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Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.
A field, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research; but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms. Science is also distinguishable from revelation, theology, or spirituality in that it offers insight into the physical world obtained by empirical research and testing. Commonly held beliefs in popular science may not meet the criteria of science. "Pop" science may blur the divide between science and pseudoscience among the general public, and may also involve science fiction. Pseudoscientific beliefs are widespread, even among public school science teachers and newspaper reporters.
The demarcation problem between science and pseudoscience has ethical political implications as well as philosphical and scientific issues. Differentiating science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, and science education. Distinguishing scientific facts and theories from pseudoscientific beliefs such as those found in astrology, medical quackery, and occult beliefs combined with scientific concepts, is part of science education and scientific literacy.
The term pseudoscience is often considered inherently pejorative, because it suggests that something is being inaccurately or even deceptively portrayed as science. Accordingly, those labeled as practicing or advocating pseudoscience normally dispute the characterization.
The word "pseudoscience" is derived from the Greek root pseudo meaning false and the Latin word scientia meaning knowledge. Although the term "pseudoscience" has been in use since at least the late 18th century (used in 1796 in reference to alchemy), the concept of pseudoscience as distinct from real or proper science appears to have emerged in the mid-19th century. Among the first recorded uses of the word "pseudo-science" was in 1844 in the Northern Journal of Medicine, I 387: "That opposite kind of innovation which pronounces what has been recognized as a branch of science, to have been a pseudo-science, composed merely of so-called facts, connected together by misapprehensions under the disguise of principles". An earlier recorded use of the term was in 1843 by the French physiologist François Magendie. During the 20th century the word was used rhetorically to ascribe to an action falsely maintaining scientific status. Though from time to time the usage of the word occurred in a more formal, technical manner around a perceived threat to individual and institutional security in a social and cultural setting.
The history of pseudoscience is the study of pseudoscientific theories over time. A pseudoscience is a set of ideas that presents itself as science, while it does not meet the criteria to properly be called such.
Distinguishing between proper science and pseudoscience is sometimes difficult. One popular proposal for demarcation between the two is the falsification criterion, most notably contributed to by the philosopher Karl Popper. In the history of pseudoscience it can be especially hard to separate the two, because some sciences developed from pseudosciences. An example of this is the science chemistry, which traces its origins to the pseudoscience alchemy.
The vast diversity in pseudosciences further complicates the history of pseudoscience. Some pseudosciences originated in the pre-scientific era, such as astrology and acupuncture. Others developed as part of an ideology, such as Lysenkoism, or as a response to perceived threats to an ideology. Examples are creation science and intelligent design, which were developed in response to the scientific theory of evolution.
Despite failing to meet proper scientific standards, many pseudosciences survive. This is usually due to a persistent core of devotees who refuse to accept scientific criticism of their beliefs, or due to popular misconceptions. Sheer popularity is also a factor, as is attested by astrology which remains popular despite being rejected by a large majority of scientists.
While the standards for determining whether a body of knowledge, methodology, or practice is scientific can vary from field to field, there are a number of basic principles that are widely agreed upon by scientists. The basic notion is that all experimental results should be reproducible, and able to be verified by other individuals. These principles aim to ensure that experiments can be measurably reproduced under the same conditions, allowing further investigation to determine whether a hypothesis or theory related to given phenomena is both valid and reliable. Standards require that the scientific method will be applied throughout, and that bias will be controlled for or eliminated through randomization, fair sampling procedures, blinding of studies, and other methods. All gathered data, including the experimental or environmental conditions, are expected to be documented for scrutiny and made available for peer review, allowing further experiments or studies to be conducted to confirm or falsify results. Statistical quantification of significance, confidence, and error are also important tools for the scientific method.
In the mid-20th century Karl Popper put forth the criterion of falsifiability to distinguish science from non-science. Falsifiability means that a result can be disproved. For example, a statement such as "God created the universe" may be true or false, but no tests can be devised that could prove it either way; it simply lies outside the reach of science. Popper used astrology and psychoanalysis as examples of pseudoscience and Einstein's theory of relativity as an example of science. He subdivided non-science into philosophical, mathematical, mythological, religious and/or metaphysical formulations on the one hand, and pseudoscientific formulations on the other, though he did not provide clear criteria for the differences.
Refusal to acknowledge problems
In 1978, Paul Thagard proposed that pseudoscience is primarily distinguishable from science when it is less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and its proponents fail to acknowledge or address problems with the theory. In 1983, Mario Bunge has suggested the categories of "belief fields" and "research fields" to help distinguish between pseudoscience and science, where the first is primarily personal and subjective and the latter involves a certain systematic approach.
Scientifically meaningless arguments
Philosophers of science such as Paul Feyerabend have argued from a sociology of knowledge perspective that a distinction between science and non-science is neither possible nor desirable. Among the issues which can make the distinction difficult is variable rates of evolution among the theories and methodologies of science in response to new data. In addition, specific standards applicable to one field of science may not be employed in other fields.
Larry Laudan has suggested that pseudoscience has no scientific meaning and is mostly used to describe our emotions: "If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like 'pseudo-science' and 'unscientific' from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us". Likewise, Richard McNally states that "The term 'pseudoscience' has become little more than an inflammatory buzzword for quickly dismissing one’s opponents in media sound-bites" and that "When therapeutic entrepreneurs make claims on behalf of their interventions, we should not waste our time trying to determine whether their interventions qualify as pseudoscientific. Rather, we should ask them: How do you know that your intervention works? What is your evidence?"
