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List of topics characterized as pseudoscience

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This is a list of topics that have, at one point or another in their history, been characterized as pseudoscience by academics or researchers. Discussion about these topics is done 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

  • 2012 millenarianism – a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or otherwise transformative events would occur on or around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar and as such, festivities to commemorate the date took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Maya civilization (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala. Professional Mayanist scholars stated that no extant classic Maya accounts forecast impending doom, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar ends in 2012 misrepresented Maya history and culture,[2] while astronomers rejected the various proposed doomsday scenarios easily refuted by elementary astronomical observations.[3]
  • Ancient astronauts – a concept based on the belief that intelligent extraterrestrial beings visited Earth and made contact with humans in antiquity and prehistoric times. Proponents suggest that this contact influenced the development of modern cultures, technologies, and religions. A common claim is that deities from most, if not all, religions are actually extraterrestrial in origin, and that advanced technologies brought to Earth by ancient astronauts were interpreted as evidence of divine status by early humans. The idea that ancient astronauts existed is not taken seriously by academics, and has received no credible attention in peer reviewed studies.[4]
  • Anunnaki from Nibiru (Sitchin) (variant) – Zecharia Sitchin proposed in his series The Earth Chronicles, beginning with The 12th Planet (1976) 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 to be a remote "12th planet" (counting the Sun, Moon, and Pluto as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit our 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]
  • Astrology (see also astrology and science) – consists of a number of belief systems that hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events or descriptions of personality in the human world. Several systems of divination are based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies. Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions.[7] Where astrology has made falsifiable predictions, it has been falsified.[7]:424
  • Creationist cosmologies are explanations of the origins and form of the universe in terms of the Genesis creation narrative (Genesis 1), according to which the God of the Bible created the cosmos in eight creative acts over the six days of the "creation week".[8]
  • Dogon people and Sirius B – a series of claims that the Dogon tribe knew about the white dwarf companion of Sirius despite it being invisible to the naked eye (and knew about it for reasons other than being told about it by visiting Europeans).[6]
  • The Face on Mars is a rock formation in Cydonia Mensæ 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]
  • Lunar effect – the belief that the full Moon influences human behavior.[12]
  • Modern flat Earth beliefs propose that the earth is a flat, disc-shaped planet that accelerates upward, producing the illusion of gravity. Proposers of a flat Earth, such as the Flat Earth Society, do not accept compelling evidence, such as photos of planet Earth from space.[13]
  • Modern geocentrism – In astronomy, the geocentric model (also known as geocentrism, or the Ptolemaic system) is a superseded description of the universe with the Earth at the center. Under the geocentric model, the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets all circled Earth. The geocentric model served as the predominant description of the cosmos in many ancient civilizations, such as those of Aristotle and Ptolemy.[14]
  • Moon landing conspiracy theories – claim that some or all elements of the Apollo program and the associated Moon landings were hoaxes staged by NASA with the aid of other organizations. The most notable claim is that the six manned landings (1969–72) were faked and that twelve Apollo astronauts did not actually walk on the Moon. Various groups and individuals have made claims since the mid-1970s, that NASA and others knowingly misled the public into believing the landings happened, by manufacturing, tampering with, or destroying evidence including photos, telemetry tapes, radio and TV transmissions, Moon rock samples, and even killing some key witnesses.[15]
  • Nibiru cataclysm – a prediction first made by contactee Nancy Lieder that a mythological planet Nibiru would collide with Earth. After having adjusted her prediction many times, she later claimed the year of the occurrence to be 2012.[16] In 2017, a conspiracy theorist known as David Meade claimed 2017 was the year Nibiru would hit.
  • Vaimānika Shāstra – claim that airplanes were invented in ancient India during the Vedic period. A 1974 study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore found that the heavier-than-air aircraft that the Vaimānika Shāstra described were aerodynamically unfeasible. The authors remarked that the discussion of the principles of flight in the text were largely perfunctory and incorrect, in some cases violating Newton's laws of motion.[17]
  • Worlds in Collision – writer Immanuel Velikovsky proposed in his book Worlds in Collision that ancient texts and geographic evidence show mankind was witness to catastrophic interactions of other planets in our Solar system.

Earth sciences

  • 366 geometry or Megalithic geometry – posits the existence of an Earth-based geometry dating back to at least 3500 BCE, and the possibility that such a system is still in use in modern Freemasonry. According to proponents, megalithic civilizations in Britain and Brittany had advanced knowledge of geometry, mathematics, and the size of the Earth. The megalithic yard is correlated to the polar circumference of Earth using a circle divided into 366 degrees.[18][19]
  • The Bermuda Triangle – a region of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and (in its most popular version) Florida. Ship and aircraft disasters and disappearances perceived as frequent in this area have led to the circulation of stories of unusual natural phenomena, paranormal encounters, and interactions with extraterrestrials.[20]
  • Climate change denial – involves denial, dismissal, unwarranted doubt or contrarian views which depart from the scientific consensus on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions.[21][22][23]
  • Flood geology – creationist form of geology that advocates most of the geologic features on Earth are explainable by a global flood.[24]
  • Hollow Earth – a proposal that Earth is either entirely hollow or consists of hollow sections beneath the crust. Certain folklore and conspiracy theories hold this idea and suggest the existence of subterranean life.[25]

Energy

  • 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.[28][29][30]
  • Gasoline pill, which was claimed to turn water into gasoline.[31]
  • Hongcheng Magic Liquid – a scam in China where 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.[32]

Physics

  • Autodynamics – a physics theory proposed in the 1940s that claims the equations of the Lorentz transformation are incorrectly formulated to describe relativistic effects, which would invalidate Einstein's theories of special relativity and general relativity, and Maxwell's equations. The theory is discounted by the mainstream physics community.[39]
  • Einstein–Cartan–Evans theory – a unified theory of physics proposed by Myron Wyn Evans which claims to unify general relativity, quantum mechanics and electromagnetism.[40] The hypothesis was largely published in the journal Foundations of Physics Letters between 2003 and 2005; in 2008, the editor published an editorial note effectively retracting the journal's support for the hypothesis due to incorrect mathematical claims.[41]
  • Electrogravitics – claimed to be an unconventional type of effect or anti-gravity propulsion created by an electric field's effect on a mass. The name was coined in the 1920s by Thomas Townsend Brown, who first described the effect and spent most of his life trying to develop it and sell it as a propulsion system. Followups on the claims (R. L. Talley in a 1990 U.S. Air Force study, NASA scientist Jonathan Campbell in a 2003 experiment,[42] and Martin Tajmar in a 2004 paper[43]) have found that no thrust could be observed in a vacuum, consistent with the phenomenon of ion wind.

