This is a list of topics that have, either currently or in the past, been characterized as pseudoscience by academics or researchers. Detailed discussion of these topics may be found on their main pages. These characterizations were made in the context of educating the public about questionable or potentially fraudulent or dangerous claims and practices, efforts to define the nature of science, or humorous parodies of poor scientific reasoning.

Criticism of pseudoscience, generally by the scientific community or skeptical organizations, involves critiques of the 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 impinged on scientific domains or practices.

Many adherents or practitioners of the topics listed here dispute their characterization as pseudoscience. Each section here summarizes the alleged pseudoscientific aspects of that topic.

Physical sciences

Astronomy and space sciences

  • Anunnaki from Nibiru (Sitchin) (variant) – proposed by Zecharia Sitchin in his series The Earth Chronicles, beginning with The 12th Planet (1976), it revolves around Sitchin's unique interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts, megalithic sites, and artifacts from around the world. He hypothesizes that the gods of old Mesopotamia were actually astronauts from the planet "Nibiru", which Sitchin claims the Sumerians believed was a remote "12th planet" (counting the Sun, Moon and Pluto as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit the Sun on a 3,600-year elongated orbit.[5]
  • Ancient astronauts from the Sirius star-system (Temple) (variant) – Robert K. G. Temple's proposal in his book The Sirius Mystery (1976) argues that the Dogon people of northwestern Mali preserved an account of extraterrestrial visitation from around 5,000 years ago. He quotes various lines of evidence, including supposed advanced astronomical knowledge inherited by the tribe, descriptions, and comparative belief systems with ancient civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Sumer.[6]
  • The Face on Mars is a rock formation in Cydonia Mensae on Mars asserted to be evidence of intelligent, native life on the planet. High-resolution images taken recently show it to appear less face-like.[9] It features prominently in the works of Richard C. Hoagland and Tom Van Flandern.[10][11] This effect can also be explained by the psychological phenomenon pareidolia, whereby one assigns meaning (such as facial perception) to an otherwise ambiguous or meaningless stimulus.

Earth sciences

Physics

  • Water-fueled cars – an instance of perpetual motion machines. Such devices are claimed to use water as fuel or produce fuel from water on board with no other energy input. Many such claims are part of investment frauds.[36][37][38]
  • Gasoline pill or gasoline powder, which was claimed to turn water into gasoline.[39]
  • Hongcheng Magic Liquid – a scam in China in which Wang Hongcheng (Chinese: 王洪成; pinyin: Wáng Hóngchéng), a bus driver from Harbin with no scientific education, claimed in 1983 that he could turn regular water into a fuel as flammable as petrol by simply dissolving a few drops of his liquid in it.[40]

Applied sciences

Agriculture

Architecture

Finance

Health and medicine

See also: List of diagnoses characterized as pseudoscience and List of forms of alternative medicine

Pseudoscientific medical practices are often known as quackery. In contrast, modern medicine is (or seeks to be) evidence-based.

Technology

Social sciences

History

Main article: Pseudohistory

Psychology

Racial theories

See also: Historical race concepts

Sociology

Paranormal and ufology

Paranormal subjects[1][245][526][527] have been critiqued from a wide range of sources including the following claims of paranormal significance:

Numerology

Religious and spiritual beliefs

Spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, are normally not classified as pseudoscience.[572] 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.[572] The following religious/spiritual items have been related to or classified as pseudoscience in some way:

Creation science

Creation science or scientific creationism is a branch of creationism that claims to provide scientific support for the Genesis creation narrative in the Book of Genesis and disprove or reexplain the scientific facts, theories and scientific paradigms about geology, cosmology, biological evolution, archaeology, history and linguistics.[588][failed verification]

  • 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.[600][601][602][603][604]
  • 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.[483][599]