Systematized as scientific definition Treated with scientific method Tries to be science or just looks like science Superstitions Pseudoscience Fringe science Protoscience Mainstream science
A field, practice, or body of knowledge might reasonably be called pseudoscientific when (1) it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research; but (2) it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.
Karl Popper stated that it is insufficient to distinguish science from pseudoscience, or from metaphysics, by the criterion of rigorous adherence to the empirical method, which is essentially inductive, based on observation or experimentation. He proposed a method to distinguish between genuine empirical, non-empirical or even pseudo-empirical methods. The latter case was exemplified by astrology which appeals to observation and experimentation. While it had astonishing empirical evidence based on observation, on horoscopes and biographies it crucially failed to adhere to acceptable scientific standards. Popper proposed falsifiability as an important criterion in distinguishing science from pseudoscience.
To demonstrate this point, Popper gave two cases of human behavior and typical explanations from Freud and Adler's theories: "that of a man who pushes a child into the water with the intention of drowning it; and that of a man who sacrifices his life in an attempt to save the child." From Freud's perspective, the first man would have suffered from psychological repression, probably originating from an Oedipus complex whereas the second had attained sublimation. From Adler's perspective, the first and second man suffered from feelings of inferiority and had to prove himself which drove him to commit the crime or, in the second case, rescue the child. Popper was not able to find any counter-examples of human behavior in which the behavior could not be explained in the terms of Adler's or Freud's theory. Popper argued that it was that the observation always fitted or confirmed the theory which, rather than being its strength, was actually its weakness.
In contrast, Popper gave the example of Einstein's gravitational theory which predicted that "light must be attracted by heavy bodies (such as the sun), precisely as material bodies were attracted." Following from this, stars closer to the sun would appear to have moved a small distance away from the sun, and away from each other. This prediction was particularly striking to Popper because it involved considerable risk. The brightness of the sun prevented this effect from being observed under normal circumstances, so photographs had to be taken during an eclipse and compared to photographs taken at night. Popper states, "If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted." Popper summed up his criterion for the scientific status of a theory as depending on its falsifiability, refutability, or testability.
Paul R. Thagard used astrology as a case study to distinguish science from pseudoscience and proposed principles and criteria to delineate them. First, astrology has not progressed in that it has not been updated nor added any explanatory power since Ptolemy. Second, it has ignored outstanding problems such as the precession of equinoxes in astronomy. Third, alternative theories of personality and behavior have grown progressively to encompass explanations of phenomena which astrology statically attributes to heavenly forces. Fourth, astrologers have remained uninterested in furthering the theory to deal with outstanding problems or in critically evaluating the theory in relation to other theories. Thagard intended this criterion to be extended to areas other than astrology. He believed that it would delineate pseudoscientific practices as witchcraft and pyramidology, while leaving physics, chemistry and biology in the realm of science. Biorhythms, which like astrology relied uncritically on birth dates, did not meet the criterion of pseudoscience at the time because there were no alternative explanations for the same observations. The use of this criterion has the consequence that a theory can at one time be scientific and at another pseudoscientific.
Science is also distinguishable from revelation, theology, or spirituality in that it offers insight into the physical world obtained by empirical research and testing. For this reason, the teaching of creation science and intelligent design has been strongly condemned in position statements from scientific organisations. The most notable disputes concern the evolution of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geologic history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system, and the origin of the universe. Systems of belief that derive from divine or inspired knowledge are not considered pseudoscience if they do not claim either to be scientific or to overturn well-established science. Moreover, some specific religious claims, such as the power of intercessory prayer to heal the sick can be tested by the scientific method, though they may be based on non-testable beliefs.
Some statements and commonly held beliefs in popular science may not meet the criteria of science. "Pop" science may blur the divide between science and pseudoscience among the general public, and may also involve science fiction. Indeed, pop science is disseminated to, and can also easily emanate from, persons not accountable to scientific methodology and expert peer review.
If the claims of a given field can be experimentally tested and methodological standards are upheld, it is not "pseudoscience", however odd, astonishing, or counter-intuitive. If claims made are inconsistent with existing experimental results or established theory, but the methodology is sound, caution should be used; science consists of testing hypotheses which may turn out to be false. In such a case, the work may be better described as ideas that are not yet generally accepted. Protoscience is a term sometimes used to describe a hypothesis that has not yet been adequately tested by the scientific method, but which is otherwise consistent with existing science or which, where inconsistent, offers reasonable account of the inconsistency. It may also describe the transition from a body of practical knowledge into a scientific field.
Examples of pseudoscience concepts, proposed as scientific when they are not scientific, are creation science, intelligent design, orgone energy, N-rays, ch'i, L. Ron Hubbard's engram theory, enneagram, iridology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, New Age psychotherapies (e.g., rebirthing therapy), reflexology, applied kinesiology, astrology, biorhythms, facilitated communication, plant perception, extrasensory perception (ESP), Velikovsky's ideas, von Däniken's ideas, Sitchen's ideas, anthropometry, post-normal science, craniometry, graphology, metoposcopy, personology, physiognomy, acupuncture, alchemy, cellular memory, Lysenkoism, naturopathy, reiki, Rolfing, therapeutic touch, ayurvedic medicine, and homeopathy. Robert T. Carroll stated in part: "Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence, and they may even use some scientific methods, though often their understanding of a controlled experiment is inadequate. Many pseudoscientists relish being able to point out the consistency of their ideas with known facts or with predicted consequences, but they do not recognize that such consistency is not proof of anything. It is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition that a good scientific theory be consistent with the facts."
