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List of topics characterized as pseudoscience

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Title: List of topics characterized as pseudoscience  
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Subject: Pseudoscience, Cargo cult science, Leaky gut syndrome, Crank (person), Lunar effect
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List of topics characterized as pseudoscience

This is a list of topics that have, at one point or another in their history, been characterized as logical, methodological, or rhetorical bases of the topic in question.[1] Though some of the listed topics continue to be investigated scientifically, others were only subject to scientific research in the past and today are considered refuted but resurrected in a pseudoscientific fashion. Other ideas presented here are entirely non-scientific, but have in one way or another infringed on scientific domains or practices. Many adherents to or practitioners of the topics listed here dispute their characterization as pseudoscience. Each section summarizes the pseudoscientific aspects of that topic.


  • Physical sciences 1
    • Astronomy and space sciences 1.1
    • Earth sciences 1.2
    • Energy 1.3
    • Architecture 1.4
    • Physics 1.5
  • Life sciences 2
    • Agricultural sciences 2.1
    • Psychology 2.2
  • Applied sciences 3
    • Health and medicine 3.1
    • Finance 3.2
  • Social sciences 4
    • Racial theories 4.1
  • Paranormal and ufology 5
  • History 6
  • Numerology 7
  • Religious and spiritual beliefs 8
    • Creation science 8.1
    • Scientology 8.2
    • Other 8.3
  • Consumer products 9
  • Idiosyncratic ideas 10
  • Parody pseudoscience 11
  • See also 12
  • Footnotes 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16

Physical sciences

Astronomy and space sciences

  • Astrology (see also astrology and science) – refers to any of several systems of divination based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies.[11][12][13][14]
  • Dogon people and Sirius B – a series of claims that the Dogon tribe knew about the white dwarf companion of Sirius despite it being invisible to the naked eye (and knew about it for reasons other than being told about it by visiting Europeans).[10]
  • The Face on Mars – (in Cydonia Mensae) is a rock formation on Mars asserted to be evidence of intelligent, native life on the planet.[15] High-resolution images taken recently show it to appear less face-like. It features prominently in the works of Richard C. Hoagland and Tom Van Flandern.
  • Modern flat Earth beliefs – proposes that the earth is a flat, disc-shaped planet that accelerates upward, producing the illusion of gravity. Proposers of a flat Earth, such as the Flat Earth Society, do not accept compelling evidence, such as photos of planet Earth from space.
  • Lunar effect – the belief that the full Moon influences human behavior.[16]
  • Moon landing conspiracy theories – claims that parts of the Apollo program were hoaxed and subsequently covered up. While many of the accusations are best categorized under conspiracy theories, some do attempt to use faulty science to prove that the Moon landing could not have happened, thus qualifying them as pseudoscientific claims.[17][18]
  • Nibiru cataclysm – a prediction first made by contactee Nancy Lieder that a mythological planet Nibiru would collide with Earth. After having adjusted her prediction many times, she later claimed the year of the occurrence to be 2012.[19][20][21][22]
  • Worlds in Collision (Velikovsky) – writer Immanuel Velikovsky proposed in his book Worlds in Collision that ancient texts and geographic evidence show mankind was witness to catastrophic interactions of other planets in our Solar system.[17]
  • Vaimānika Shāstra – a Hindu nationalist claim that airplanes were invented in ancient India during the Vedic period. A 1974 study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore found that the heavier-than-air aircraft that the Vaimānika Shāstra described were aerodynamically unfeasible. The authors remarked that the discussion of the principles of flight in the text were largely perfunctory and incorrect, in some cases violating Newton's laws of motion.[23][24]

Earth sciences

  • 366 geometry or Megalithic geometry – posits the existence of an Earth-based geometry dating back to at least 3500 BC, and the possibility that such a system is still in use in modern Freemasonry. According to Alexander Thom and, later, Alan Butler and Christopher Knight, megalithic civilizations in Britain and Brittany had advanced knowledge of geometry, mathematics, and the size of the Earth. Butler correlates Thom's megalithic yard to the polar circumference of Earth using a circle divided into 366 degrees.[25][26]
  • The Bermuda Triangle – a region of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and (in its most popular version) Florida. Ship and aircraft disasters and disappearances perceived as frequent in this area have led to the circulation of stories of unusual natural phenomena, paranormal encounters, and interactions with extraterrestrials.[6]
  • Climate change denialpolitically contentious arguments disputing aspects of global warming have been identified as being pseudoscientific.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]
  • Hollow Earth – a proposal that Earth is either entirely hollow or consists of hollow sections beneath the crust. Certain folklore and conspiracy theories hold this idea and suggest the existence of subterranean life.
  • Lysenkoism, or Lysenko-Michurinism – denotes the biological inheritance principle propounded by Trofim Lysenko, which derives from theories of the heritability of acquired characteristics.[35] Lysenkoism is a theory of biological inheritance which departs from Mendelism, and which Lysenko named "Michurinism". Lysenko's theories came to prominence in the Soviet Union during the late 1940s and early 1950s, when genetics was declared a "bourgeois science" in the wake of the famines caused by Joseph Stalin's collectivization campaign. The Soviet Union quietly abandoned Lysenko's agricultural practices in favor of modern agricultural practices after the crop yields he promised failed to materialize. By the mid-1950s, his influence had declined considerably. Today Lysenko's agricultural experimentation and research is largely viewed as fraudulent.[36][37]
  • Flat Earth – a theory that the Earth is flat rather than spherical. Still supported by some fringe groups.[38]