Applied sciences

Agriculture

  • Lysenkoism, or Lysenko-Michurinism – was a political campaign against genetics and science-based agriculture conducted by Trofim Lysenko, his followers and Soviet authorities. Lysenko served as the director of the Soviet Union's Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Lysenkoism began in the late 1920s and formally ended in 1964. The pseudo-scientific ideas of Lysenkoism built on Lamarckian concepts of the heritability of acquired characteristics.[44] Lysenko's theory rejected Mendelian inheritance and the concept of the "gene"; it departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection.[45]
  • Biodynamic agriculture – method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms. Biodynamics uses a calendar which has been characterized as astrological. The substances and composts used by biodynamicists have been described as unconventional and homeopathic. For example, field mice are countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation. No difference in beneficial outcomes has been scientifically established between certified biodynamic agricultural techniques and similar organic and integrated farming practices. Biodynamic agriculture lacks strong scientific evidence for its efficacy and has been labeled a pseudoscience because of its overreliance upon esoteric knowledge and mystical beliefs.[46]

Architecture

  • Feng shui – ancient Chinese system of mysticism and aesthetics based on astronomy, geography, and the putative flow of qi. Evidence for its effectiveness is based on anecdote, and there is a lack of a plausible method of action; this leads to conflicting advice from different practitioners of feng shui. Feng shui practitioners use this as evidence of variations or different schools; critical analysts have described it thus: "Feng shui has always been based upon mere guesswork."[47][48] Modern criticism differentiates between feng shui as a traditional proto-religion and the modern practice: "A naturalistic belief, it was originally used to find an auspicious dwelling place for a shrine or a tomb. However, over the centuries it... has become distorted and degraded into a gross superstition."[47]
  • Ley lines – proposed intentional alignment of ancient monuments and landscape features was later explained by a statistical analysis of lines that concluded: "the density of archaeological sites in the British landscape is so great that a line drawn through virtually anywhere will 'clip' a number of sites." [49] Additional New Age and feng shui concepts have been proposed building on the original concept, and pseudo-scientific claims about energy flowing through the lines have been made.
  • Vastu shastra is the ancient Hindu system of architecture, which lays down a series of rules for building houses in relation to ambiance.[50] Vastu Shastra is considered as pseudoscience by rationalists like Narendra Nayak of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations[51] and astronomer Jayant Narlikar who writes that Vastu does not have any "logical connection" to the environment.[52]