In 2006 the US National Science Foundation (NSF) issued an executive summary of a paper on science and engineering which briefly discussed the prevalence of pseudoscience in modern times. It said that "belief in pseudoscience is widespread" and, referencing a Gallup Poll, stated that belief in the ten commonly believed examples of paranormal phenomena listed in the poll were "pseudoscientific beliefs". The ten items were: "extrasensory perception (ESP), that houses can be haunted, ghosts, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, that people can communicate mentally with someone who has died, witches, reincarnation, and channelling." Such beliefs in pseudoscience reflect a lack of knowledge of how science works. The scientific community may aim to communicate information about science out of concern for the public's susceptibility to unproven claims. The following are some of the indicators of the possible presence of pseudoscience.
Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims
- Assertion of scientific claims that are vague rather than precise, and that lack specific measurements.
- Failure to make use of operational definitions (i.e. publicly accessible definitions of the variables, terms, or objects of interest so that persons other than the definer can independently measure or test them). (See also: Reproducibility)
- Failure to make reasonable use of the principle of parsimony, i.e. failing to seek an explanation that requires the fewest possible additional assumptions when multiple viable explanations are possible (see: Occam's razor)
- Use of obscurantist language, and use of apparently technical jargon in an effort to give claims the superficial trappings of science.
- Lack of boundary conditions: Most well-supported scientific theories possess well-articulated limitations under which the predicted phenomena do and do not apply.
- Lack of effective controls, such as placebo and double-blind, in experimental design.
- Lack of understanding of basic and established principles of physics and engineering.
Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation
- Assertions that do not allow the logical possibility that they can be shown to be false by observation or physical experiment (see also: falsifiability)
- Assertion of claims that a theory predicts something that it has not been shown to predict. Scientific claims that do not confer any predictive power are considered at best "conjectures", or at worst "pseudoscience" (e.g. Ignoratio elenchi)
- Assertion that claims which have not been proven false must be true, and vice versa (see: Argument from ignorance)
- Over-reliance on testimonial, anecdotal evidence, or personal experience. This evidence may be useful for the context of discovery (i.e. hypothesis generation) but should not be used in the context of justification (e.g. Statistical hypothesis testing).
- Presentation of data that seems to support its claims while suppressing or refusing to consider data that conflict with its claims. This is an example of selection bias, a distortion of evidence or data that arises from the way that the data are collected. It is sometimes referred to as the selection effect.
- Reversed burden of proof. In science, the burden of proof rests on those making a claim, not on the critic. "Pseudoscientific" arguments may neglect this principle and demand that skeptics demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a claim (e.g. an assertion regarding the efficacy of a novel therapeutic technique) is false. It is essentially impossible to prove a universal negative, so this tactic incorrectly places the burden of proof on the skeptic rather than the claimant.
- Appeals to holism as opposed to reductionism: Proponents of pseudoscientific claims, especially in organic medicine, alternative medicine, naturopathy and mental health, often resort to the "mantra of holism" to explain negative findings.
Lack of openness to testing by other experts
- Evasion of peer review before publicizing results (called "science by press conference"). Some proponents of ideas that contradict accepted scientific theories avoid subjecting their ideas to peer review, sometimes on the grounds that peer review is biased towards established paradigms, and sometimes on the grounds that assertions cannot be evaluated adequately using standard scientific methods. By remaining insulated from the peer review process, these proponents forgo the opportunity of corrective feedback from informed colleagues.
- Some agencies, institutions, and publications that fund scientific research require authors to share data so that others can evaluate a paper independently. Failure to provide adequate information for other researchers to reproduce the claims contributes to a lack of openness.
- Appealing to the need for secrecy or proprietary knowledge when an independent review of data or methodology is requested.
Absence of progress
- Failure to progress towards additional evidence of its claims. Terence Hines has identified astrology as a subject that has changed very little in the past two millennia. (see also: scientific progress)
- Lack of self correction: scientific research programmes make mistakes, but they tend to eliminate these errors over time. By contrast, ideas may be accused of being pseudoscientific because they have remained unaltered despite contradictory evidence. The work Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1976) Cornell University, also delves into these features in some detail, as does the work of Thomas Kuhn, e.g. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which also discusses some of the items on the list of characteristics of pseudoscience.
- Statistical significance of supporting experimental results does not improve over time and are usually close to the cutoff for statistical significance. Normally, experimental techniques improve or the experiments are repeated and this gives ever stronger evidence. If statistical significance does not improve, this typically shows that the experiments have just been repeated until a success occurs due to chance variations.
Personalization of issues
- Tight social groups and authoritarian personality, suppression of dissent, and groupthink can enhance the adoption of beliefs that have no rational basis. In attempting to confirm their beliefs, the group tends to identify their critics as enemies.
- Assertion of claims of a conspiracy on the part of the scientific community to suppress the results.
- Attacking the motives or character of anyone who questions the claims (see Ad hominem fallacy).
Use of misleading language
- Creating scientific-sounding terms in order to add weight to claims and persuade non-experts to believe statements that may be false or meaningless. For example, a long-standing hoax refers to water by the rarely used formal name "dihydrogen monoxide" (DHMO) and describes it as the main constituent in most poisonous solutions to show how easily the general public can be misled.
- Using established terms in idiosyncratic ways, thereby demonstrating unfamiliarity with mainstream work in the discipline.
