Is Pseudoscience Right?

Which gets more views, higher ratings and is more fun to believe: real biological cells in Venus’s clouds or extraterrestrials with powers toying with the human species? The latter! But, the real question is: “Which is true?” And, “Why is it true?”

Science is the method that answers the first and sometimes the second. Science removes our urge to delude ourselves. In other words, it’s the antidote to superstition, pseudoscience, dogma and faith.

Each field of science has its own form of pseudoscience: anthropologists have surviving ape-men (Bigfoot), archaeologists have Atlantis, chemists have alchemy, psychologists have parapsychology, astronomy has astrology, cosmetologist have aliens and history has pseudo-history (Holocaust-deniers). In fact, all modern sciences have their origin in superstition —a form of fear and a sign of ignorance.

Pseudoscience is still strong. A 2005 Gallup poll found that 41% of Americans believe in extrasensory perception, 37% believe in haunted houses and 25% in astrology.¹ But again, the same question asked above needs to be asked here: Which is true? Astronomy or astrology? Anthropology or Bigfoot? Science or pseudoscience?

In 1999, a lot of educated people talked and wrote quack about eminent calamities because computers weren’t equipped to handle the number “2000.” Although this was only a number on the Christian calendar —in other words, primitive numerology— a lot of people believed it.

More recently we had the end-of-the-world hysteria of 2012 —which yours truly sadly believed. This was based on the fact that the Mayans didn’t create a calendar after December 21st, 2012, so they must have known that the world was going to end in 2012. Yet, this was again just primitive numerology —in this case, Mayan instead of Christian. But, without the benefit of hindsight, how do we know who’s right? The doomsday-sayer or the realist?

In fact, let’s ask deeper questions: How can we tell pseudoscience from science? How do we extract science from superstition? How can we tell the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true? The answer? The scientific method. Or better referred to as skepticism or critical thinking —which I’ll talk about in my next blog.

To your success,
Nikhil Mahadea