  • Hongcheng Magic Liquid – a 1983 pseudoscience incident in China where an inventor claimed that he could turn water into a usable fuel by just adding a few drops of his "secret formula" liquid. The government of China and the Chinese Communist Party were alarmed by pseudoscience developments like this one and issued a joint proclamation condemning the recent decline of public education in science.[39] (Also see: Gasoline pill)
  • Hydrinos – are a supposed state of the hydrogen atom that, according to proponent Randell Mills, are of lower energy than ground state and thus a source of free energy.[40][41][42]
  • Perpetual motion – class of proposed machines that violate one of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Perpetual motion has been recognized as extrascientific since the late 18th century, but proposals and patents for such devices continue to be made to the present day.[13][17][43]


  • Vastu shastra is the ancient Hindu system of architecture, which lays down a series of rules for building houses in relation to ambiance. Scientists like Jayant Narlikar write that it has no "logical connection" with the environment and notes that sometimes what has already been built is demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the rules.[48][49] In another instance a minister ordered the demolition of a slum to change the entrance of his office, as per Vastu consultants who claimed that changing the entrance to an east-facing gate will solve his political problems.[50][51]


Life sciences

Agricultural sciences

  • astrological. The substances and composts used by biodynamicists have been described as unconventional and homeopathic. For example, field mice are countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.[56][57][58][59]