Finance

Health and medicine

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

  • Acupuncture – use of fine needles to stimulate acupuncture points and balance the flow of qi. There is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians and acupuncture is regarded as an alternative medical procedure.[62] Some acupuncturists regard them as functional rather than structural entities, useful in guiding evaluation and care of patients. Acupuncture has been the subject of active scientific research since the late 20th century, and its effects and application remain controversial among medical researchers and clinicians. Because it is a procedure rather than a pill, the design of controlled studies is challenging, as with surgical and other procedures. Some scholarly reviews conclude that acupuncture's effects are mainly attributable to the placebo effect, and others find likelihood of efficacy for particular conditions.
    • Dry needling is the therapeutic insertion of fine needles without regard to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) knowledge and is similarly controversial.[63][64]
    • Acupressure is an alternative medicine technique similar in principle to acupuncture. It is based on the concept of life energy which flows through "meridians" in the body. In treatment, physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points with the aim of clearing blockages in these meridians. Pressure may be applied by hand, by elbow, or with various devices. Some studies have suggested it may be effective at helping manage nausea and vomiting, lower back pain, tension headaches, and stomach ache although such studies have been found to have a high likelihood of bias.[65] Like many alternative medicines, it may benefit from a placebo effect. Quackwatch says acupressure is a dubious practice and its practitioners use irrational methods.[66]
  • Adrenal fatigue or hypoadrenia is a pseudoscientific diagnosis described as a state in which the adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, primarily the glucocorticoid cortisol, due to chronic stress or infections.[67] Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with a number of actual forms of adrenal dysfunction such as adrenal insufficiency or Addison's disease.[68] The term "adrenal fatigue", which was invented in 1998 by James Wilson, a chiropractor,[69] may be applied to a collection of mostly nonspecific symptoms.[67] There is no scientific evidence supporting the concept of adrenal fatigue and it is not recognized as a diagnosis by any scientific or medical community.[67][68] A systematic review found no evidence for the term adrenal fatigue, confirming the consensus among endocrinological societies that it is a myth.[70]
  • The Alexander Technique, named after its creator Frederick Matthias Alexander, is an educational process that was created to retrain habitual patterns of movement and posture. Alexander believed that poor habits in posture and movement damaged spatial self-awareness as well as health, and that movement efficiency could support overall physical well-being. He saw the technique as a mental training technique as well.[71]:221 Alexander began developing his technique's principles in the 1890s[72] in an attempt to address voice loss during public speaking.[71]:34–35 He credited his method with allowing him to pursue his passion for reciting in Shakespearean theater.[73] Some proponents of the Alexander Technique say that it addresses a variety of health conditions related to cumulative physical behaviors, but there is little evidence to support many of the claims made about the technique.[74][75] As of 2015 there was evidence suggesting the Alexander Technique may be helpful for long-term back pain, long-term neck pain, and may help people cope with Parkinson's disease.[75] However, both Aetna and the Australian Department of Health have conducted reviews and concluded that the technique has insufficient evidence to warrant insurance coverage.[74]
  • Alternative cancer treatments are alternative or complementary treatments for cancer that have not been approved by the government agencies responsible for the regulation of therapeutic goods and have not undergone properly conducted, well-designed clinical trials. Among those that have been published, the methodology is often poor. A 2006 systematic review of 214 articles covering 198 clinical trials of alternative cancer treatments concluded that almost none conducted dose-ranging studies, which are necessary to ensure that the patients are being given a useful amount of the treatment.[76] These kinds of treatments appear and vanish frequently, and have throughout history.[77]
  • Alternative or fringe medicine – The terms alternative medicine, complementary medicine, integrative medicine, holistic medicine, natural medicine, unorthodox medicine, fringe medicine, unconventional medicine, and new age medicine are used interchangeably and are almost synonymous.[78] Terminology shifts over time to reflect the branding of practitioners.[79] Therapies are often framed as "natural" or "holistic", implicitly and intentionally suggesting that conventional medicine is "artificial" and "narrow in scope".[80][81]
  • Anthroposophic medicine, or anthroposophical medicine, is a form of alternative medicine.[82] Devised in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, it was based on occult notions and drew on Steiner's spiritual philosophy, which he called anthroposophy. Practitioners employ a variety of treatment techniques based upon anthroposophic precepts.[83] Many drug preparations used in anthroposophic medicine are ultra-diluted substances, similar to those used in homeopathy. Some anthroposophic doctors oppose childhood vaccination, and this has led to preventable outbreaks of disease. Professor of complementary medicine Edzard Ernst and other critics have characterized anthroposophic medicine as having no basis in science,[84] pseudoscientific,[85] and quackery.[86]
  • Applied kinesiology (AK) is a technique in alternative medicine claimed to be able to diagnose illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness.[89] According to their guidelines on allergy diagnostic testing, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology stated there is "no evidence of diagnostic validity" of applied kinesiology.[90] Another study has shown that as an evaluative method, AK "is no more useful than random guessing",[91] and the American Cancer Society has said that "scientific evidence does not support the claim that applied kinesiology can diagnose or treat cancer or other illness".[92]
  • Aromatherapy uses aromatic materials, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds, with claims for improving psychological or physical well-being.[93] It is offered as a complementary therapy or as a form of alternative medicine, the first meaning alongside standard treatments,[94] the second instead of conventional, evidence-based treatments.[95] Aromatherapists, people who specialize in the practice of aromatherapy, utilize blends of supposedly therapeutic essential oils that can be used as topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion. There is no good medical evidence that aromatherapy can either prevent, treat, or cure any disease.[96] Placebo-controlled trials are difficult to design, as the point of aromatherapy is the smell of the products. There is disputed evidence that it may be effective in combating postoperative nausea and vomiting.[97]
  • Aspartame has been the subject of several controversies since its initial approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974. The FDA approval of aspartame was highly contested,[98] with critics alleging that the quality of the initial research supporting its safety was inadequate and flawed, and that conflicts of interest marred the 1981 approval of aspartame.[99][100][101] In 1987, the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that the food additive approval process had been followed properly for aspartame.[99][102] The irregularities fueled a conspiracy theory, which the "Nancy Markle" email hoax circulated, along with claims — counter to the weight of medical evidence — that numerous health conditions (such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, methanol toxicity, blindness, spasms, shooting pains, seizures, headaches, depression, anxiety, memory loss, birth defects, and death[103]) are caused by the consumption of aspartame in normal doses.[104][105][106] Aspartame is a methyl ester of the aspartic acid/phenylalanine dipeptide. Potential health risks have been examined and dismissed by numerous scientific research projects. With the exception of the risk to those with phenylketonuria, aspartame is considered to be a safe food additive by governments worldwide and major health and food safety organizations.[99][107][108][109][110] FDA officials describe aspartame as "one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved" and its safety as "clear cut."[101] The weight of existing scientific evidence indicates that aspartame is safe as a non-nutritive sweetener.[107]
  • Auriculotherapy (also auricular therapy, ear acupuncture, and auriculoacupuncture) is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a micro system, which reflects the entire body, represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear. Conditions affecting the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient are assumed to be treatable by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Similar mappings are used in many areas of the body, including the practices of reflexology and iridology. These mappings are not based on or supported by any medical or scientific evidence, and are therefore considered to be pseudoscience.[111][112]
  • Autistic enterocolitis – is the name of a nonexistent medical condition proposed by discredited British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield when he suggested a link between a number of common clinical symptoms and signs which he contended were distinctive to autism.[113] The existence of such an enterocolitis has been dismissed by experts as having "not been established".[114] Wakefield's now-retracted and fraudulent[115][116] report used inadequate controls and suppressed negative findings, and multiple attempts to replicate his results have been unsuccessful.[117] Reviews in the medical literature have found no link between autism and bowel disease.[118][119][120]
