Thursday, March 22, 2012

What is Pseudoscience?

Ed, our resident biology professor and research reporter, is trying to educate everyone about bogus claims of treatments and cures for Kennedy’s Disease. Recently, many of these type claims have shown up across the internet as pseudoscience.

Pseudoscience …

… as defined by the WiseGeek website, is:

pseudoscience“ … a body of knowledge which presents itself with a veneer of scientific respectability which does not hold up under scrutiny. The term “pseudoscience” is meant to be derogatory; you may also hear terms like “alternative science” or “junk science” used to refer to such fields. Learning to distinguish true science from pseudoscience is very important.

The key characteristic of pseudoscience is that it does not conform with the scientific method. This means that pseudoscientific claims cannot be tested, and do not follow a logical order. Plenty of scientific concepts cannot be tested with existing equipment, but the originators of such theories can provide solid information which supports their hypotheses, and these creators also welcome critiques and honest analysis. Pseudoscience has no scientific backing, and it cannot be tested.

Several key things can be used to identify a field of knowledge or a claim as pesudoscience. The first is the lack of testability and independent confirmation. True scientists are always happy to share the data they used to arrive at their conclusions, and they welcome independent testing and critiques of their work, using refutation as the primary tool to prove a theory, rather than seeking out proofs. The pseudoscience community rejects refutation, preferring to seek out evidence which bolsters specific claims, and it is not open to scrutiny or discussion.

It is also common to see pseudoscience accompanied with grandiose languages and claims which are heavily exaggerated. Misleading language is often used in a pseudoscientific argument, and the author may make an argument which is based in ignorance, or in an assumption that the reader will be ignorant.”

The article concludes with the following warning:

“Many professional scientists regard pseudoscience as very harmful, in addition to irritating. Consumers spend large amounts of money on pseudoscience every year, believing the grandiose claims made by companies attempting to turn a profit, and pseudoscience can infiltrate society to an alarming level. At one time, for example, people genuinely believed in the practice of phrenology, which involves examining the bumps on someone's head to determine his or her inner nature.”

Do your research and ask your doctor

doctor checkRegularly the KDA is sent emails exclaiming some treatment or cure for Kennedy’s Disease. Many of these emails today are for stem cell treatments or some drug like Naltrexone.

The message is simple. Always check with your doctor before embarking upon some treatment passed by word-of-mouth, emails or the internet. Always error on the side of caution.

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