  • Attachment therapy – common name for a set of potentially fatal[60] clinical interventions and parenting techniques aimed at controlling aggressive, disobedient, or unaffectionate children using "restraint and physical and psychological abuse to seek their desired results."[61] (The term "attachment therapy" may sometimes be used loosely to refer to mainstream approaches based on attachment theory, usually outside the USA where pseudoscientific form of attachment therapy is less known). Probably the most common form is holding therapy in which the child is restrained by adults for the purpose of supposed cathartic release of suppressed rage and regression. Perhaps the most extreme, but much less common, is "rebirthing", in which the child is wrapped tightly in a blanket and then made to simulate emergence from a birth canal. This is done by encouraging the child to struggle and pushing and squeezing him/her to mimic contractions.[6] Despite the practice's name it is not based on traditional attachment theory and shares no principles of mainstream developmental psychology research.[62] In 2006 it was the subject of an almost entirely critical Taskforce Report commissioned by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC).[63] Not all forms of attachment therapy are coercive and since the Candace Newmaker case there has been a move towards less coercive practices by leaders in the field.[63]
  • Brainwashing or Mind Control – A theoretical indoctrination process which results in "an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations. In this context, brainwashing refers to the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values". The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making. In 1983, the American Psychological Association (APA) asked Margaret Singer to chair a taskforce called the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC) to investigate whether brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" did indeed play a role in "cult" recruitment. The APA found that brainwashing theories were without empirical proof, and rejected the DIMPAC report because the report "lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur".[64][65] Two critical letters from external reviewers Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Jeffery D. Fisher accompanied the APA's rejection memo. The letters criticized "brainwashing" as an unrecognized theoretical concept and Singer's reasoning as so flawed that it was "almost ridiculous."[66]
  • Conversion therapy – sometimes called reparative therapy, seeks to change a non-heterosexual person's sexual orientation so they will no longer be homosexual or bisexual.[67] The American Psychiatric Association defines reparative therapy as "psychiatric treatment...which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change their sexual homosexual orientation."[68][69][70]
  • Graphology – psychological test based on a belief that personality traits unconsciously and consistently influence handwriting morphology – that certain types of people exhibit certain quirks of the pen. Analysis of handwriting attributes provides no better than chance correspondence with personality, and neuroscientist Barry Beyerstein likened the assigned correlations to sympathetic magic.[6][45][71][72][73][74] Graphology is only superficially related to forensic document examination, which also examines handwriting.
  • Hypnosis – state of extreme relaxation and inner focus in which a person is unusually responsive to suggestions made by the hypnotist. The modern practice has its roots in the idea of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, originated by Franz Mesmer.[75] Mesmer's explanations were thoroughly discredited, and to this day there is no agreement amongst researchers whether hypnosis is a real phenomenon, or merely a form of participatory role-enactment.[6][76][77] Some aspects of suggestion have been clinically useful.[78][79] Other claimed uses of hypnosis more clearly fall within the area of pseudoscience. Such areas include the use of hypnotic regression beyond plausible limits, including past life regression.[80] Also see false memory syndrome.
  • Hypnotherapy – therapy that is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.[81] It is widely considered a branch of Complementary and Alternative Medicine though its founder – James Braid – has been described as "one of the most ardent and influential critics of pseudo-science."[82]
  • It should be noted that using hypnosis for relaxation, mood control, and other related benefits (often related to meditation) is regarded as part of standard medical treatment rather than alternative medicine, particularly for patients subjected to difficult physical emotional stress in chemotherapy.[83]
  • Memetics – approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept that units of information, or "memes", have an independent existence, are self-replicating, and are subject to selective evolution through environmental forces. Starting from a proposition put forward in the writings of Richard Dawkins, it has since turned into a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture. It has been proposed that just as memes are analogous to genes, memetics is analogous to genetics. Memetics has been deemed a pseudoscience on several fronts.[84] Its proponents' assertions have been labeled "untested, unsupported or incorrect"[84] though the same book contains Susan Blackmore's counter article "Memes as Good Science." Supporters of memetics include EO Wilson, Douglas Hofstadter and many others.
  • [100] list NLP in the "top ten" most discredited, and Glasner-Edwards and Rawson (2010) list NLP as "certainly discredited".[99] (2008)et al. list NLP as possibly or probably discredited, and in papers reviewing discredited interventions for substance and alcohol abuse, Norcross [98] (2006) et al. In research designed to identify the "quack factor" in modern mental health practice, Norcross [89] NLP also appears on peer reviewed expert-consensus based lists of discredited interventions.[97][96][91] NLP is used as an example of pseudoscience for facilitating the teaching of scientific literacy at the professional and university level.[90] concepts and terminology.[87] title,[95] NLP is no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Criticisms go beyond the lack of empirical evidence for effectiveness; critics say that NLP exhibits pseudoscientific characteristics,[95] According to Devilly,[94][89] and has failed to produce reliable results for the claims for effectiveness made by NLP’s originators and proponents.[93][92] NLP is unsupported by current scientific evidence, and uses incorrect and misleading terms and concepts. Reviews of empirical research on NLP indicate that NLP contains numerous factual errors,[91][90] and linguists,[89][88] psychologists[87] According to certain neuroscientists,[86][85]
  • Parapsychology – controversial discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities and life after death using the scientific method. Parapsychological experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal subjects[101][102][103] and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception.[104]
  • Phrenology – now defunct system for determining personality traits by feeling bumps on the skull proposed by 18th-century physiologist Franz Joseph Gall.[6] In an early recorded use of the term "pseudo-science", François Magendie referred to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day".[105] The assumption that personality can be read from bumps in the skull has since been thoroughly discredited. However, Gall's assumption that character, thoughts, and emotions are located in the brain is considered an important historical advance toward neuropsychology (see also localization of brain function, Brodmann's areas, neuro-imaging, modularity of mind or faculty psychology).[106]
  • Polygraphy ("lie detectors") – an interrogation method which measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions. The belief is that deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers. Many members of the scientific community consider polygraphy to be pseudoscience.[107][108] Polygraphy has little credibility among scientists.[109][110] Despite claims of 90–95% validity by polygraph advocates, and 95–100% by businesses providing polygraph services,[111] critics maintain that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance.[112] Critics also argue that even given high estimates of the polygraph's accuracy a significant number of subjects (e.g. 10% given a 90% accuracy) will appear to be lying, and would unfairly suffer the consequences of "failing" the polygraph.
  • Primal therapy – sometimes presented as a science.[113] The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2001) states that: "The theoretical basis for the therapy is the supposition that prenatal experiences and birth trauma form people's primary impressions of life and that they subsequently influence the direction our lives take... Truth be known, primal therapy cannot be defended on scientifically established principles. This is not surprising considering its questionable theoretical rationale."[114] Other sources have also questioned the scientific validity of primal therapy, some using the term "pseudoscience" (see Criticism of Primal Therapy).
  • Psychoanalysis – body of ideas developed by Austrian physician Sigmund Freud and his followers, which is devoted to the study of human psychological functioning and behavior. It has been controversial ever since its inception.[115] Karl Popper characterized it as pseudoscience based on psychoanalysis failing the requirement for falsifiability.[116][117] Frank Cioffi argued that "though Popper is correct to say that psychoanalysis is pseudoscientific and correct to say that it is unfalsifiable, he is mistaken to suggest that it is pseudoscientific because it is unfalsifiable. […] It is when [Freud] insists that he has confirmed (not just instantiated) [his empirical theses] that he is being pseudoscientific."[118]
  • Subliminal advertising, a visual or auditory information that is discerned below the threshold of conscious awareness and claims to have a powerful enduring effect on consuming habits. It went into disrepute in the late 1970s[119] but there has been renewed research interest recently.[6][76] The mainstream accepted science of Subliminal perception does not have a powerful, enduring effect on human behaviour.[120]

Applied sciences

Health and medicine

Pseudoscientific medical practices are often known as quackery.