  • Balneotherapy (Latin: balneum "bath") is the presumed benefit from disease by bathing, a traditional medicine technique usually practiced at spas.[121] Balneotherapy may involve hot or cold water, massage through moving water, relaxation, or stimulation. Many mineral waters at spas are rich in particular minerals such as silica, sulfur, selenium, and radium. Scientific studies into the effectiveness of balneotherapy do not show that balneotherapy is effective for treating rheumatoid arthritis.[122] There is also no evidence indicating a more effective type of bath,[122] or to indicate that bathing is more effective than exercise, relaxation therapy, or mudpacks.[122] Most of the studies on balneotherapy have methodological flaws and are not reliable.[123][122] A 2009 review of all published clinical evidence concluded that existing research is not sufficiently strong to draw firm conclusions about the efficacy of balneotherapy.[124]
  • Bates method for better eyesight – is an alternative therapy aimed at improving eyesight. Eye-care physician William Horatio Bates, M.D. (1860–1931) attributed nearly all sight problems to habitual strain of the eyes, and felt that glasses were harmful and never necessary. Bates self-published a book, Perfect Sight Without Glasses, as well as a magazine, Better Eyesight Magazine, (and earlier collaborated with Bernarr MacFadden on a correspondence course) detailing his approach to helping people relax such "strain", and thus, he claimed, improve their sight. His techniques centered on visualization and movement. In 1952, optometry professor Elwin Marg wrote of Bates, "Most of his claims and almost all of his theories have been considered false by practically all visual scientists."[125] Marg concluded that the Bates method owed its popularity largely to "flashes of clear vision" experienced by many who followed it.[126] Such occurrences have since been explained as a contact lens-like effect of moisture on the eye,[127] or a flattening of the lens by the ciliary muscles.[128][129]
  • Biological terrain assessment – a set of computerized tests used to measure the pH, resistivity, and redox of a person's urine, blood, and saliva, with the intention of recommending a customized program of health supplements and remedies (such as vitamins, homeopathic supplements, or herbal medicines) based on the results. Proponents suggest that BTA allows for a correction of biological imbalances before they become pathological, while opponents claim that the tests are imprecise and results in incorrect diagnoses.[130]
  • Biorhythms (from Greek βίος – bios, "life"[131] and ῥυθμός – rhuthmos, "any regular recurring motion, rhythm"[132]) is an attempt to predict various aspects of a person's life through simple mathematical cycles. The theory was developed by Wilhelm Fliess in the late 19th century, and was popularized in the United States in late 1970s. Most scientists believe that the idea has no more predictive power than chance.[133] "The theory of biorhythms is a theory that claims our daily lives are significantly affected by rhythmic cycles."[134]
  • Body memory (BM) is a hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. While experiments have demonstrated the possibility of cellular memory[135] there are currently no known means by which tissues other than the brain would be capable of storing memories.[136][137] Modern usage of BM tends to frame it exclusively in the context of traumatic memory and ways in which the body responds to recall of a memory. In this regard, it has become relevant in treatment for PTSD.[138]
  • Brain Gym – is an organization promoting a series of exercises claimed to improve academic performance. 26 Brain Gym activities are claimed to improve eye teaming (binocular vision), spatial and listening skills, hand–eye coordination, and whole-body flexibility, and by doing this manipulate the brain, improving learning and recall of information. The Brain Gym program calls for children to repeat certain simple movements such as crawling, yawning, making symbols in the air, and drinking water; these are intended to "integrate", "repattern", and increase blood flow to the brain.[139][140] Though the organization claims the methods are grounded in good neuroscience, the underlying ideas are pseudoscience.[141][142]
  • Candida hypersensitivity – It has been spuriously claimed that chronic yeast infections are responsible for many common disorders and non-specific symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dizziness, muscle and joint pain, asthma, and others.[143][144] The notion has been strongly challenged by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.[145]
  • Chelation therapy is claimed by some practitioners alternative medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including heart disease and autism.[146][147] The use of chelation therapy by alternative medicine practitioners for behavioral and other disorders is considered pseudoscientific; there is no proof that it is effective.[148] In addition to being ineffective, chelation therapy prior to heavy metal testing can artificially raise urinary heavy metal concentrations (“provoked” urine testing) and lead to inappropriate and unnecessary treatment.[149] The American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology warn the public that chelating drugs used in chelation therapy may have serious side effects, including liver and kidney damage, blood pressure changes, allergies and in some cases even death of the patient.[149]
  • Chronic Lyme disease (not to be confused with Lyme disease) is a generally rejected diagnosis that encompasses "a broad array of illnesses or symptom complexes for which there is no reproducible or convincing scientific evidence of any relationship to Borrelia burgdorferi infection."[164] Despite numerous studies, there is no clinical evidence that "chronic" Lyme disease is caused by a persistent infection.[165] It is distinct from post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, a set of lingering symptoms which may persist after successful treatment of infection with Lyme spirochetes. The symptoms of "chronic Lyme" are generic and non-specific "symptoms of life".[166]
  • Colon cleansing (also known as colon therapy) encompasses a number of alternative medical therapies claimed to remove nonspecific toxins from the colon and intestinal tract by removing any accumulations of feces. Colon cleansing may be branded colon hydrotherapy, a colonic or colonic irrigation. During the 2000s internet marketing and infomercials of oral supplements supposedly for colon cleansing increased.[167] Some forms of colon hydrotherapy use tubes to inject water, sometimes mixed with herbs or with other liquids, into the colon via the rectum using special equipment. Oral cleaning regimens use dietary fiber, herbs, dietary supplements, or laxatives. People who practice colon cleansing believe that accumulations of putrefied feces line the walls of the large intestine and that these accumulations harbor parasites or pathogenic gut flora, causing nonspecific symptoms and general ill-health. This "auto-intoxication" hypothesis is based on medical beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks and was discredited in the early 20th century.[168]
  • Colloidal silver (a colloid consisting of silver particles suspended in liquid) and formulations containing silver salts were used by physicians in the early 20th century, but their use was largely discontinued in the 1940s following the development of safer and effective modern antibiotics.[169][170] Since about 1990, there has been a resurgence of the promotion of colloidal silver as a dietary supplement,[171] marketed with claims of it being an essential mineral supplement, or that it can prevent or treat numerous diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, herpes,[169] and tuberculosis.[171][172][173] No medical evidence supports the effectiveness of colloidal silver for any of these claimed indications.[171][174][175] Silver is not an essential mineral in humans; there is no dietary requirement for silver, and hence, no such thing as a silver "deficiency".[171] There is no evidence that colloidal silver treats or prevents any medical condition, and it can cause serious and potentially irreversible side effects such as argyria.[171]
  • Craniosacral therapy – is a form of bodywork or alternative therapy using gentle touch to manipulate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. A practitioner of cranial-sacral therapy may also apply light touches to a patient's spine and pelvis. Practitioners believe that this manipulation regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and aids in "primary respiration." Craniosacral therapy was developed by John Upledger, D.O. in the 1970s, as an offshoot of osteopathy in the cranial field, or cranial osteopathy, which was developed in the 1930s by William Garner Sutherland. According to the American Cancer Society, although CST may relieve the symptoms of stress or tension, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that craniosacral therapy helps in treating cancer or any other disease." CST has been characterized as pseudoscience and its practice has been called quackery.[176][177] Cranial osteopathy has received a similar assessment, with one 1990 paper finding there was no scientific basis for any of the practitioners' claims the paper examined.[178]
  • Cryonics – A field of products, techniques, and beliefs supporting the idea that freezing the clinically dead, at very low temperatures (typically below −196 degrees Celsius) will enable future revival or re-substantiation. These beliefs often hinge on the existence of advanced human or alien societies, in the distant future, who will possess as-of-yet unknown technology for the stabilization of dying cells. There is no evidence a human being can be revived after such freezing, and no solid scientific evidence suggests that reanimation will be possible in the future.[179][180]
  • Crystal healing – belief that crystals have healing properties. Once common among pre-scientific and indigenous peoples, it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s with the New Age movement. There is no scientific evidence that crystal healing has any effect.[181]
  • Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine. Cupping is used in more than 60 countries.[182] Its usage dates back to as far as 1,550 B.C.[183] There are different forms of cupping; the most common are dry, wet, and fire cupping. Cups are applied onto the skin and a suction is created, pulling the skin up. It is meant to increase blood flow to certain areas to the body. [184] Not part of medical practice in modern era, cupping has been characterized as a pseudoscience.[185] There is no good evidence it has any health benefits, and there are some risks of harm, especially in case of wet and fire cupping.[186]
  • Detoxification – Detoxification in the context of alternative medicine consists of an approach that claims to rid the body of "toxins" – accumulated substances that allegedly exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. The concept has received criticism from scientists and health organizations for its unsound scientific basis and lack of evidence for the claims made.[187] The "toxins" usually remain undefined, with little to no evidence of toxic accumulation in the patient. The British organisation Sense About Science has described some detox diets and commercial products as "a waste of time and money",[188] while the British Dietetic Association called the idea "nonsense" and a "marketing myth".[189]
  • Ear candling also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is a pseudoscience[190] alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. Medical research has shown that the practice is both dangerous and ineffective[191] and does not functionally remove earwax or toxicants, despite product design contributing to that impression.[192]
  • Earthing therapy or Grounding is a therapy that is claimed to ease pain, provide a better night's sleep, and assist in diseases with symptoms of inflammation by being in direct physical contact with the ground or a device connected to electrical ground. Purportedly, the earth has an excess of electrons which people are missing due to insulating shoes and ground cover. Being in electrical contact with the earth provides the body with those excess electrons which then act as antioxidants. A 2012 systematic review study showed inconclusive results related to methodological issues across the literature.[193] Subsequently, a 2017 systematic review of the benefits of spending time in forests demonstrated positive health effects, but not enough to generate clinical practice guidelines or demonstrate causality.[194]
  • Electrohomeopathy (or Mattei cancer cure) is a derivative of homeopathy invented in the 19th century by Count Cesare Mattei. The name is derived from a combination of electro (referring to an electric bio-energy content supposedly extracted from plants and of therapeutic value, rather than electricity in its conventional sense) and homeopathy (referring to an alternative medicinal philosophy developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the 18th century). Electrohomeopathy has been defined as the combination of electrical devices and homeopathy.[195]
  • Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) – reported sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation of various frequencies at exposure levels well below established safety standards. Symptoms are inconsistent, but can include headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and similar non-specific indications.[196] Provocation studies find that the discomfort of sufferers is unrelated to hidden sources of radiation,[197] and "no scientific basis currently exists for a connection between EHS and exposure to [electromagnetic fields]."[198][199]
  • Energy medicine, energy therapy, energy healing, vibrational medicine, psychic healing, spiritual medicine or spiritual healing are branches of alternative medicine based on a pseudo-scientific belief that healers can channel healing energy into a patient and effect positive results. This idea itself contains several methods: hands-on, hands-off, and distant (or absent) where the patient and healer are in different locations.[200] While early reviews of the scientific literature on energy healing were equivocal and recommended further research,[201][202] more recent reviews have concluded that there is no evidence supporting clinical efficiency.[203]
  • Facilitated communication is a scientifically discredited technique[204] that attempts to aid communication by people with autism or other communication disabilities. The facilitator holds the disabled person's arm or hand during this process and attempts to help them move to type on a keyboard or other device.[205] Research indicates that the facilitator is the source of the messages obtained through FC (involving ideomotor effect guidance of the arm of the patient by the facilitator).[206][207] Studies have consistently found that FC is unable to provide the correct response to even simple questions when the facilitator does not know the answers to the questions (e.g., showing the patient but not the facilitator an object).[208] In addition, in numerous cases disabled persons have been assumed by facilitators to be typing a coherent message while the patient's eyes were closed or while they were looking away from or showing no particular interest in the letter board.[209]
  • Germanic New Medicine – On 8 August 1978, Ryke Geerd Hamer's son, Dirk, was shot by the son of the last king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, while asleep on a yacht off Cavallo and died on 7 December 1978.[225] Sometime after Dirk's death, Hamer began to develop Germanic New Medicine (GNM). According to GNM no real diseases exist; rather, what established medicine calls a "disease" is actually a "special meaningful program of nature" (sinnvolles biologisches Sonderprogramm) to which bacteria, viruses and fungi belong. Hamer's GNM claims to explain every disease and treatment according to those premises, and to thereby obviate traditional medicine. The cure is always the resolving of the conflict. Some treatments like chemotherapy or pain relieving drugs like morphine are deadly according to Hamer.[226][227] These "laws" are dogmas of GNM, not laws of nature or medicine, and are at odds with scientific understanding of human physiology.[228]
  • Hexagonal water – A term used in a marketing scam[234][235] that claims the ability to create a certain configuration of water that is better for the body.[236] The term "hexagonal water" refers to a cluster of water molecules forming a hexagonal shape that supposedly enhances nutrient absorption, removes metabolic wastes, and enhances cellular communication, among other things.[237] Similar to the dihydrogen monoxide hoax, the scam takes advantage of the consumer's limited knowledge of chemistry, physics, and physiology.
  • Homeopathy – the belief that a patient with symptoms of an illness can be treated with extremely dilute remedies that are thought to produce those same symptoms in healthy people. These preparations are often diluted beyond the point where any treatment molecule is likely to remain. Studies of homeopathic practice have been largely negative or inconclusive.[238][239][240] No scientific basis for homeopathic principles has been substantiated.[241][242][243][244][245][246][247]
  • Iridology – means of medical diagnosis which proponents believe can identify and diagnose health problems through close examination of the markings and patterns of the iris. Practitioners divide the iris into 80–90 zones, each of which is connected to a particular body region or organ. This connection has not been scientifically validated, and disorder detection is neither selective nor specific.[251][252][253] Because iris texture is a phenotypical feature which develops during gestation and remains unchanged after birth (which makes the iris useful for Biometrics), iridology is all but impossible.
  • Leaky gut syndrome – in alternative medicine, a proposed condition caused by the passage of harmful substances outward through the gut wall. It has been proposed as the cause of many conditions including multiple sclerosis and autism, a claim which has been called pseudoscientific.[254] According to the UK National Health Service, the theory is vague and unproven.[255] Some skeptics and scientists say that the marketing of treatments for leaky gut syndrome is either misguided or an instance of deliberate health fraud.[255]
  • Lightning Process – a system claimed to be derived from osteopathy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and life coaching.[256] Proponents claim that the Process can have a positive effect on a long list of diseases and conditions, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, despite no scientific evidence of efficacy.[257] The designer of the Lightning Process, Phil Parker, suggests certain illnesses such as ME/CFS arise from a dysregulation of the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system, which the Lightning Process aims to address, helping to break the "adrenaline loop" that keeps the systems' stress responses high.[257]
  • Macrobiotic diets (or macrobiotics) are fixed on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism.[258][259] The diet attempts to balance the supposed yin and yang elements of food and cookware.[260][261] Major principles of macrobiotic diets are to reduce animal products, eat locally grown foods that are in season, and consume meals in moderation.[258] Macrobiotics writers often claim that a macrobiotic diet is helpful for people with cancer and other chronic diseases, although there is no good evidence to support such recommendations, and that the diet can be harmful.[262][258][263] Studies that indicate positive results are of poor methodological quality.[258] Neither the American Cancer Society nor Cancer Research UK recommend adopting the diet.[264][263]
  • Magnet therapy – practice of using magnetic fields to positively influence health. While there are legitimate medical uses for magnets and magnetic fields, the field strength used in magnetic therapy is too low to effect any biological change, and the methods used have no scientific validity.[265][266][267]