In his book, The Most Precious Thing, Carl Sagan discusses the government of China and the Chinese Communist Party concern about Western pseudoscience developments and certain ancient Chinese practices in China. He sees pseudoscience occurring in the U.S. as part of a worldwide trend and suggests its causes, dangers, diagnosis and treatment may be universal. In Spain, another science writer Luis Alfonso Gámez was sued after he notified the public about the lack of efficacy to support the claims of a popular pseudoscientist. In the US, 54% of the population believe in psychic healing and 35% believe in telepathy. In Europe, the statistics are not that much different. A significant percentage of Europeans consider homeopathy (34%) and horoscopes (13%) to be reliable science. Over the past decade there has been an increased consumer interest in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices and/or products. Surveys demonstrate that the people with the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer, chronic pain, and HIV, are the most routine consumers of CAM.
The National Science Foundation stated that pseudoscientific beliefs in the U.S. became more widespread during the 1990s, peaked near 2001 and declined slightly since with pseudoscientific beliefs remaining common. According to the NSF report, there is a lack of knowledge of pseudoscientific issues in society and pseudoscientific practices are commonly followed. Bunge states that "A survey on public knowledge of science in the United States showed that in 1988 50% of American adults [rejected] evolution, and 88% believed astrology is a science." Other surveys indicate that about a third of all adult Americans consider astrology to be scientific.
In the Journal of College Science Teaching, Art Hobson writes "Pseudoscientific beliefs are surprisingly widespread in our culture even among public school science teachers and newspaper editors, and are closely related to scientific illiteracy."
Pseudoscientific thinking has been explained in terms of psychology and social psychology. The human proclivity for seeking confirmation rather than refutation (confirmation bias), the tendency to hold comforting beliefs, and the tendency to overgeneralize have been proposed as reasons for the common adherence to pseudoscientific thinking. According to Beyerstein (1991), humans are prone to associations based on resemblances only, and often prone to misattribution in cause-effect thinking.
Lindeman states that social motives (i.e., "to comprehend self and the world, to have a sense of control over outcomes, to belong, to find the world benevolent and to maintain one’s self-esteem") are often "more easily" fulfilled by pseudoscience than by scientific information. Furthermore, pseudoscientific explanations are generally not analyzed rationally, but instead experientially. Operating within a different set of rules compared to rational thinking, experiential thinking regards an explanation as valid if the explanation is "personally functional, satisfying and sufficient", offering a description of the world that may be more personal than can be provided by science and reducing the amount of potential work involved in understanding complex events and outcomes.
In our culture and thinking, people appear to have trouble distinguishing science from pseuodoscience. The prime reason people believe in wishful things is because they want to, it feels good and it is consoling. Many weird beliefs give immediate gratification. Immediate gratification of a person's belief is made a lot easier by simple explanantions for an often complicated and contingent world. The scientific and secular systems of morality and meaning is generally unsatisfying to most people. Humans are, by nature, a forward-minded species pursuing greater avenues of happiness and satisfaction but we are all too frequently willing to grasp at unrealistic promises of a better life.
Psychology has much to discuss about pseudoscience thinking, as it is the illusory perceptions of causality and effectiveness of numerous individuals that needs to be illuminated. Research suggests that illusionary thinking that happens in most people when exposed to certain circumstances such as reading a book, an advertisement or the testimony of others are the basis of pseudoscience beliefs. It is assumed that illusions are not unusual, and given the right conditions, illusions are able to occur systematically even in normal emotional situations. One of the things pseudoscience believers quibble most about is that academic science usually treats them as fools. Minimizing these illusions in the real world is not simple. To this aim, designing evidence-based educational programs can be effective to help people identify and reduce their own illusions.
Boundaries between protoscience, science, and pseudoscience
Many philosophers attempt to solve the issue of demarcation in the following way: a statement makes up knowledge if many people strongly believe in it. But the history of thought demonstrates that many people are completely dedicated to absurd beliefs. If the power of beliefs were the basis of knowledge, we should have to rank, for example, some of the tales of demons and angels as knowledge. On the other hand, scientists are skeptical about their best theories. Newton's is the most robust theory science has to offer, yet Newton himself never thought bodies attract each other over a distance. So no amount of dedication to beliefs makes them knowledge. The basis of scientific behavior is a reasonable skepticism towards one's most prized theories. Blind dedication to a theory is not an intellectual virtue: it is an intellectual sin. Thus a statement can possibly be pseudoscientific even if it is plausible and everybody believes in it, and it can possibly be scientifically valuable even if it is incredulous and nobody believes in it.
The boundary lines between the science and pseudoscience are disputed and difficult to determine analytically, even after more than a century of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in varied fields, and despite some basic agreements on the fundaments of scientific methodology. The concept of pseudoscience rests on an understanding that scientific methodology has been misrepresented or misapplied with respect to a given theory, but many philosophers of science maintain that different kinds of methods are held as appropriate across different fields and different eras of human history. According to Lakatos, the typical descriptive unit of great scientific achievements is not an isolated hypothesis but "a powerful problem-solving machinery, which, with the help of sophisticated mathematical techniques, digests anomalies and even turns them into positive evidence."
To Popper, pseudoscience uses conjecture to generate theories, and only conducts experiments to inquire to verify them. To Popper, falsifiability is what shows the scientific status of a theory. Looking at a historical approach, Kuhn viewed that scientists did not follow Popper's decree, and falsifying data could be overlooked. Kuhn identified puzzle-solving within a paradigm as science. Lakatos tried to conclude this debate, by saying history demonstrates that science occurs in research programs. Feyerabend believed that Lakatos was choosy in his examples, and the entire history of science demonstrates there is no universal standard of scientific method.
