|There are the people who ignore the scientific method and enthusiastically accept untested personal testimony as public truth / Photo by Marek Uliasz via 123RF|
Science is valued by our society because the application of scientific knowledge helps in satisfying many basic human needs and also in improving our living standards. Science has led to a lot of discoveries and inventions that have contributed to the development of different aspects of society, from the medical field to the study of the universe, technology, and many more, all of which have helped in elevating our lives and shaping our society to what it is now today.
With the advances in science and technology, being "science literate" is no longer just an advantage now but an absolute necessity. It is needed to power our modern era and help people in thinking critically. Indeed, there's no denying the major significance of science in our world.
However, if most of us believe in science, there are those who turn to pseudoscience, and they have persisted throughout the years. They are the people who ignore the scientific method and enthusiastically accept untested personal testimony as public truth.
According to an article by Forbes, a Time/Yankelovich poll in 2015 reported that 80% of the people in the United States felt that their government is covering up information about extraterrestrials. It also revealed that about 57% of those surveyed were not aware that electrons are smaller than atoms; only 49% believed humans are warming the planet by burning fossil fuels; and 46% thought that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years."
At the same time, the interest of the public in science has been declining as revealed by a Pew Research poll. Although the role of science in discoveries and helping our society has already been proven, there's still too much to do in debunking pseudoscience more.
What is Pseudoscience?
Some people have probably watched, heard, or read incredibly tenuous theories with no evidence of many topics or issues. For instance, there are some persistent beliefs that aliens visited our planet in ancient times and influenced the civilizations existing then. Although there is still no concrete evidence about it, there are still a number of people who accept this.
According to an article by The Boar, pseudoscience is "essentially practices or beliefs that claim to be scientific or rooted in fact, but have no scientific method to back them up." This means that it can't be tested scientifically, disproved scientifically, or there's a lack of evidence to support it. One perfect example of this is astrology in which proponents believe that our planet's position with respect to other celestial bodies has an impact on our daily behavior and guides our destiny.
Most of the time, pseudoscience relies on exaggerated, contradictory, or unfalsifiable claims. Although these claims have a historical basis, scientists and researchers have already debunked them. Some of the most popular examples of pseudoscience are the 2012 Doomsday Scare where large-scale disasters or even the end of the world were expected to happen on that year, the flat Earth theory that claims our planet is actually flat and disc-shaped, and the existence of mythical creatures, such as elves, pixies, and gnomes. These examples are popular to the public since they have seen their way in books, movies, television shows, magazines, and other forms of media.
|Being "science literate" is no longer just an advantage now but an absolute necessity / Photo by Nicoelnino via 123RF|
Most of the time, pseudoscience shows a total indifference to validate the evidence. Its emphasis is not on controlled, meaningful, or repeatable scientific experiments. Instead, pseudoscience highlights stories, unverifiable eyewitness testimony, blurry photos, faked proofs, tall tales, dubious anecdotes, rumors, and hearsays.
Examples of pseudoscience have no valid modern scientific literature cited, thus, no research has been done about them. Generally, believers never present any valid evidence of any kind whatsoever for their claims. Aside from that, pseudoscience relies heavily on subjective validation, depends on arbitrary conventions of human culture, and always achieves a reduction to absurdity. Ultimately, it often contradicts itself even in its own terms.
Why Do People Believe in Pseudoscience?
One of the reasons why there are a lot of people who believe in pseudoscience is that they do not have a good understanding of real science. Christopher French, professor of psychology and head of the Anomalistic Research Unit at Goldsmiths University, stated that purveyors of medical pseudoscience often uses terms like vibrations, energy, resonance, frequencies, and many more to describe their interventions. However, none of these terms are precisely being used by real scientists.
In an interview with Gizmodo, French said, "Many pseudoscientists will also refer to the latest ideas in real science to imply that their claims are derived from the latest cutting-edge theories." For instance, they would claim that homeopathy is consistent with quantum mechanics, which is not true because homeopathy is not consistent with any accepted scientific theory.
Another reason is that people tend to take mental shortcuts, also known as "cognitive biases," to understand one topic. Cognitive biases often drive pseudoscientific beliefs, which engage more people. Some examples include essentialist thinking and teleological thinking. There are pseudoscientific claims that often take advantage of this to support logically and scientifically absurd conclusions.
Corinne Zimmerman, professor of Psychology at Illinois State University said, "All cognitive biases allow people to end up with a ‘good enough’ understanding of their world rather than a sophisticated understanding of the world."