  • Maharishi Ayurveda – traditional Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old alternative medical practice with roots in ancient India based on a mind-body set of beliefs.[268][269] Imbalance or stress in an individual's consciousness is believed to be the cause of diseases.[268] Patients are classified by body types (three doshas, which are considered to control mind-body harmony, determine an individual's "body type"); and treatment is aimed at restoring balance to the mind-body system.[268][269] It has long been the main traditional system of health care in India,[269] and it has become institutionalized in India's colleges and schools, although unlicensed practitioners are common.[270] As with other traditional knowledge, much of it was lost; in the West, current practice is in part based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1980s,[271] who mixed it with Transcendental Meditation; other forms of Ayurveda exist as well. The most notable advocate of Ayurveda in America is Deepak Chopra, who claims that Maharishi's Ayurveda is based on quantum mysticism.[271]
  • Morgellons – is the informal name of a self-diagnosed, unexplained skin condition in which individuals have sores that they believe contain some kind of fibers.[275][276][277] Morgellons is poorly characterized but the general medical consensus is that it is a form of delusional parasitosis.[278] An attempt to link Morgellons to the cause of Lyme disease has been attacked by Steven Salzberg as "dangerous pseudoscience".[279]
  • Moxibustion – application on or above the skin of smoldering mugwort, or moxa, to stimulate acupuncture points. A Cochrane Review found limited evidence for the use of moxibustion in correcting breech presentation of babies and called for more experimental trials. Side effects included nausea, throat irritation, and abdominal pain from contractions.[280] Moxibustion has also been studied for the treatment of pain,[281] cancer,[282] stroke,[283] ulcerative colitis,[284] constipation,[285] and hypertension.[286] Systematic reviews have found that these studies are of low quality and positive findings could be due to publication bias.[287]
  • Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) are a form of alternative medicine which proponents claim can treat allergies and related disorders. The techniques were devised by Devi Nambudripad, a California-based chiropractor[288] and acupuncturist,[289] in 1983, drawing on a combination of ideas from applied kinesiology, acupuncture, acupressure, nutritional management and chiropractic methods.[290] There is no credible evidence to support its effectiveness in assessing or treating allergies.[291]
  • Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a type of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation.[292] Naturopathy has been characterized as pseudoscience.[293][294] It has particularly been criticized for its unproven, disproven, or dangerous treatments.[295][296][297][298] Natural methods and chemicals are not necessarily safer or more effective than artificial or synthetic ones; any treatment capable of eliciting an effect may also have deleterious side effects.[294][299][300][301]
  • Negative air ionization therapy is the use of air ionizers as an experimental non-pharmaceutical treatment. It is widely considered pseudoscience.[302][303]
  • Oil pulling – is a folk remedy where oil is "swished" or "held" in the mouth for up to 20 minutes with the goal of improving oral as well as systemic health. It is said that this technique "pulls out" toxins from the body, and is claimed to be able to treat a plethora of conditions from migraines to diabetes.[304]
  • Orthomolecular medicine,[305][306] sometimes referred to as megavitamin therapy, is a form of alternative medicine, that aims to maintain human health through nutritional supplementation. The concept builds on the idea of an optimum nutritional environment in the body and suggests that diseases reflect deficiencies in this environment. Treatment for disease, according to this view, involves attempts to correct "imbalances or deficiencies based on individual biochemistry" by use of substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements and fatty acids.[307][308][309] The notions behind orthomolecular medicine are not supported by sound medical evidence and the therapy is not effective;[310][311] even the validity of calling the orthomolecular approach a form of medicine has been questioned since the 1970s.[312]
  • Reflexology, or zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet, hands, or ears with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.[334] A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled trials concluded that the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.[335] There is no consensus among reflexologists on how reflexology is supposed to work; a unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one's qi.[336] Reflexologists divide the body into ten equal vertical zones, five on the right and five on the left.[337] Concerns have been raised by medical professionals that treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, which has no proven efficacy, could delay the seeking of appropriate medical treatment.[338]
  • Rolfing (also called Structural Integration) – body manipulation devised by Ida Rolf (1896–1979) claimed by practitioners to be capable of ridding the body of traumatic memories storied in the muscles.[339] There is no evidence that rolfing is effective as a treatment for any condition.[340]
  • Therapeutic touch – form of vitalism where a practitioner, who may be also a nurse,[341][342] passes his or her hands over and around a patient to "realign" or "rebalance" a putative energy field.[343] A recent Cochrane Review concluded that "[t]here is no evidence that [Therapeutic Touch] promotes healing of acute wounds."[344][needs update] No biophysical basis for such an energy field has been found.[345][346]
  • Tin foil hat – A tin foil hat is a hat made from one or more sheets of aluminium foil, or a piece of conventional headgear lined with foil, worn in the belief it shields the brain from threats such as electromagnetic fields, mind control, and mind reading. The usage of a metal foil hat for protection against interference of the mind was mentioned in a science fiction short story by Julian Huxley, "The Tissue-Culture King", first published in 1926,[347] in which the protagonist discovers that "caps of metal foil" can block the effects of telepathy.[348] At this time no link has been established between the radio-frequency EMR that tin foil hats are meant to protect against and subsequent ill health.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)traditional medical system originating in China and practiced as an alternative medicine throughout much of the world. It contains elements based in the cosmology of Taoism,[349] and considers the human body more in functional and vitalistic than anatomical terms.[350][351] Health and illness in TCM follow the principle of yin and yang, and are ascribed to balance or imbalance in the flow of a vital force, qi.[352][353] Diagnostic methods are solely external, including pulse examination at six points, examination of a patient's tongue, and a patient interview; interpractitioner diagnostic agreement is poor.[354][350][355][356] The TCM description of the function and structure of the human body is fundamentally different from modern medicine, though some of the procedures and remedies have shown promise under scientific investigation.[352][357]
  • Urine therapy – drinking either one's own undiluted urine or homeopathic potions of urine for treatment of a wide variety of diseases is based on pseudoscience.[376]
  • Promotion of a link between autism and vaccines, in which the vaccines are accused of causing autism-spectrum conditions, triggering them, or aggravating them, has been characterized as pseudoscience.[377] Many epidemiological studies have reported no association between either the MMR vaccine and autism, or thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.[378][379] Consequently, the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no causal link between either of these varieties of vaccines and autism.[380] Similarly, "Vaccine overload", a non-medical term describing the notion that giving many vaccines at once may overwhelm or weaken a child's immature immune system and lead to adverse effects,[381][382] is strongly contradicted by scientific evidence.[383]
  • Vitalism – doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining. The book Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience stated "today, vitalism is one of the ideas that form the basis for many pseudoscientific health systems that claim that illnesses are caused by a disturbance or imbalance of the body's vital force." "Vitalists claim to be scientific, but in fact they reject the scientific method with its basic postulates of cause and effect and of provability. They often regard subjective experience to be more valid than objective material reality."[384]
  • Wilson's syndrome (not to be confused with Wilson's disease) is an alternative medicine concept, not recognized as a legitimate diagnosis in evidence-based medicine.[385] Its supporters describe Wilson's syndrome as a mix of common and non-specific symptoms which they attribute to low body temperature and impaired conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3), despite normal thyroid function tests. The American Thyroid Association (ATA) says Wilson's syndrome is at odds with established knowledge of thyroid function, has vague diagnostic criteria, and lacks supporting scientific evidence. The ATA further raised concern that the proposed treatments were potentially harmful.[386]
  • Wind turbine syndrome and wind farm syndrome are terms for adverse health effects that have been ascribed to the proximity of wind turbines.[387] Proponents have claimed that these effects include death, cancer and congenital abnormality. The distribution of recorded events, however, correlates with media coverage of wind farm syndrome itself, and not with the presence or absence of wind farms.[388][389] Reviews of the scientific literature have consistently found no reason to believe that wind turbines are harmful to health.[390]

