Eli5 -> Science vs pseudoscience


Hello everyone,
Wanted to know what constitutes a “science” compared to a “pseudoscience.” Also have there been pseudosciences in the past that later became an actual science? Any examples. Thanks.

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Pseudoscience by definition is an attempt to defraud or fake by using at least some of the language and imprimatur of science to sell bunk. I don’t think that’s ever led to anything substantial, except harm. There have been examples of fringe or revolutionary science which were either set aside until the mentality or technology of the age changed, or were rejected only to be accepted later, but these were good faith attempts to explore the world around them.

Tl;dr No, pseudoscience is the product of a certain type of lying.

So, science by definition is understanding our world through observation and experiment.

Meaning we watch things happen, or set up experiments to watch things happen, to try and understand what is going on.

For example, if we want to know what causes thing B to happen, a scientist might propose that Experiment A will cause thing B to happen. So they will set up Experiment A, and see if thing B happens.

And if it happens Multiple Times, like every time experiment A is run, then we can be confident that Experiment A, whatever it is, causes thing B.

But that’s the crucial part, these experiments and observations need to be REPEATABLE. That’s why scientific papers include HOW they did the experiment. So anyone else can go and try and recreate the experiment and see if Experiment A actually causes thing B to happen, or if the original scientists fucked something up or didn’t account for something.

This is the basics of the scientific method. Have a Question -> do research -> make a hypothesis -> conduct and experiment -> did it work? If yes, analyze the data and draw your conclusions. See if your hypothesis was right.

Pseudoscience is when someone believes or think that something is based on the scientific method, but in reality it fails to meet that criteria.

For example, things like Astrology and Homeopathy are pseudoscience because people believe that thing C causes thing D. When in reality thing C and D have no correlation to each other, there’s was just a coincidence once that made it seem like thing C causes thing D, when in reality those results are not reproducible, meaning there’s no way to prove it.

Another example is things like the Bermuda Triangle, where there is all kinds of evidence and hypothesis to why this area causes so many “strange” disappearances, when in reality there’s no proof that something is causes them, and also no real proof that these disappearances are so “strange”. In reality many can be chalked up to faulty equipment, a section of ocean buffeted by terrible storms, and the fact that it is a really really busy part of the world, with thousands and ships and planes passing through it, so of course some accidents are going to happen.

Pseudoscience is a catch-all term for scientific theories and practices that have no evidence to back them up, but its supporters still present them as if they’re legitimate and proven. They can include:

* Unverified medical treatments (bleach ‘cleanses’ to cure autism)

* Theories and practices that rely heavily on subjective observation or the placebo effect (homeopathy)

* Theories that are biased to support a particular ideological conclusion (phrenology)

* Theories and practices that were once assumed as correct, but disproven as research and technology improved (Lamarck’s theory of evolution)

* Theories and practices claiming something that can’t be measured or observed (ESP)

The prexif “pseudo-” indicates fakeness or pretense. So pseudoscience is a theory or practice that isn’t actually very scientific (i.e. doesn’t actually have good evidence behind it), but makes a big show out of *looking* scientific (often because appearing scientific helps people make easy money). Look at all these big cool science-looking words we’re using! This must be so legit, right?

A classic hallmark of pseudoscience is the appeal to a specific person of authority. Often there’ll be some specific doctor, dietist, researcher, guru, etc., who advocates for a particular theory or practice that will turn your whole life around. The anthroposophy movement and Rudolf Steiner is one example. This appeal to authority helps sell pseudoscience to lay people, because it makes it seem legit and academic.

In actual science, the word of a single person shouldn’t mean very much, regardless of how many fancy titles they have — and especially if what they’re saying goes against everyone else’s observations. Science at its best is a collaborative venture, where people all over the world figure out the truth together. So if you hear someone talk about how “Dr Whitestone has a degree from Harvard, and he wrote five books about how eating mustard seeds every morning will make you gain muscle twice as fast!” your pseudoscience alarm should be going off.

F= m x a
Force equals mass, times acceleration.
Meaning object with a mass of M, accelerated to a speed of A will always produce the same force of F.


While examples of pseudoscience can be something like “The healing properties of pyramid energy”.
It can also come from real science achieved with bad or incomplete data.

“Depleted uranium weapons cause cancer” – while toxic if injected DU does not have carcinogenic radiation properties as countless studies have found.