Politics, health and education
The demarcation problem between science and pseudoscience brings up debate in the realms of science, philosophy and politics. Imre Lakatos, for instance, points out that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at one point declared that Mendelian genetics was pseudoscientific and had its advocates, including well-established scientists such as Nikolai Vavilov, sent to a Gulag and that the "liberal Establishment of the West" denies freedom of speech to topics it regards as pseudoscience, particularly where they run up against social mores.
Pseudoscience activities is used recurrently in political, policy-making discourse in allegations of distortion or fabrication of scientific findings to support a political position. The Prince of Wales has accused climate change skeptics of using pseudoscience and persuasion to hinder the world from adopting precautionary principles to avert catastrophic global warming. People have given attention to the climate skeptics and have tried to understand the kind of pseudoscience they are canvassing. But he insisted the "environmental collapse" evidence is already here. Not only in climbing temperatures but the imprint on particular species like honey bees.
It becomes pseudoscientific when science cannot be separated from ideology, scientists misrepresents scientific findings to promote or draw attention for publicity, when politicians, journalists and a nations intellectual elite distort the facts of science for short-term political gain, when powerful individuals in the public conflate causation and cofactors of HIV/AIDS through a mixture of clever wordplay, or when science is being used by the powerful to promote ignorance rather than tackle ignorance. These ideas reduce the authority, value, integrity and independence of science in society.
It is a fact that a large percentage of the population lacks scientific literacy, not adequately understanding scientific principles and methodology. Instead of seeking scientific professionals for expert medical advise, people increasingly put their trust in pseudoscience, with its claims that are not supported and not testable. People who have spent their lives in scientific discovery and medical progress have been drowned out by detractors of all things from evolution to animal models of human biology. The backlash against science threatens to halt progress in combating disease and erodes public support for research and development. The ridicule of researchers has been a tool for political advantage, assisting to the public condemnation of science and medicine.
Health and education implications
Distinguishing science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, and science education. Treatments with a patina of scientific authority which have not actually been subjected to actual scientific testing may be ineffective, expensive, and dangerous to patients, and confuse health providers, insurers, government decision makers, and the public as to what treatments are appropriate. Claims advanced by pseudoscience may result in government officials and educators making poor decisions in selecting curriculum, for example, Creation Science may replace evolution in studies of biology.
The extent to which students acquire social and a range of cognitive thinking skills related to the proper usage of science/technology determines whether they are scientifically literate. Education in the sciences encounter new dimensions with the changing landscape of science and technology, a fast changing culture, and a knowledge driven era. A reinvention of the school science curricula is one that shapes students to contend with the changing infleuncing human welfare. A scientifically literate person is able to distinguish science from pseudoscience such as astrology, are among the attributes that enable students to adapt to the changing world. Science literacy characteristics are embedded in a curriculum where students are engaged in resolving problems, conductung investigations, or developing projects.
Scientists do not want to get involved to counter pseudoscience for various reasons. For example, pseudoscientific beliefs are irrational and impossible to combat with rational arguments and even agreeing to talk about pseudoscience we accept it as a credible discipline. Pseudoscience harbor a continuous and an increasing threat to our society. It is impossible to determine the irreversible harm that will happen in the distance. In a time when the science literacy of the public has declined and the danger of pseudoscience has increased, revising the conventional science course to current science through the prism of pseudoscience could offer away to improve science literacy and help society to eliminate misconceptions and assaulting growing trends (remote viewing, psychic readings, etc.) that may harm (financially or otherwise) trusting citizens.
Pseudosciences such as homeopathy, even if generally benign, are magnets for charlatans. This poses a serious issue because incompetent practitioners should not be given the right of administering health care. True-believing zealots may pose a more serious threat than typical con men because of their affection to homeopathy's ideology. Irrational health care is not harmless, and it is careless to create patient confidence in pseudomedicine.
- ^ "Pseudoscientific - pretending to be scientific, falsely represented as being scientific", from the Oxford American Dictionary, published by the Oxford English Dictionary; Hansson, Sven Ove (1996).“Defining Pseudoscience”, Philosophia Naturalis, 33: 169–176, as cited in "Science and Pseudo-science" (2008) in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Stanford article states: "Many writers on pseudoscience have emphasized that pseudoscience is non-science posing as science. The foremost modern classic on the subject (Gardner 1957) bears the title Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. According to Brian Baigrie (1988, 438), “[w]hat is objectionable about these beliefs is that they masquerade as genuinely scientific ones.” These and many other authors assume that to be pseudoscientific, an activity or a teaching has to satisfy the following two criteria (Hansson 1996): (1) it is not scientific, and (2) its major proponents try to create the impression that it is scientific".
- For example, Hewitt et al. Conceptual Physical Science Addison Wesley; 3 edition (July 18, 2003) ISBN 0-321-05173-4, Bennett et al. The Cosmic Perspective 3e Addison Wesley; 3 edition (July 25, 2003) ISBN 0-8053-8738-2; See also, e.g., Gauch HG Jr. Scientific Method in Practice (2003).
- A 2006 National Science Foundation report on Science and engineering indicators quoted Michael Shermer's (1997) definition of pseudoscience: '"claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility"(p. 33). In contrast, science is "a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation"(p. 17)'.Shermer M. (1997). Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. ISBN 0716730901. as cited by National Science Board. National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics (2006). "Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding". Science and engineering indicators 2006. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind06/c7/c7s2.htm.
- "A pretended or spurious science; a collection of related beliefs about the world mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method or as having the status that scientific truths now have," from the Oxford English Dictionary, second edition 1989.
- ^ a b c Cover JA, Curd M (Eds, 1998) Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, 1-82.