Social sciences

Psychology

  • Attachment therapy – common name for a set of potentially fatal[391] clinical interventions and parenting techniques aimed at controlling aggressive, disobedient, or unaffectionate children using "restraint and physical and psychological abuse to seek their desired results."[392] (The term "attachment therapy" may sometimes be used loosely to refer to mainstream approaches based on attachment theory, usually outside the US where the pseudoscientific form of attachment therapy is less known.) Probably the most common form is holding therapy in which the child is restrained by adults for the purpose of supposed cathartic release of suppressed rage and regression. Perhaps the most extreme, but much less common, is "rebirthing", in which the child is wrapped tightly in a blanket and then made to simulate emergence from a birth canal. This is done by encouraging the child to struggle and pushing and squeezing him/her to mimic contractions.[265] Despite the practice's name it is not based on traditional attachment theory and shares no principles of mainstream developmental psychology research.[393] In 2006, it was the subject of an almost entirely critical Taskforce Report commissioned by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC).[394] Not all forms of attachment therapy are coercive and since the Candace Newmaker case there has been a move towards less coercive practices by leaders in the field.[394]
  • Brainwashing or mind control – a theoretical indoctrination process which results in "an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations. In this context, brainwashing refers to the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values". The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making. In 1983, the American Psychological Association (APA) asked Margaret Singer to chair a taskforce called the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC) to investigate whether brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" did indeed play a role in "cult" recruitment. The APA found that brainwashing theories were without empirical proof, and rejected the DIMPAC report because the report "lacks the scientific rigor and evenhanded critical approach necessary for APA imprimatur".[395][396] Two critical letters from external reviewers Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Jeffery D. Fisher accompanied the APA's rejection memo. The letters criticized "brainwashing" as an unrecognized theoretical concept and Singer's reasoning as so flawed that it was "almost ridiculous."[397]
  • Conversion therapy – sometimes called reparative therapy, seeks to change a non-heterosexual person's sexual orientation so they will no longer be homosexual or bisexual.[398] The American Psychiatric Association defines reparative therapy as "psychiatric treatment ... which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change their sexual homosexual orientation."[399][400][401]
  • Coding is a catch-all term for various Russian alternative therapeutic methods used to treat addictions, in which the therapist attempts to scare patients into abstinence from a substance they are addicted to by convincing them that they will be harmed or killed if they use it again. Each method involves the therapist pretending to insert a "code" into patients' brains that will ostensibly provoke a strong adverse reaction should it come into contact with the addictive substance. The methods use a combination of theatrics, hypnosis, placebos, and drugs with temporary adverse effects to instill the erroneous beliefs. Therapists may pretend to "code" patients for a fixed length of time, such as five years.[402]
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images; the therapist then directs the person in one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping.[403] It is included in several guidelines for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[404][405] Some clinical psychologists have argued that the eye movements do not add anything above imagery exposure and characterize its promotion and use as pseudoscience.[406] However, this characterization is disputed in light of two large meta analyses show the effect size was larger when eye movements were used. [407]
  • Facilitated communication (FC), supported typing, or hand over hand, is a scientifically discredited technique[408] that attempts to facilitate communication by people with severe educational and communication disabilities. The facilitator holds or gently touches the disabled person's arm or hand during this process and attempts to help them move to type on a special keyboard. In addition to providing physical support needed for typing or pointing, the facilitator provides verbal prompts and moral support.[205] There is widespread agreement within the scientific community and multiple disability advocacy organizations that FC is not a valid technique for authentically augmenting the communication skills of those with autism spectrum disorder.[409]. Instead, research indicates that the facilitator is the source of most or all messages obtained through FC (involving ideomotor effect guidance of the arm of the patient by the facilitator).[410][411] Thus, studies have consistently found that patients are unable to provide the correct response to even simple questions when the facilitator does not know the answers to the questions (e.g., showing the patient but not the facilitator an object) .[208] In addition, numerous cases have been reported by investigators in which disabled persons were assumed by facilitators to be typing a coherent message while the patient's eyes were closed or while they were looking away from or showing no particular interest in the letter board.[209]
  • Feldenkrais Method is a type of exercise therapy devised by Israeli Moshé Feldenkrais (1904–1984) during the mid-20th century. The method is claimed to reorganize connections between the brain and body and so improve body movement and psychological state.[412] There is no good medical evidence that the Feldenkrais method confers any health benefits. It is not known if it is safe or cost-effective,[413] but researchers do not believe it poses serious risks.[414]
  • Graphology – psychological test based on a belief that personality traits unconsciously and consistently influence handwriting morphology—that certain types of people exhibit certain quirks of the pen. Analysis of handwriting attributes provides no better than chance correspondence with personality, and neuroscientist Barry Beyerstein likened the assigned correlations to sympathetic magic.[265][341][415][416][417][418] Graphology is only superficially related to forensic document examination, which also examines handwriting.
  • Hypnosis – state of extreme relaxation and inner focus in which a person is unusually responsive to suggestions made by the hypnotist. The modern practice has its roots in the idea of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, originated by Franz Mesmer.[419] Mesmer's explanations were thoroughly discredited, and to this day there is no agreement amongst researchers whether hypnosis is a real phenomenon, or merely a form of participatory role-enactment.[265][420][421] Some aspects of suggestion have been clinically useful.[422][423] Other claimed uses of hypnosis more clearly fall within the area of pseudoscience. Such areas include the use of hypnotic regression, including past life regression.[424]
  • Hypnotherapy – therapy that is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.[425] It is widely considered a branch of alternative medicine though its founder, James Braid, has been described as "one of the most ardent and influential critics of pseudo-science."[426]
It should be noted that using hypnosis for relaxation, mood control, and other related benefits (often related to meditation) is regarded as part of standard medical treatment rather than alternative medicine, particularly for patients subjected to difficult physical emotional stress in chemotherapy.[427]
  • Law of attraction – the maxim that "like attracts like" which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life.[428] Skeptical Inquirer magazine criticized the lack of falsifiability and testability of these claims.[429] Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias.[430] Physicist Ali Alousi, for instance, criticized it as unmeasurable and questioned the likelihood that thoughts can affect anything outside the head.[428]
  • Memetics – approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept that units of information, or "memes", have an independent existence, are self-replicating, and are subject to selective evolution through environmental forces. Starting from a proposition put forward in the writings of Richard Dawkins, it has since turned into a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture. It has been proposed that just as memes are analogous to genes, memetics is analogous to genetics. Memetics has been deemed a pseudoscience on several fronts.[431] Its proponents' assertions have been labeled "untested, unsupported or incorrect"[431] though the same book contains Susan Blackmore's counter article "Memes as Good Science". Supporters of memetics include EO Wilson, Douglas Hofstadter and many others.
  • Myers–Briggs Type Indicator – a personality test composed of four categories of two types. The test has consistent problems with repeatability, in addition to problems of whether or not it has exhaustive and mutually exclusive classifications.[432][433][434][435][436][437][438][439][440] The four categories are Introversion/Extroversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perception. Each person is said to have one quality from each category, producing 16 unique types. The Center for Applications of Psychological Type claims that the MBTI is scientifically supported, but most of the research on it is done through its own journal, Journal of Psychological Type, raising questions of bias.[441] Results are said to follow the Barnum effect.
  • Neuro-linguistic programming – an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created in the 1970s. The title refers to a stated connection between the neurological processes ("neuro"), language ("linguistic") and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience ("programming") and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life.[442][443] According to certain neuroscientists[444] psychologists[445][446] and linguists,[447][448] NLP is unsupported by current scientific evidence, and uses incorrect and misleading terms and concepts. Reviews of empirical research on NLP indicate that NLP contains numerous factual errors,[449][450] and has failed to produce reliable results for the claims for effectiveness made by NLP's originators and proponents.[446][451] According to Devilly,[452] NLP is no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Criticisms go beyond the lack of empirical evidence for effectiveness; critics say that NLP exhibits pseudoscientific characteristics,[452] title,[444] concepts and terminology.[447] NLP is used as an example of pseudoscience for facilitating the teaching of scientific literacy at the professional and university level.[448][453][454] NLP also appears on peer reviewed expert-consensus based lists of discredited interventions.[446] In research designed to identify the "quack factor" in modern mental health practice, Norcross et al. (2006)[455] list NLP as possibly or probably discredited, and in papers reviewing discredited interventions for substance and alcohol abuse, Norcross et al. (2008)[456] list NLP in the "top ten" most discredited, and Glasner-Edwards and Rawson (2010) list NLP as "certainly discredited".[457]
  • Parapsychology – controversial discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities and life after death using the scientific method. Parapsychological experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal subjects[458][459][460] and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception.[461]
  • Phrenology – now defunct system for determining personality traits by feeling bumps on the skull proposed by 18th-century physiologist Franz Joseph Gall.[265] In an early recorded use of the term "pseudo-science", François Magendie referred to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day".[462] The assumption that personality can be read from bumps in the skull has since been thoroughly discredited. However, Gall's assumption that character, thoughts, and emotions are located in the brain is considered an important historical advance toward neuropsychology (see also localization of brain function, Brodmann's areas, neuro-imaging, modularity of mind or faculty psychology).[463]
  • Polygraph ("lie detection")[464] – an interrogation method which measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions. The belief is that deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers. Many members of the scientific community consider polygraphy to be pseudoscience.[465][466] Polygraphy has little credibility among scientists.[467][468] Despite claims of 90–95% validity by polygraph advocates, and 95–100% by businesses providing polygraph services,[469] critics maintain that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance.[470] Critics also argue that even given high estimates of the polygraph's accuracy a significant number of subjects (e.g., 10% given a 90% accuracy) will appear to be lying, and would unfairly suffer the consequences of "failing" the polygraph.
  • Primal therapy – sometimes presented as a science.[471] The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2001) states that: "The theoretical basis for the therapy is the supposition that prenatal experiences and birth trauma form people's primary impressions of life and that they subsequently influence the direction our lives take ... Truth be known, primal therapy cannot be defended on scientifically established principles. This is not surprising considering its questionable theoretical rationale."[472] Other sources have also questioned the scientific validity of primal therapy, some using the term "pseudoscience" (see Primal therapy § Criticism).
  • Psychoanalysis – body of ideas developed by Austrian physician Sigmund Freud and his followers, which is devoted to the study of human psychological functioning and behavior. Although psychoanalysis is a strong influence within psychiatry,[a][b] it has been controversial ever since its inception. It is considered pseudoscience by some.[475] Karl Popper characterized it as pseudoscience based on psychoanalysis failing the requirement for falsifiability.[476][477] Frank Cioffi argued that "though Popper is correct to say that psychoanalysis is pseudoscientific and correct to say that it is unfalsifiable, he is mistaken to suggest that it is pseudoscientific because it is unfalsifiable. [...] It is when [Freud] insists that he has confirmed (not just instantiated) [his empirical theses] that he is being pseudoscientific."[478]
  • Sluggish schizophrenia – a diagnosis used in some Communist nations to justify the involuntary commitment of political dissidents to mental institutions.[479]
  • Subliminal advertising – visual or auditory information discerned below the threshold of conscious awareness, which is claimed to have a powerful enduring effect on consuming habits. It went into disrepute in the late 1970s,[480] but there has been renewed research interest recently.[265][420] The mainstream of accepted scientific opinion does not hold that subliminal perception has a powerful, enduring effect on human behaviour.[481]

