The Grand List of Pseudoscience

This semester I’m teaching introductory geosciences for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years. The central theme that I will be using this time is “science”. OK, that might sound strange, but what I’m hoping is to help student learn how science is done, how to differentiate good science from, ahem, less good science, and how to read science in the media. It is a bit of a philosophical pursuit, where I already have readings planned (amongst the more typical geoscience fare) about cognitive dissonance, statistical analysis and understanding error.

The core of this part of the class will be a paper on pseudoscience — what it is and how to recognize it in popular culture. The goal will be for students to see how “science” is used to try to legitimize pseudoscience but how, ultimately, these fraudulent claims can be disputed. My hope is that this will allow students who never take another science class to at the very least be armed with skills to help them not fall for these charlatans.

So, I asked my wife, friends, wife, colleagues and the Twitterverse what are pseudoscientific topics that could be subjects for these papers. Here is the raw, unfiltered list — the final list will be more refined, where I might combine/split topics and eliminate some — but for now, you can enjoy the full grandeur of today’s “pseudoscience”.

(in no particular order)

  • alchemy
  • intelligent design
  • homeopathy
  • crystal healing/power
  • astrology
  • planetary alignments driving tectonic events
  • creationism
  • expanding Earth
  • hollow Earth
  • dowsing/water witches
  • cryptozoology
  • personality testing
  • phrenology
  • ancient aliens
  • earthquake prediction
  • aliens/abductions/UFOs
  • anti-anthropogenic climate change
  • anti-vaccine
  • yeti/bigfoot
  • chupacabra
  • morphic resonance
  • anti/pro GMO
  • ESP/telepathy
  • vitamins
  • mass human cloning
  • magnetic field reversal disasters
  • Bermuda Triangle
  • Reiki
  • Atlantis
  • Diet fads
  • scientology
  • ghost hunters
  • angels
  • carbon-based oxygen
  • weather control/HAARP
  • acupuncture/chiropractic
  • young Earth
  • Great Flood
  • magnetic/metal/Phiten bands for health
  • cleansing
  • Aura/chakra
  • chemtrails
  • prophecy/Bible codes
  • past lives
  • aromatherapy
  • eugenics
  • paleo/Atkins diets
  • highly advanced ancient civilizations
  • Jersey Devil
  • Deep (non-organic) oil
  • extant dinosaurs
  • Martian civilizations

New additions:

  • Biorhythms
  • Nibiru (or other solar companions/rogue planets)
  • Area 51
  • Global consciousness/Gaia hypothesis
  • cider vinegar diet
  • raelism
  • flat Earth
  • anti-fluorination
  • Apollo landing hoax
  • Earthquake weather

Got more? Feel like something shouldn’t be on the list? Leave me a comment as I work on the final list.

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10 Comments

  1. Pole shift
    Pinball planets (Velikovsky)
    Ice age denialism
    Rael (intelligent design by aliens)
    Electric universe (Velikovsky)
    Anti fluoridation
    Flat earthers (all but extinct)
    Demons
    WEL/Ice universe (probably extinct)
    Faith healing

  2. Great idea! I took an “applied pseudoscience” seminar my freshman year and loved it. We used a book called “Fads and Fallacies in the Name Of Science” which covers a great many of these topics, although it is probably a tad outdated now. (But it’s also cheap and available for e-readers…)

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