  • [121] "At least 60 percent of U.S. medical schools devote classroom time to the teaching of alternative therapies, generating controversy within the scientific community."[121] In contrast, it has been reported that universities are "increasingly turning their backs on homoeopathy and complementary medicine amid opposition from the scientific community to "pseudo-science" degrees."[122] Degrees in alternative medicine have been described as "'pseudo-science' degrees",[121][122][123] "anti-scientific", and "harmful".[124]
  • Anthroposophic medicine, or anthroposophically extended medicine – a school of complementary and alternative medicine[125] founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman based on the spiritual philosophy of anthroposophy. It is an individualized holistic and salutogenic approach to health, deemphasizing randomized controlled trials.[126][127] Anthroposophic medications are formulated to stimulate healing by matching "key dynamic forces" with symptoms,[128] and are prepared for external, oral, or parenteral introduction in various dilutions ranging from whole to homeopathic.[129] The use of vaccinations, antibiotics, and antipyretics is generally not recommended or delayed by practitioners.[130][131][132] Skeptics, such as Robert Carroll, liken to sympathetic magic the anthroposophic principle that curative plants may be identified by distortions or abnormalities in their morphology or physiology.[133] Carroll and others state that the system is not based in science.[133][134][135] Edzard Ernst suggests that no thorough scientific analysis of the efficacy of anthroposophical medicine as a system independent of its philosophical underpinnings has been undertaken; and that no evidence-based conclusions can be drawn as to the overall efficacy of the system.[136]
  • , the scientific study of human movement. kinesiology Applied Kinesiology should not be confused with [141][138], massage therapists, and nurses.physical therapists, nutritionists, physicians, dentists, naturopaths Applied kinesiologists are often chiropractors, but may also be [140] is not scientifically supported, and the International College of Applied Kinesiology requires concurrent use of standard diagnostic techniques.[139][138] or illness[137]
  • Bates method for better eyesight – an educational method developed by ophthalmologist William Bates intended to improve vision "naturally" to the point at which it can allegedly eliminate the need for glasses by undoing a habitual strain to see.[157] In 1929 Bates was cited by the FTC for false or misleading advertising in connection with his book describing the method, Perfect Sight Without Glasses,[158] though the complaint was later dismissed.[159] Although some people claim to have improved their eyesight by following his principles, Bates' ideas about vision and accommodation have been rejected by mainstream ophthalmology and optometry.[160][161][162][163][164]
  • Biorhythms – hypothesis holding that human physiology and behavior are governed by physical, emotional, and intellectual cycles lasting 23, 28, and 33 days, respectively. The system posits that, for instance, errors in judgment are more probable on days when an individual's intellectual cycle, as determined by days since birth, is near a minimum. No biophysical mechanism of action has been discovered, and the predictive power of biorhythms charts is no better than chance.[6][165][166][167] For the scientific study of biological cycles such as circadian rhythms, see chronobiology.
  • Body memory – hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. This is used to explain having memories for events where the brain was not in a position to store memories and is sometimes a catalyst for repressed memories recovery.[168] These memories are often characterised with phantom pain in a part or parts of the body – the body appearing to remember the past trauma. The idea of body memory is a belief frequently associated with the idea of repressed memories, in which memories of incest or sexual abuse can be retained and recovered through physical sensations.[168][169]
  • [171] Its theoretical foundation has been discredited by the scientific community, which describe it as pseudoscience.[172][173][174][175] Peer reviewed scientific studies into Brain Gym have found no significant improvement in general academic skills. Its claimed results have been put down to the placebo effect and the benefits of breaks and exercise. Its founder, Paul Dennison, has admitted that many of Brain Gym's claims are not based on good science, but on his "hunches".[176]
  • vertebral subluxations and the impaired flow of Innate intelligence, a form of putative energy.[179][180] These ideas are not based in science, and along with the lack of a strong research base are in part responsible for the historical conflict between chiropractic and mainstream medicine.[181][182][183][184] Recent systematic reviews indicate the possibility of moderate effectiveness for spinal manipulation in the management of nonspecific low back pain.[185][186][187] The effectiveness of chiropractic spinal manipulation has not been demonstrated according to the principles of evidence-based medicine for any other condition.[188] Adverse symptomatic events, which are all qualified as relatively mild in the referenced report, with possible neurologic involvement following spinal manipulation, particularly upper spinal manipulation, occur with a frequency of between 33% and 61%. Most events are minor, such as mild soreness, fainting, dizziness, light headedness, headache, or numbness or tingling in the upper limbs; serious complications such as subarachnoid hemorrhage, vertebral artery dissection, or myelopathy are observed infrequently.[189][190][191][192][193]
  • Innate intelligence – form of putative energy, the flow of which is considered by some chiropractors to be responsible for patient health. Chiropractic historian Joseph C. Keating, Jr., PhD. stated: "So long as we propound the 'One cause, one cure' rhetoric of Innate, we should expect to be met by ridicule from the wider health science community. Chiropractors can’t have it both ways. Our theories cannot be both dogmatically held vitalistic constructs and be scientific at the same time. The purposiveness, consciousness and rigidity of the Palmers’ Innate should be rejected."[194]
  • Vertebral subluxation – a Chiropractic term that describes variously a site of impaired flow of innate or a spinal lesion that is postulated to cause neuromusculoskeletal or visceral dysfunction. Scientific consensus does not support the existence of chiropractic's vertebral subluxation.[195]
  • Colon cleansing (colonics, colon hydrotherapy) – encompasses several alternative medical therapies intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract. Practitioners believe that accumulations of putrefied feces line the walls of the large intestine and that they harbor parasites or pathogenic gut flora, causing nonspecific symptoms and general ill-health. This "auto-intoxication" hypothesis is based on medical beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and was discredited in the early 20th century.[196][197]
