Pseudoscience: Examples & Definition

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  • 0:01 What Is Pseudoscience?
  • 1:18 Pseudoscientific Beliefs
  • 3:03 Why Does Pseudoscience Exist?
  • 4:01 What's the Big Deal?
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
In science fiction, pseudoscience can be used as an exciting plot device to move a story along, but where does it fit in the real world? Through this lesson you'll learn what defines pseudoscience and gain insight into how and why it exists.

What Is Pseudoscience?

Many fans of science fiction have a great love for television shows like The X-Files and Fringe, which present a number of different stories and plots that are thrilling and are often rooted in real scientific principles. Yet, while these shows are framed in scientific principles and language, its generally understood that they are not actual representations of scientific possibility; rather, they are what would be considered pseudoscience.

In the scientific community, pseudoscience is a term used to describe something that is reported to be a product of science but in reality, has no connection to proper scientific methodology and cannot be realistically proven. So-called evidence that has been produced to support the existence of Bigfoot, for example, would be considered pseudoscience because its not based on empirical evidence.

Typically, when scientists engage in research, they use a particular methodology to conduct research that is based on fundamental principles and widely accepted theories that allow for their research to be replicated, thus backing up their work. It's important to understand this because pseudoscience tends to lack these things and instead tends to be based on misunderstandings of scientific principles and unverifiable theories.

Pseudoscientific Beliefs

It can often be difficult to differentiate between pseudoscience and legitimate science because one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is that it looks an awful lot like actual science. For example, astrology is the practice of studying planets and star patterns with the belief that they have a powerful influence on human behavior and future outcomes. Although astrology uses seemingly scientific language and borrows here and there from the study of astronomy, its not actually based on any real scientific knowledge, but is instead based on archaic beliefs.

Similarly, in recent years theories about ancient astronauts have been gaining popularity, thanks in part to television and the Internet. According to believers, the ancient astronaut theory suggests that extraterrestrial beings visited earth thousands of years ago and provided ancient civilizations with knowledge and technology that allowed for, among other things, the building of the pyramids. In this case, people are misunderstanding existing evidence or distorting information in order for it to fit their claims, which is unacceptable in the scholastic research community.

A much more serious example of pseudoscience is the numerous vitamins and supplements that are often advertised on television or on the Internet. The ads use a careful manipulation of scientific language to make their products sound as though they have been rigorously tested and verified, when they have in fact never been tested or approved.

There is an incredible amount of things that fall into the category of pseudoscience, like psychics or belief in horoscopes, but they all tend to have in common the fact that they are unverifiable. In the simplest terms, if it sounds like science fiction and you can't find any legitimate evidence, then it's probably pseudoscience.

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