Scientology

Other

Idiosyncratic ideas

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

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry, 2007: "Psychoanalysis has existed before the turn of the 20th century and, in that span of years, has established itself as one of the fundamental disciplines within psychiatry. The science of psychoanalysis is the bedrock of psychodynamic understanding and forms the fundamental theoretical frame of reference for a variety of forms of therapeutic intervention, embracing not only psychoanalysis itself but also various forms of psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy and related forms of therapy using psychodynamic concepts."[491]
  2. ^ Robert Michels, 2009: "Psychoanalysis continues to be an important paradigm organizing the way many psychiatrists think about patients and treatment. However, its limitations are more widely recognized and it is assumed that many important advances in the future will come from other areas, particularly biologic psychiatry. As yet unresolved is the appropriate role of psychoanalytic thinking in organizing the treatment of patients and the training of psychiatrists after that biologic revolution has born fruit. Will treatments aimed at biologic defects or abnormalities become technical steps in a program organized in a psychoanalytic framework? Will psychoanalysis serve to explain and guide supportive intervention for individuals whose lives are deformed by biologic defect and therapeutic interventions, much as it now does for patients with chronic physical illness, with the psychoanalyst on the psychiatric dialysis program? Or will we look back on the role of psychoanalysis in the treatment of the seriously mentally ill as the last and most scientifically enlightened phase of the humanistic tradition in psychiatry, a tradition that became extinct when advances in biology allowed us to cure those we had so long only comforted?"[492]

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    But see also:

    Domingo, José L.; Bordonaba, Jordi Giné (2011). "A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants" (PDF). Environment International. 37 (4): 734–742. Bibcode:2011EnInt..37..734D. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2011.01.003. PMID 21296423. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2023. In spite of this, the number of studies specifically focused on safety assessment of GM plants is still limited. However, it is important to remark that for the first time, a certain equilibrium in the number of research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was observed. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that most of the studies demonstrating that GM foods are as nutritional and safe as those obtained by conventional breeding, have been performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible of commercializing these GM plants. Anyhow, this represents a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.

    Krimsky, Sheldon (2015). "An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment". Science, Technology, & Human Values. 40 (6): 883–914. doi:10.1177/0162243915598381. S2CID 40855100. I began this article with the testimonials from respected scientists that there is literally no scientific controversy over the health effects of GMOs. My investigation into the scientific literature tells another story.

    And contrast:

    Panchin, Alexander Y.; Tuzhikov, Alexander I. (14 January 2016). "Published GMO studies find no evidence of harm when corrected for multiple comparisons". Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 37 (2): 213–217. doi:10.3109/07388551.2015.1130684. ISSN 0738-8551. PMID 26767435. S2CID 11786594. Here, we show that a number of articles some of which have strongly and negatively influenced the public opinion on GM crops and even provoked political actions, such as GMO embargo, share common flaws in the statistical evaluation of the data. Having accounted for these flaws, we conclude that the data presented in these articles does not provide any substantial evidence of GMO harm.

    The presented articles suggesting possible harm of GMOs received high public attention. However, despite their claims, they actually weaken the evidence for the harm and lack of substantial equivalency of studied GMOs. We emphasize that with over 1783 published articles on GMOs over the last 10 years it is expected that some of them should have reported undesired differences between GMOs and conventional crops even if no such differences exist in reality.

    and

    Yang, Y.T.; Chen, B. (2016). "Governing GMOs in the USA: science, law and public health". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 96 (4): 1851–1855. Bibcode:2016JSFA...96.1851Y. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7523. PMID 26536836. It is therefore not surprising that efforts to require labeling and to ban GMOs have been a growing political issue in the USA (citing Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011). Overall, a broad scientific consensus holds that currently marketed GM food poses no greater risk than conventional food... Major national and international science and medical associations have stated that no adverse human health effects related to GMO food have been reported or substantiated in peer-reviewed literature to date.

    Despite various concerns, today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, and many independent international science organizations agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, less likely to create an unexpected outcome.
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