  • Craniosacral therapy – involves the therapist placing their hands on the patient, which allows them to "tune into the craniosacral rhythm".[198] Craniosacral therapists claim to treat mental stress, neck and back pain, migraines, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.[199][200][201] A systematic review conducted in 1999 "did not find valid scientific evidence that craniosacral therapy provides a benefit to patients", noting that "[t]he available health outcome research consists of low grade of evidence derived from weak study designs" and "[a]dverse events have been reported in head-injured patients following craniosacral therapy."[202] Craniosacral therapy has been variously characterized as pseudoscientific or discredited.[203][204][205][206][207][208]
  • Crystal healing – belief that crystals have healing properties. Once common among pre-scientific and indigenous peoples, it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s with the New Age movement.[209][210]
  • Detoxification – Detoxification in the context of alternative medicine consists of an approach that claims to rid the body of "toxins" – accumulated harmful substances that allegedly exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. Many mainstream media web sites offer articles on this practice, despite a lack of scientific evidence for either the presence of the toxins, harm from their presence, or efficacy of the removal techniques.
  • [212]
  • Earthing therapy or Grounding – a therapy that is claimed to ease pain, provide a better nights sleep, and assist in diseases with symptoms of inflammation by being in direct physical contact with the ground or a device connected to electrical ground.[213] Purportedly, the earth has an excess of electrons which people are missing due to insulating shoes and ground cover. Being in electrical contact with the earth provides the body with those excess electrons which then act as antioxidants.[214]
  • Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) – reported sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation of various frequencies at exposure levels well below established safety standards. Symptoms are inconsistent, but can include headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and similar non-specific indications.[215] Provocation studies find that the discomfort of sufferers is unrelated to hidden sources of radiation,[216][217] and "no scientific basis currently exists for a connection between EHS and exposure to [electromagnetic fields]."[218]
  • Faith healing – act of curing disease by such means as prayer and laying on of hands. No material benefit in excess of that expected by placebo is observed.[6][219][220]
  • Health bracelets and various healing jewelry that are purported to improve the health, heal, or improve the chi of the wearer, such as ionized bracelets, hologram bracelets, and magnetic jewelry. No claims of effectiveness made by manufacturers have ever been substantiated by independent sources.[221][222]
  • Homeopathy – the belief that giving a patient with symptoms of an illness extremely dilute remedies that are thought to produce those same symptoms in healthy people. These preparations are often diluted beyond the point where any treatment molecule is likely to remain.[223] Studies of homeopathic practice have been largely negative or inconclusive.[224][225][226][227] No scientific basis for homeopathic principles has been substantiated.[228][229][230][231][232][233][234]
  • ), Iridology is all but impossible. Biometrics Because iris texture is a phenotypical feature which develops during gestation and remains unchanged after birth (which makes the iris useful for [237][236][235]
  • Leaky gut syndrome – in alternative medicine, a proposed condition caused by the passage of harmful substances outward through the gut wall. It has been proposed as the cause of many conditions including multiple sclerosis and autism, a claim which has been called pseudoscientific.[238] According to the UK National Health Service, the theory is vague and unproven.[239] Some skeptics and scientists say that the marketing of treatments for leaky gut syndrome is either misguided or an instance of deliberate health fraud.[239]
  • Lightning Process – a system claimed to be derived from osteopathy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and life coaching.[240] Proponents claim that the Process can have a positive effect on a long list of diseases and conditions, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, despite no scientific evidence of efficacy.[241] The designer of the Lightning Process, Phill Parker, suggests certain illnesses such as ME/CFS arise from a dysregulation of the Central Nervous System and Autonomic Nervous System, which the Lightning Process aims to address, helping to break the "adrenaline loop" that keep the systems' stress responses high.[241]
  • Magnet therapy – practice of using magnetic fields to positively influence health. While there are legitimate medical uses for magnets and magnetic fields, the field strength used in magnetic therapy is too low to effect any biological change, and the methods used have no scientific validity.[6][242][243]
  • Maharishi Ayurveda – traditional Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old alternative medical practice with roots in ancient India based on a mind-body set of beliefs.[244][245] Imbalance or stress in an individual’s consciousness is believed to be the reason of diseases.[244] Patients are classified by body types (three doshas, which are considered to control mind-body harmony, determine an individual’s "body type"); and treatment is aimed at restoring balance to the mind-body system.[244][245] It has long been the main traditional system of health care in India,[245] and it has become institutionalized in India's colleges and schools, although unlicensed practitioners are common.[246] As with other traditional knowledge, much of it was lost; in the West, current practice is in part based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1980s,[247] who mixed it with Transcendental Meditation; other forms of Ayurveda exist as well. The most notable advocate of Ayurveda in America is Deepak Chopra, who claims that Maharishi's Ayurveda is based on quantum mysticism.[247]
  • Naturopathy, or Naturopathic Medicine, is a type of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation.[248] Naturopathy has been characterized as pseudoscience.[249][250] It has particularly been criticized for its unproven, disproven, or dangerous treatments.[251][252][253][254] Natural methods and chemicals are not necessarily safer or more effective than artificial or synthetic ones; any treatment capable of eliciting an effect may also have deleterious side effects.[197][250][255][256]
  • Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) – the core technique of osteopathic medicine. OMM is based on a philosophy devised by Andrew Taylor Still (1828–1917) who held that the body had self-regulating mechanisms that could be harnessed through manipulating the bones, tendons and muscles. It has been proposed as a treatment for a number of human ailments including Parkinson's disease, pancreatitis, and pneumonia but has only been found to be effective for lower back pain by virtue of the spinal manipulation used.[257][258][259] It has long been regarded as rooted in "pseudoscientific dogma".[260] In 2010 Steven Salzberg referred to the OMT-specific training given by colleges of osteopathic medicine as "training in pseudoscientific practices".[261]
  • Radionics – means of medical diagnosis and therapy which proponents believe can diagnose and remedy health problems using various frequencies in a putative energy field coupled to the practitioner's electronic device. The first such "black box" devices were designed and promoted by Albert Abrams, and were definitively proven useless by an independent investigation commissioned by Scientific American in 1924.[262] The internal circuitry of radionics devices is often obfuscated and irrelevant, leading proponents to conjecture dowsing and ESP as operating principles.[263][264][265] Similar devices continue to be marketed under various names, though none is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy or underlying premise of radionics devices.[266][267] The radionics of Albert Abrams and his intellectual descendants should not be confused with similarly named reputable and legitimate companies, products, or medical treatments such as radiotherapy or radiofrequency ablation.
  • Reflexology, or zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet, hands, or ears with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.[268] A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled trials concludes that the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.[269] There is no consensus among reflexologists on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one's qi.[270] Reflexologists divide the body into ten equal vertical zones, five on the right and five on the left.[271] Concerns have been raised by medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of appropriate medical treatment.[272]
  • Therapeutic touch – form of vitalism where a practitioner, who may be also a nurse,[45][273] passes his or her hands over and around a patient to "realign" or "rebalance" a putative energy field.[43] A recent Cochrane Review concluded that "[t]here is no evidence that [Therapeutic Touch] promotes healing of acute wounds."[274] No biophysical basis for such an energy field has been found.[275][276]
  • Tin foil hat – A tin foil hat is a hat made from one or more sheets of aluminium foil, or a piece of conventional headgear lined with foil, worn in the belief it shields the brain from threats such as electromagnetic fields, mind control, and mind reading. At this time no link has been established between the radio-frequency EMR that tin foil hats are meant to protect against and subsequent ill health.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)traditional medical system originating in China and practiced as an alternative medicine throughout much of the world. It contains elements based in the cosmology of Taoism,[277] and considers the human body more in functional and vitalistic than anatomical terms.[278][279] Health and illness in TCM follow the principle of yin and yang, and are ascribed to balance or imbalance in the flow of a vital force, qi.[280][281] Diagnostic methods are solely external, including pulse examination at six points, examination of a patient's tongue, and a patient interview; interpractitioner diagnostic agreement is poor.[278][282][283][284] The TCM description of the function and structure of the human body is fundamentally different from modern medicine, though some of the procedures and remedies have shown promise under scientific investigation.[280][285]
  • Acupuncture – use of fine needles to stimulate acupuncture points and balance the flow of qi. There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians.[282][286] Some acupuncturists regard them as functional rather than structural entities, useful in guiding evaluation and care of patients.[280][287][288] Dry needling is the therapeutic insertion of fine needles without regard to TCM knowledge. Acupuncture has been the subject of active scientific research since the late 20th century,[289] and its effects and application remain controversial among medical researchers and clinicians.[289] Because it is a procedure rather than a pill, the design of controlled studies is challenging, as with surgical and other procedures.[280][289][290][291][292] Some scholarly reviews conclude that acupuncture's effects are mainly placebo,[293][294] and others find likelihood of efficacy for particular conditions.[289][295][296][297]
  • [299] Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps). Only one controlled trial of cupping has been conducted, and it did not demonstrate any effectiveness for pain relief. A book by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst claims that no evidence exists of any beneficial effects of cupping for any medical condition.[300]
  • [286][282].meridians or acupuncture points basis for the existence of histological or anatomical There is no known [301][278]
  • Moxibustion – application on or above the skin of smoldering mugwort, or moxa, to stimulate acupuncture points.
  • Qivital energy whose flow must be balanced for health. Qi has never been directly observed, and is unrelated to the concept of energy used in science.[302][303][304]
  • [308] research for potential active ingredients present in these preparations is active, though the applications do not always correspond to those of TCM.Pharmacognosy [307][306][285] Most preparations have not been rigorously evaluated or give no indication of efficacy.[305]
  • These organs are not based in anatomy. [278]
  • Urine therapy – drinking either one's own undiluted urine or homeopathic potions of urine for treatment of a wide variety of diseases is based on pseudoscience.[309]
  • Promotion of a link between autism and vaccines, in which the vaccines are accused of causing autism-spectrum conditions, triggering them, or aggravating them, has been characterized as pseudoscience.[310] Many epidemiological studies have found a lack of association between either the MMR vaccine and autism, or thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.[311] Consequently, the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no causal link between either of these varieties of vaccines and autism.[312]
  • Vitalism – doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining. The book Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience stated "today, vitalism is one of the ideas that form the basis for many pseudoscientific health systems that claim that illnesses are caused by a disturbance or imbalance of the body's vital force." "Vitalists claim to be scientific, but in fact they reject the scientific method with its basic postulates of cause and effect and of provability. They often regard subjective experience to be more valid than objective material reality."[313]