- ^ a b Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping magisteria", Natural History, March, 1997.
- ^ a b c George Pendle, Popular Science Feature - When Science Fiction is Science Fact.
- ^ a b Art Hobson (2011). "Teaching Relevant Science for Scientific Literacy". Journal of College Science Teaching. http://physics.uark.edu/hobson/pubs/00.12.JCST.pdf.
- ^ a b c d Imre Lakatos, Science and Pseudoscience, Science and Pseudoscience (transcript), Dept of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, 1973.
- ^ a b Hansson, Sven Ove (September 3, 2008). "Science and Pseudo-Science". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/#PurDem. Retrieved April 16, 2011. "From a practical point of view, the distinction is important for decision guidance in both private and public life. Since science is our most reliable source of knowledge in a wide variety of areas, we need to distinguish scientific knowledge from its look-alikes. Due to the high status of science in present-day society, attempts to exaggerate the scientific status of various claims, teachings, and products are common enough to make the demarcation issue pressing in many areas."
- ^ a b Hurd PD (June 1998). "Scientific literacy: New minds for a changing world". Science Education 82 (3): 407–416. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-237X(199806)82:3<407::AID-SCE6>3.0.CO;2-G.
- ^ a b "Science and Pseudoscience" in. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Laudan, Larry (1983). “The demise of the demarcation problem”, in R.S. Cohan and L. Laudan (eds.), Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysiss: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science , 76, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 111–127. ISBN 90-277-1533-5
- ^ "pseudoscience". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
- ^ Andrews, James Pettit; Henry, Robert (1796). History of Great Britain, from the death of Henry VIII to the accession of James VI of Scotland to the Crown of England. II. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies. p. 87. http://books.google.com/?id=QIUUAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA87&dq=%22pseudo-science%22#v=onepage&q=%22pseudo-science%22&f=true. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- ^ a b Magendie, F (1843) An Elementary Treatise on Human Physiology. 5th Ed. Tr. John Revere. New York: Harper, p 150. Magendie refers to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day" (note the hyphen).
- ^ Still A, Dryden W (2004). "The Social Psychology of "Pseudoscience": A Brief History". J Theory Soc Behav 34 (3): 265–290. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8308.2004.00248.x.
- ^ "Pseudoscientific - pretending to be scientific, falsely represented as being scientific", from the Oxford American Dictionary, published by the Oxford English Dictionary
- ^ The Skeptic's Dictionary entry on 'Pseudoscience'
- ^ Humphrey Taylor. "The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans 2003". http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=359. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
- ^ "Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding". National Science Foundation. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind06/c7/c7s2.htm#c7s2l3. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
- ^ "Astrology". Encarta. Microsoft. 2008. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552380/Astrology.html. Retrieved 2007-08-28. "Scientists have long rejected the principles of astrology, but millions of people continue to believe in or practice it."
- ^ Astrology: Fraud or Superstition? by Chaz Bufe "Astrology Fraud or Superstition". See Sharp Press. http://www.seesharppress.com/astro.html.
- ^ Bowler, Peter J. (2003). Evolution: The History of an Idea (3rd ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-52023693-9. p. 128
- ^ e.g. Gauch, Hugh G., Jr. (2003), Scientific Method in Practice, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-01708-4, 435 pages, 3-5 ff
- ^ Gauch (2003), 191 ff, especially Chapter 6, "Probability", and Chapter 7, "inductive Logic and Statistics"
- ^ Popper, KR (1959) "The Logic of Scientific Discovery". The German version is currently in print by Mohr Siebeck (ISBN 3-16-148410-X), the English one by Routledge publishers (ISBN 0-415-27844-9).
- ^ Karl R. Popper: Science: Conjectures and Refutations. Conjectures and Refutations (1963), p. 43–86;
- ^ Paul R. Thagard "Why Astrology is a Pseudoscience" in PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol. 1978, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1978), pp. 223-234, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Association 223 ff.
- ^ Bunge M (1983) "Demarcating science from pseudoscience" Fundamenta Scientiae 3:369-388
- ^ Feyerabend, P. (1975) Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge ISBN 0860916464 Table of contents and final chapter.
- ^ For a perspective on Feyerabend from within the scientific community, see, e.g., Gauch (2003) at p.4: "Such critiques are unfamiliar to most scientists, although some may have heard a few distant shots from the so-called science wars."
- ^ Thagard PR (1978) "Why astrology is a pseudoscience" (1978) In PSA 1978, Volume 1, ed. Asquith PD and Hacking I (East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1978) 223 ff. Thagard writes, at 227, 228: "We can now propose the following principle of demarcation: A theory or discipline which purports to be scientific is pseudoscientific if and only if: it has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; but the community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and non confirmations."
- ^ Laudan L (1996) "The demise of the demarcation problem" in Ruse, Michael, But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy pp. 337-350.
- ^ McNally RJ (2003) Is the pseudoscience concept useful for clinical psychology? The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, vol. 2, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2003)
- ^ Reflections on the reception of unconventional claims in science, newsletter Center for Frontier Sciences, Temple University (1990).
- ^ Thomas Kuhn: Reflections on my critics. In: Imre Lakatos and A. Musgrave : Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge University Press, London (1974), pp. 231–278.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Popper, Karl (1963) Conjectures and Refutations.
- ^ a b Thagard PR (1978) "Why astrology is a pseudoscience" (1978)
- ^ National Center for Science Education. Retrieved on 21-05-2010.
- ^ Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design.
- ^ Popper KR op. cit.
