Immutable and Closed to Criticism
A half-century makes a huge difference in science these days. Consider physics, astronomy and medicine from just 50 years ago.
Today’s great pseudosciences are ancient arts – astrology, traditional medicines, dowsing, divination. Apart from incorporating some new technology into their practice, like computers and electronic gadgets, the explanatory basis for these is the same as it was centuries ago – mystical, not scientific. Pseudosciences appeal to their long, unchanging history as evidence of their correctness. The general public is unaware that these science pretenders are missing the testing, modifying and revising of ideas that spurs progress and creates new knowledge.  “Ancient” and “traditional” does not equate to “correct”.
Theories given the boot from modern scientific circles can last forever in the same old format because they are not part of a self-correcting process. When no criticism is allowed, the theory does not improve. Several pseudoscience communities will overlook, ignore or demonize rival explanation and exclude discussions of such from their forums. They will make a specific effort to exclude outsiders from their primary means of communication – specialized journals, email discussion lists and internet blogs and message boards.
To observe this closed-circuitry, try politely questioning or posting a skeptical comment on a Bigfoot or psychic-friendly internet message board or blog. Dissenting views are unwelcome. It’s likely that you will be called a “troll” and silenced.
Ironically, pseudoscience views science as narrow-minded, yet they commit the behavior they say they detest in others. To be fair, there is value and enjoyment in conversing with other like-minded folks. However, when one is defending an idea purported to be science, you can not actively exclude your critics and remain credible.
Genuine science is self-correcting, requiring new input, peer review and open criticism as part of the necessary process. Science requires skepticism and considers this quality necessary for science to progress in a positive direction. If any theory, revolutionary or conventional, has sufficient evidence, it will be considered. If it is show to be valid, it will eventually be accepted as knowledge. If the scientific methodology is not followed, or just selectively followed, it can’t be called science.
A field can’t be “progressive” yet remain unchanged. Because it is not open to inquiry, criticism and revision, pseudoscience is not progressive and does not enrich knowledge.
———— Carey, S. S. (2004). A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Method, Wadsworth. p. 123
Back to Sham Inquiry contents page.