Social sciences

  • Classical social evolution: Before Darwin's work On the Origin of Species, some models incorporated Enlightenment ideas of social progress, and thus, according to philosopher of science Michael Ruse, were pseudoscientific by current standards, and may have been viewed as such during the 18th century, as well as into the start of the 19th century (though the word pseudoscience may not have been used in reference to these early proposals). This pseudoscientific, and often political, incorporation of social progress with evolutionary thought continued for some one hundred years following the publication of Origin of Species.[323][324]

Racial theories

  • Scientific racism – claim that scientific evidence shows the inferiority or superiority of certain races.[325][326]
  • Aryanism, the claim that there is a distinct "Aryan race" which is superior to other putative races,[327] was an important tenet of Nazism, and "the basis of the German government policy of exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and other 'non-Aryans.'"[328]
  • Drapetomania, was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity.
  • Melanin theory – belief founded in the distortion of known physical properties of melanin, a natural polymer, that posits the inherent superiority of dark-skinned people and the essential inhumanity and an inferiority of light-skinned people.[329][330]

Paranormal and ufology

Paranormal subjects[13][17][228][331] have been subject to critiques from a wide range of sources including the following claims of paranormal significance:

  • cryptids such as el chupacabra, when in fact they were caused by natural predation.[6]
  • Channeling – communication of information to or through a person allegedly from a spirit or other paranormal entity.[331]
  • Crop circles – geometric designs of crushed or knocked-over crops created in a field. Aside from skilled farmers or pranksters working through the night, explanations for their formation include UFOs and anomalous, tornado-like air currents.[17] The study of crop circles has become known as "cerealogy".[332]
  • Cryptozoology – search for creatures that are considered not to exist by most biologists.[333] Well known examples of creatures of interest to cryptozoologists include Bigfoot, Yeren, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster. According to leading skeptical authors Michael Shermer and Pat Linse, "Cryptozoology ranges from pseudoscientific to useful and interesting, depending on how it is practiced."[334]
  • Dowsing refers to practices said to enable one to detect hidden water, metals, gemstones or other objects.[43][45]
  • Electronic voice phenomenon – purported communication by spirits through tape recorders and other electronic devices.[335][336][337][338][339]
  • Extra-sensory perception – paranormal ability (independent of the five main senses or deduction from previous experience) to acquire information by means such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychic abilities, and remote viewing.[1][340][341][342]
  • Ghost hunting – use of scientific methods and instrumentation in an unverifiable manner to prove supposed hauntings.[343]
  • Levitation – act of rising up from the ground without any physical aids, usually by the power of thought.[344]
  • Palmistry – the belief that the future can be foretold through palm reading. Predictions are based on the shape, line, and mounts of the hands. Palmists use cold reading in order to appear psychic.[345]
  • Pseudoarchaeology – investigation of the ancient past using alleged paranormal or other means which have not been validated by mainstream science.[6]
  • Psychic surgery – type of medical fraud, popular in Brazil and the Philippines. Practitioners use sleight of hand to make it appear as though they are reaching into a patient's body and extracting "tumours". Psychic surgery is usually explicit deception; i.e., the "practitioners" are aware that they are practicing fraud or "quackery".[346][347][348][349][350]
  • Psychokinesis – paranormal ability of the mind to influence matter or energy at a distance.[351]
  • Rumpologyneologism referring to a pseudoscience akin to physiognomy, performed by examining crevices, dimples, warts, moles and folds of a person's buttocks in much the same way a chirologist would read the palm of the hand.[352]
  • Séances – ritualized attempts to communicate with the dead.[6]
  • The Tunguska event was an actual large explosion, possibly caused by a meteoroid or comet, in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia in June 1908. Night skies as far away as London were markedly brighter for several evenings. Unsupported theories regarding the event include the impact of a miniature black hole or large body of antimatter, ball lightning, a test by Nikola Tesla of the apparatus at Wardenclyffe Tower, and a UFO crash.[6][353][354] Another theory is that the explosion was caused by a piece of Biela's Comet from 1883.[355]
  • Ufology – the study of unidentified flying objects (UFO) that frequently includes the belief that UFOs are evidence for extraterrestrial visitors.[6][12][17][43][45][356]


  • Fomenko's chronology – argues that the conventional chronology is fundamentally flawed, that events attributed to antiquity such as the histories of Rome, Greece and Egypt actually occurred during the Middle Ages.
  • Holocaust denial – The Leuchter report attempted to demonstrate on a forensic level that mass homicidal gassings at Nazi extermination camps did not take place.


Religious and spiritual beliefs

Spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, are normally not classified as pseudoscience.[361] However, religion can sometimes nurture pseudoscience, and "at the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion", and some religions might be confused with pseudoscience, such as traditional meditation.[361] The following religious/spiritual items have been related to or classified as pseudoscience in some way:

  • Koranic scientific foreknowledge (Islam) – Koranic Science (or Qur'anic science or Hadeeth science) asserts that foundational Islamic religious texts made accurate statements about the world that science verified hundreds of years later. This belief is a common theme in Bucailleism.[362]
  • Christian Science is generally considered a Christian new religious movement. However, some have called it "pseudoscience" because its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, used "science" in its name, and because of its former stance against medical science. Also, "Eddy used the term Metaphysical science to distinguish her system both from materialistic science and from occult science."[363] The church now accepts the use of medical science. Vaccinations were banned, but in 1901, Eddy, at the age of 80, advised her followers to submit to them.[364]

Creation science

Creation science or scientific creationism, the belief that the origin of everything in the universe is the result of a first cause, brought about by a creator deity, and that this thesis is supported by geological, biological, and other scientific evidence.[365]