- ^ Robert T. Carroll (2011). "pseudoscience". From Abracadabra to Zombies. Robert T. Carroll. http://www.skepdic.com/pseudosc.html.
- ^ Gallup Poll: Belief in paranormal phenomena: 1990, 2001, and 2005. Gallup Polls, Gallup's original report.
- ^ a b c National Science Board (2006). "Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding". Science and Engineering Indicators 2006. National Science Foundation. Belief in Pseudoscience (see Footnote 29). http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind06/c7/c7s2.htm#c7s2l3. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
- ^ e.g. Gauch (2003) op cit at 211 ff (Probability, "Common Blunders")
- ^ Paul Montgomery Churchland, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (1999) MIT Press. p.90. "Most terms in theoretical physics, for example, do not enjoy at least some distinct connections with observables, but not of the simple sort that would permit operational definitions in terms of these observables. [..] If a restriction in favor of operational definitions were to be followed, therefore, most of theoretical physics would have to be dismissed as meaningless pseudoscience!"
- ^ Gauch HG Jr. (2003) op cit 269 ff, "Parsimony and Efficiency"
- ^ Hines T (1988) Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: A Critical Examination of the Evidence Buffalo NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0879754192
- ^ Donald E. Simanek, What is science? What is pseudoscience?
- ^ Lakatos I (1970) "Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes." in Lakatos I, Musgrave A (eds) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge pp 91-195; Popper KR (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery
- ^ e.g. Gauch (2003) op cit at 178 ff (Deductive Logic, "Fallacies"), and at 211 ff (Probability, "Common Blunders")
- ^ Macmilllan Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol 3, "Fallacies" 174 ff, esp. section on "Ignoratio elenchi"
- ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol 3, "Fallacies" 174 'ff esp. 177-178
- ^ Bunge M (1983) Demarcating science from pseudoscience Fundamenta Scientiae 3:369-388, 381
- ^ Thagard (1978)op cit at 227, 228
- ^ Lilienfeld SO (2004) Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology Guildford Press (2004) ISBN 1-59385-070-0
- ^ Ruscio J (2001) Clear thinking with psychology: Separating sense from nonsense, Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth.
- ^ Peer review and the acceptance of new scientific ideas; Gitanjali B. Peer review -- process, perspectives and the path ahead. J Postgrad Med 2001, 47:210 PubMed; Lilienfeld (2004) op cit For an opposing perspective, e.g. Chapter 5 of Suppression Stories by Brian Martin (Wollongong: Fund for Intellectual Dissent, 1997), pp. 69-83.
- ^ Ruscio (2001) op cit.
- ^ a b Gauch (2003) op cit 124 ff"
- ^ Lakatos I (1970) "Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes." in Lakatos I, Musgrave A (eds.) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge 91-195; Thagard (1978) op cit writes: "We can now propose the following principle of demarcation: A theory or discipline which purports to be scientific is pseudoscientific if and only if: it has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; but the community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and disconfirmations."
- ^ Hines T, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: A Critical Examination of the Evidence, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1988. ISBN 0-87975-419-2. Thagard (1978) op cit 223 ff
- ^ Ruscio J (2001) op cit. p120
- ^ Devilly, GJ (2005). "Power therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry". Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39 (6): 437–445. doi:10.1080/j.1440-1614.2005.01601.x.
- ^ e.g. archivefreedom.org which claims that "The list of suppressed scientists even includes Nobel Laureates!"
- ^ Devilly (2005) op cit. e.g. Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic Argumentum Ad Hominem.
- ^ Sagan, Carl; Ann Druyan (1997). "The Most Precious Thing". The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345409469.
- ^ a b c d Matute H, Yarritu I, Vadillo MA (2011). "Illusions of causality at the heart of pseudoscience". Br J Psychol 102 (3): 392–405. doi:10.1348/000712610X532210. PMID 21751996.
- ^ National Science Board. 2006. Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 Two volumes. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (volume 1, NSB-06-01; NSB 06-01A)
- ^ "The popular perception of science in North America". Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada. V IV: 269–280. 1989.
- ^ National Science Board. "Science and Engineering Indicators 2006" (PDF). p. A7–14. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind06/pdf/volume2.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
- ^ FOX News (June 18, 2004). Poll: More Believe In God Than Heaven. Fox News Channel. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,99945,00.html. Retrieved Apr. 26, 2009
- ^ Taylor, Humphrey (February 26, 2003). "Harris Poll: The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans 2003". http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?pid=359. Retrieved Apr. 26, 2009.
- ^ (Devilly 2005:439)
- ^ Beyerstein, B., and P. Hadaway. 1991. On avoiding folly. Journal of Drug Issues. 20(4): 689-700.
- ^ Lindeman M (December 1998). "Motivation, Cognition and Pseudoscience". Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 39 (4): 257–65. doi:10.1111/1467-9450.00085. PMID 9883101.
- ^ Shermer M, Gould SJ (2002). Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. New York: Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 0805070893.
- ^ Gauch HG Jr (2003)op cit 3-7.
- ^ a b Newbold D, Roberts J (2007). "An analysis of the demarcation problem in science and its application to therapeutic touch theory". Int J Nurs Pract 13 (6): 324–30. doi:10.1111/j.1440-172X.2007.00646.x. PMID 18021160.
- ^ Gray, Louise (15 July 2010). "The Prince of Wales accuses sceptics of peddling 'pseudo science'". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/7890783/The-Prince-of-Wales-accuses-sceptics-of-peddling-pseudo-science.html. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
- ^ Makgoba MW (May 2002). "Politics, the media and science in HIV/AIDS: the peril of pseudoscience". Vaccine (journal) 20 (15): 1899–904. doi:10.1016/S0264-410X(02)00063-4. PMID 11983241.
