an empirical diet for invalids. Where no fraud was intended, quack remedies contained no effective ingredients whatsoever; some remedies contained substances such as opium and honey, which would have given symptomatic relief but had no curative properties. Some would have addictive qualities to entice the buyer to return; the few effective remedies sold by quacks included emetics and diuretics. Some ingredients did have medicinal effects: mercury and arsenic compounds may have helped some infections and infestations.
However, knowledge of appropriate uses and dosages was limited. The science-based medicine community has criticized the infiltration of alternative medicine into mainstream academic medicine and publications, accusing institutions of "diverting research time and other resources from more fruitful lines of investigation in order to pursue a theory that has no basis in biology." R. W. Donnell coined the phrase "quackademic medicine" to describe this attention given to alternative medicine by academia. Referring to the Flexner Report, he said that medical education "needs a good Flexnerian housecleaning."For example, David Gorski criticized Brian M. Berman, founder of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, for writing that "There evidence that both real acupuncture and sham acupuncture more effective than no treatment and that acupuncture can be a useful supplement to other forms of conventional therapy for low back pain." He castigated editors and peer reviewers at the New England Journal of Medicine for allowing it to be published, since it recommended deliberately misleading patients in order to achieve a known placebo effect.
With little understanding of the causes and mechanisms of illnesses marketed "cures" referred to as patent medicines, first came to prominence during the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain and the British colonies, including those in North America. Daffy's Elixir and Turlington's Balsam were among the first products that used branding and mass marketing to create and maintain markets. A similar process occurred in other countries of Europe around the same time, for example with the marketing of Eau de Cologne as a cure-all medicine by Johann Maria Farina and his imitators. Patent medicines contained alcohol or opium, while not curing the diseases for which they were sold as a remedy, did make the imbibers feel better and confusedly appreciative of the product; the number of internationally marketed quack medicines
The skeptical movement is a modern social movement based on the idea of scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism involves the application of skeptical philosophy, critical-thinking skills, knowledge of science and its methods to empirical claims, while remaining agnostic or neutral to non-empirical claims; the movement has the goal of investigating claims made on fringe topics and determining whether they are supported by empirical research and are reproducible, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". The process followed is sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry. Roots of the movement date at least from the 19th century, when people started publicly raising questions regarding the unquestioned acceptance of claims about spiritism, of various widely-held superstitions, of pseudoscience. Publications such as those of the Dutch Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij targeted medical quackery. Using as a template the Belgian organization founded in 1949, Comité Para, Americans Paul Kurtz and Marcello Truzzi founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, in Amherst, New York in 1976.
Now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, this organization has inspired others to form similar groups worldwide. Scientific skepticism or rational skepticism, sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is an epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence. In practice, the term is most applied to the examination of claims and theories that appear to be beyond mainstream science, rather than to the routine discussions and challenges among scientists. Scientific skepticism is different from philosophical skepticism, which questions humans' ability to claim any knowledge about the nature of the world and how they perceive it. Methodological skepticism, a systematic process of being skeptical about the truth of one's beliefs, is similar but distinct; the New Skepticism described by Paul Kurtz is scientific skepticism. For example, Robert K. Merton asserts that all ideas must be tested and are subject to rigorous, structured community scrutiny.
An important difference to classical skepticism, according to religious history professor Olav Hammer, is that it is not directly aligned with classical pyrrhonian scepticism, which would question all sort of orthodox wisdom, as well as the one established by modern science. According to Hammer, "the intellectual forebears of the modern skeptical movement are rather to be found among the many writers throughout history who have argued against beliefs they did not share."The following are quotations related to scientific skepticism: Briefly stated, a skeptic is one, willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, adequacy of evidence. The use of skepticism is thus an essential part of objective scientific inquiry and the search for reliable knowledge. What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, to understand, a reasoned argument and important, to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument; the question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premises or starting point and whether that premise is true.
Science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along. Scientific skepticism the practice or project of studying paranormal and pseudoscientific claims through the lens of science and critical scholarship, sharing the results with the public. A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, therefore rigorously and applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves.
Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion. "Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas—no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position." The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion. With regard to the skeptical social movement, Loxton refers to other movements promoting "humanism, rationalism, science education and critical thinking" before, he saw the demand for the new movement—a movement of people called "skeptics" — being based on a lack of interest by the scientific community to address paranormal and fringe science claims. In line with Kendrick Frazier, he describes the movement as a surrogate in that area for institutional science; the movement set up a distinct field of study, provided an organizational structure, while long-standing genre of individual skeptical activities lacked such a community and background.
Skeptical organizations tend to have science education and promotion among
Animal magnetism known as mesmerism, was the name given by German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force possessed by all living things, including humans and vegetables. He believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing, he tried persistently but without success to achieve scientific recognition of his ideas; the vitalist theory attracted numerous followers in Europe and the United States and was popular into the 19th century. Practitioners were known as magnetizers rather than mesmerists, it was an important specialty in medicine for about 75 years from its beginnings in 1779, continued to have some influence for another 50 years. Hundreds of books were written on the subject between 1766 and 1925, but it is entirely forgotten today. Mesmerism is still practised as a form of alternative medicine in some countries, but magnetic practices are not recognized as part of medical science; the terms "magnetizer" and "mesmerizer" have been applied to people who study and practice animal magnetism.
These terms have been distinguished from "mesmerist" and "magnetist", which are regarded as denoting those who study animal magnetism without being practitioners. The etymology of the word magnetizer comes from the French "magnetiseur", which in turn is derived from the French verb magnetiser; the term refers to an individual who has the power to manipulate the "magnetic fluid" with effects upon other people present that were regarded as analogous to magnetic effects. This sense of the term is found, for example, in the expression of Antoine Joseph Gorsas: "The magnetizer is the imam of vital energy". A tendency emerged amongst British magnetizers to call their clinical techniques "mesmerism". At the time, some magnetizers attempted to channel what they thought was a magnetic "fluid", sometimes they attempted this with a "laying on of hands". Reported effects included various feelings: intense heat, trembling and seizures. Many practitioners took a scientific approach, such as Joseph Philippe François Deleuze, a French physician, anatomist and physicist.
One of his pupils was Théodore Léger, who wrote that the label "mesmerism" was "most improper".. Noting that, by 1846, the term "galvanism" had been replaced by "electricity", Léger wrote that year: Mesmerism, of all the names proposed, is decidedly the most improper, he is not the inventor of the practical part of the science, since we can trace the practice of it through the most remote ages. He proposed for it a theory, now exploded, which, on account of his errors, has been fatal to our progress, he never spoke of the phenomena. In 1784 a French Royal Commission appointed by Louis XVI studied Mesmer's magnetic fluid theory to try to establish it by scientific evidence; the commission included Majault, Benjamin Franklin, Jean Sylvain Bailly, Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, Jean Darcet, de Borey, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, Antoine Lavoisier, Caille, Mauduyt de la Varenne, de Jussieu. Whilst the commission agreed that the cures claimed by Mesmer were indeed cures, it concluded there was no evidence of the existence of his "magnetic fluid", that its effects derived from either the imaginations of its subjects or charlatanry.
A second investigating committee, appointed by a majority vote in 1826 in The Royal Academy of Medicine in Paris, studied the effects and clinical potentials of the mesmeric procedure - without trying to establish the physical nature of any magnetic fluidum. The report says: what we have seen in the course of our experiments bears no sort of resemblance to what the Report of 1784 relates with regard to the magnetizers of that period. We neither reject the existence of the fluid, because we have not verified the fact. We do not speak of... the crisis Among the conclusions were: Magnetism has taken effect upon persons of different sexes and ages.... In general, magnetism does not act upon persons in a sound state of health.... Neither does it act upon all sick persons.... We may conclude with certainty that this state exists, when it gives rise to the development of new faculties, which have been designated by the names of clairvoyance. We can not only act upon the magnetized person, but place him in a complete state of somnambulism, bring him out of it without his knowledge, out of his sight, at a certain distance, with doors intervening....
The greater number of the somnambu