  • Creationist cosmologies – cosmologies which, among other things, allow for a universe that is only thousands of years old.[321]
  • Baraminology – taxonomic system that classifies animals into groups called "created kinds" or "baramins" according to the account of creation in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible.[366]
  • Creation biology – subset of creation science that tries to explain biology without macroevolution.[367]
  • Flood geology – creationist form of geology that advocates most of the geologic features on Earth are explainable by a global flood.[141][264][368][369]
  • Searches for Noah's Ark – attempts to find the burial site of Noah's Ark, that according to the Genesis flood narrative is located somewhere in the alleged "Mountains of Ararat". There have been numerous expeditions with several false claims of success; the practice is widely regarded as pseudoscience, more specifically pseudoarchaeology.[370][371][372][373]
  • Modern geocentrism – citing uniform gamma-ray bursts distribution, and other arguments of this type, as evidence that we (being in the Milky Way galaxy) are at the center of the cosmos.[374][375][376] Proponents got their initial belief from the Bible, then they cherry-pick scientific evidence to justify their position and claim that geocentrism is supported by science.[377]
  • Intelligent design – maintains that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[378] These features include:[107][379]
  • Irreducible complexity – claim that some biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler systems. It is used by proponents of intelligent design to argue that evolution by natural selection alone is incomplete or flawed, and that some additional mechanism (an "Intelligent Designer") is required to explain the origins of life.[380][381]
  • Specified complexity – claim that when something is simultaneously complex and specified, one can infer that it was produced by an intelligent cause (i.e., that it was designed) rather than being the result of natural processes.[107][379]


  • Dianetics, a therapeutic technique promoted by Scientology, purports to treat a hypothetical reactive mind. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of an actual reactive mind,[382] apart from the stimulus responsemechanisms documented in behaviorist psychology.
  • Scientology's Purification Rundown and Narconon programs purport to clean the human body of toxins and drugs respectively. Their methodology consists of very long saunas over many days, extremely large (possibly toxic) doses of vitamins including niacin, and Scientology 'training routines', sometimes including attempts at telekenesis. The programmes have been described as "medically unsafe",[383] "quackery"[384][385][386] and "medical fraud",[387] while academic and medical experts have dismissed Narconon's educational programme as containing "factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling".[388] In turn, Narconon has claimed that mainstream medicine is "biased" against it, and that "people who endorse so-called controlled drug use cannot be trusted to review a program advocating totally drug-free living."[389] Narconon has said that criticism of its programmes is "bigoted",[390] and that its critics are "in favor of drug abuse ... they are either using drugs or selling drugs".[391]


  • [392][393] Modern criticism differentiates between feng shui as a traditional proto-religion and the modern practice: "A naturalistic belief, it was originally used to find an auspicious dwelling place for a shrine or a tomb. However, over the centuries it... has become distorted and degraded into a gross superstition."[392]
  • Quantum mysticism – builds on a superficial similarity between certain New Age concepts and such seemingly counter-intuitive quantum mechanical concepts as the uncertainty principle, entanglement, and wave–particle duality, while generally ignoring the limitations imposed by quantum decoherence.[6][394][395][396][397] One of the most abused ideas is Bell's theorem, which proves the nonexistence of local hidden variables in quantum mechanics. Despite this, Bell himself rejected mystical interpretations of the theory.[398]

Consumer products

  • Cosmetics and cleaning products frequently make pseudoscientific claims about their products.[399] Claims are made about both the benefits or toxicity of certain products or ingredients. Practices include angel dusting, the addition of minuscule amounts of active ingredients to products which are insufficient to cause any measurable benefit. Examples of products include:
  • Anti-aging creams – predominantly moisturiser based cosmeceutical skin care products marketed with the promise of making the consumer look younger.[400]
  • Laundry balls – spherical or toroidal objects marketed as soap substitutes for washing machines.[6]

Idiosyncratic ideas

The following concepts have only a very small number of proponents, yet have become notable:

  • Lawsonomy – proposed philosophy and system of claims about physics made by baseball player and aviator Alfred William Lawson.[401]
  • [402]
  • [404][403]
  • Polywater – hypothetical polymerized form of water proposed in the 1960s with a higher boiling point, lower freezing point, and much higher viscosity than ordinary water. It was later found not to exist, with the anomalous measurements being explained by biological contamination.[405] Chains of molecules of varying length (depending on temperature) tend to form in normal liquid water without changing the freezing or boiling point.[406]
  • Time Cube[407] – a website created by Gene Ray, in 1997, where he sets out his personal model of reality, which he calls Time Cube. He suggests that all of modern physics is wrong,[408] and his Time Cube model proposes that each day is really four separate days occurring simultaneously.[409]
  • Timewave zeronumerological formula that was invented by psychonaut Terence McKenna with the help of the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine. After discovering 2012 doomsday predictions, he redesigned his formula to have a "zero-point" at the same date as the Mayan longcount calendar.[410][411]
  • Torsion field – hypothetical physical field responsible for ESP, homeopathy, levitation, and other paranormal phenomena.[412]
  • Welteislehre – notion by the Austrian Hanns Hörbiger that ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes.[413]

Parody pseudoscience

The following are notable parodies of other pseudosciences and pseudoscientific concepts. See also Category:Humorous hoaxes in science

See also


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Further reading

  • Park, Robert (2000).  
  • Singer, Barry; Abell, George O. (1983). Science and the paranormal: probing the existence of the supernatural. New York: Scribner.  
  • Collins, Paul (2002). Banvard's folly: thirteen tales of people who didn't change the world. New York: Picador USA.  
  • Gardner, Martin (1981). Science – good, bad and bogus. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books.  
  • Vaughn, Lewis; Schick, Theodore (1999). How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age. Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield Pub.  

External links

  • 'Reading room' of Skeptic Society website. Various articles on pseudoscience and related topics can be found here at any given time.
  • Essays by Michael Shermer at Scientific American. Shermer is a regular contributor to Scientific American, writing a column dealing with issues relating to skepticism and pseudoscience.
  • Baloney Detection Kit on YouTube (10 questions we should ask when encountering a pseudoscience claim)
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