- ^ Meyer, David I. (30 January 2011). "Pseudoscience plagues the health of our nation". Torrance Daily Breeze. http://www.dailybreeze.com/opinions/ci_17244810.
- ^ a b C.J. Efthimiou, R. Llewellyn (2006). "Is Peudoscience the Solution to Science Literacy?". arXiv:physics/0608061 [physics.ed-ph].
- ^ The National Council Against Health Fraud (1994). "NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy". http://www.ncahf.org/pp/homeop.html#haven.
- Shermer, Michael (September 2011). "What Is Pseudoscience?: Distinguishing between science and pseudoscience is problematic". Scientific American: 92. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-pseudoscience.
- Hansson, S.O (September 3, 2008). "Science and Pseudo-Science". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/.
- Schadewald Robert J (2008). Worlds of Their Own - A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair. Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4363-0435-1.
- Shermer M, Gould SJ (2002). Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. New York: Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 0805070893.
- Derksen AA (2001). "The seven strategies of the sophisticated pseudo-scientist: a look into Freud's rhetorical toolbox". J Gen Phil Sci 32 (2): 329–350. doi:10.1023/A:1013100717113.
- Wilson F (2000). The Logic and Methodology of Science and Pseudoscience. Canadian Scholars Press. ISBN 155130175X.
- Bauer Henry H (2000). Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252026010.
- Charpak, Georges; Broch, Henri; Translated from the French by Bart K. Holland (2004). Debunked: Esp, telekinesis, other pseudoscience. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801878675. http://books.google.com/books?id=DpnWcMzeh8oC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22Debunked%22#v=onepage&q&f=false Originally published 2002 by Odile Jacob as Devenez sorciers, devenez savants
- Cioffi, Frank (1998). Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience. Chicaco and La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, division of Carus. pp. 314. ISBN 0-8126-9385-X.
- Hansson, Sven Ove (1996). "Defining pseudoscience". Philosophia naturalis 33: 169–176.
- Pratkanis, Anthony R (July/August 1995). "How to Sell a Pseudoscience". Skeptical Inquirer 19 (4): 19–25. http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/pratkanis.htm.
- Wolpert, Lewis (1994). The Unnatural Nature of Science. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-92980-2. http://books.google.com/?id=67Mr-fhfZmQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22the+unnatural+nature+of+science%22#v=onepage&q&f=false Paperback ISBN 0-674-9281-0 First published 1992 by Faber & Faber, London.
- Martin M (1994). "Pseudoscience, the paranormal, and science education". Science & Education 3 (4): 1573–901. Bibcode 1994Sc&Ed...3..357M. doi:10.1007/BF00488452. http://www.springerlink.com/content/g8u0371370878485/.
- Derksen AA (1993). "The seven sins of pseudo-science". J Gen Phil Sci 24: 17–42. doi:10.1007/BF00769513. http://www.springerlink.com/content/x618564113015377/.
- Gardner M (1990). Science – Good, Bad and Bogus. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0879755733.
- Little, John (October 29, 1981). "Review and useful overview of Gardner's book". New Scientist 92 (1277): 320. http://books.google.com/books?id=Gfh9AnIDxS8C&pg=PA320&dq=%22Science+%E2%80%93+Good,+Bad+and+Bogus%22#v=onepage&q=%22Science%20%E2%80%93%20Good%2C%20Bad%20and%20Bogus%22&f=false.
- Gardner, Martin (1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (2nd, revised & expanded ed.). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-20394-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=TwP3SGAUsnkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22fads+and+fallacies%22#v=onepage&q&f=false. Originally published 1952 by G.P. Putnam's Sons, under the title In the Name of Science.
- Checklist for identifying dubious technical processes and products – Rainer Bunge, PhD
- Skeptic Dictionary: Pseudoscience – Robert Todd Carroll, PhD
- Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience – Rory Coker, PhD
- Pseudoscience. What is it? How can I recognize it? – Stephen Lower
- Science and Pseudoscience – transcript and broadcast of talk by Imre Lakatos
- Science and Pseudo-Science: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Science Needs to Combat Pseudoscience – A statement by 32 Russian scientists and philosophers
- Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism – Steven Dutch
- Skeptic Dictionary: Pseudoscientific topics and discussion – Robert Todd Carroll
- Why Is Pseudoscience Dangerous? – Edward Kruglyakov
Pseudoscience Terminology Examples
AIDS denialism • Astrology • Body memory • Bogdanov Affair • Creation Science • Dianetics • Faith healing • Homeopathy • Intelligent design • Japhetic theory • Lunar effect • Lysenkoism • Melanin theory • Moon landing conspiracy theories • Nibiru collision • Parapsychology • Perpetual motion • Ufology
ResourcesList of topics characterized as pseudoscience Philosophy Positions
Certainty (Skepticism · Solipsism · Nihilism) · Ethics (Consequentalism · Deontology · Virtue) · Free will (Compatibilism · Determinism · Libertarianism) · Metaphysics (Atomism · Dualism · Monism · Naturalism) · Epistemology (Constructivism · Empiricism · Idealism · Rationalism) · Naturalism · Normativity (Absolutism · Particularism · Relativism · Universalism) · Ontology (Action · Event · Process) · Reality (Anti-realism · Idealism · Materialism · Realism) · Society (Agrarianism · Egalitarianism · Humanism)
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