PSEUDOSCIENCE argues from ignorance, an
elementary fallacy. That is, pseudoscientists base their claims on incompleteness of
information about nature, rather than on what is known at present. But no claim can
possibly be supported by lack of information. The fact that Don Bullard saw
something in the sky he didnt recognize means just that
recognize what he saw. We cannot use this fact as evidence that flying saucers are from
outer space, since we have no evidence he saw a flying sauceror anything else! Maybe
he saw a ghost! The statement, "Science cannot explain
" is common in
pseudoscience literature. In may cases, the fact is that science has no interest in the
supposed phenomenon because there is no evidence it exists; in other cases, the scientific
explanation is well known and well established, but the pseudoscientist is not aware of it
or deliberately ignores it to create mystery.
PSEUDOSCIENCE argues from alleged exceptions,
errors, anomalies, strange or paranormal events, and suspect claimsrather than from
well-established regularities of nature. The experience of scientists over the past 400
years is that claims and reports which describe well-understood objects behaving in
strange and incomprehensible ways tend to reduce upon investigation to deliberate frauds,
honest mistakes, garbled accounts, misinterpretations, outright fabrications, and stupid
blunders. It is not wise to accept such reports at face value, without checking them.
Pseudoscientists always take such reports as literally true, without independent
PSEUDOSCIENCE appeals to false authority, to
emotion, to sentiment, or to distrust of established fact. A high school dropout is
accepted as an expert on archaeology, though he has never made any study of it! A
psychoanalyst is accepted as an expert on all of human history, not to mention physics,
astronomy, and mythology
though his claims are inconsistent with everything known
in all four fields! A show business celebrity swears its true, so it must be. A
physicist syas psychic Smoori Mellar couldnt possibly have fooled him with simple
magic tricks, although the physicist knows nothing about magic and sleight of hand.
Emotional appeals are common: "If it makes you feel good, it must be true."
"In your heart you know its right." Pseudoscientists are fond of imaginary
conspiracies: "theres plenty of evidence for flying saucers but the government
keeps it secret." They almost always argue from irrelevancies: "Scientists
dont know everything!"but we werent talking about everything, we
were discussing the evidence for the tooth fairy.
PSEUDOSCIENCE makes extraordinary claims and
advances fantastic theories that are in contradiction to what is known about nature.
Not only is no evidence offered that the claim is true, the problem of how all previous
investigations led to precisely opposite conclusions is ignored totally. ("Flying
saucers have to come from somewhereso the earth is hollow, and they come from
inside." "This electric spark Im making with this elecgtrical apparatus is
actually not a spark at all, but rather a supernatural manifestation of psycho-spiritual
energy." "Every human is surrounded by an impalpable aura of electromagnetic
energy, the auric egg of the ancient Hindu seers, which mirrors the humans every
mood and condition.")
PSEUDOSCIENCE makes heavy use of an invented
vocabulary in which the new terms introduced do not have precise or unambiguous
definitions, and most have no definitions at all. The listener is forced to interpret the
statements according to his or her own preconceptions. What, for instance, is
"biocosmic energy?" Or a "psychotronic amplification system?" By
spouting gibberish that has a vaguely "technical" sound, the pseudoscientists
believe they imitate the jargon of actual scientific and technical fields.
PSEUDOSCIENCE appeals to the truth-criteria of
scientific methodology, while simultaneously denying their validity. Thus, a
procedurally invalid experiment which seems to show that astrology works is advanced by
the pseudoscientist as "proof" that astrology is correct, while he
simultaneously ignores thousands of procedurally sound experiments that show it does not
work in any way or sense. The fact that someone got away with simple magic tricks in one
scientific lab is "proof" that he is a psychic superman, while the fact that he
was caught doing his tricks in several other labs is ignored.
PSEUDOSCIENCE claims that the phenomena it
studies are "jealous." The phenomena appear only under certain vaguely
specified but vital conditions (i.e., when no doubters or skeptics are present; when no
experts are present; when nobody is watching; when the "vibes" are right; only
once in human history.) The attitude of science is that all phenomena must be capable of
being studied by anyone with the proper equipment, and that all procedurally valid studies
must give consistent results. No actual known natural phenomenon is "jealous" in
this way. There is no way to construct a TV set or a radio that will function only when no
skeptics are present! A man who claims to be concert-class violinist, but does not appear
to have ever owned a violin and who refuses to play when anyone is around who might hear
him, is most likely lying about his ability to play the violin.