Racial theories

Sociology

  • Unilineal evolution – Before Darwin's work On the Origin of Species, some models incorporated Enlightenment ideas of social progress, and thus, according to philosopher of science Michael Ruse, were pseudoscientific by current standards, and may have been viewed as such during the 18th century, as well as into the start of the 19th century (though the word pseudoscience may not have been used in reference to these early proposals). This pseudoscientific, and often political, incorporation of social progress with evolutionary thought continued for some one hundred years following the publication of Origin of Species.[493][494]

Paranormal and ufology

Paranormal subjects[241][495][496][1] have been subject to critiques from a wide range of sources including the following claims of paranormal significance:

  • Animal mutilations – cases of animals, primarily domestic livestock, with seemingly inexplicable wounds. These wounds have been said to be caused by extraterrestrials, cults, covert government organizations, or cryptids such as el chupacabra, when in fact most such cases were found to be caused by natural predation.[265]

Numerology

Religious and spiritual beliefs

Spiritual and religious practices and beliefs, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, are normally not classified as pseudoscience.[541] 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.[541] The following religious/spiritual items have been related to or classified as pseudoscience in some way:

  • Affirmative prayer is a form of prayer or a metaphysical technique that is focused on a positive outcome rather than a negative situation. For instance, a person who is experiencing some form of illness would focus the prayer on the desired state of perfect health and affirm this desired intention "as if already happened" rather than identifying the illness and then asking God for help to eliminate it. William James described affirmative prayer as an element of the American metaphysical healing movement that he called the "mind-cure"; he described it as America's "only decidedly original contribution to the systemic philosophy of life."[542] What sets affirmative prayer apart from secular affirmations of the autosuggestion type taught by the 19th century self-help author Émile Coué (whose most famous affirmation was "Every day in every way, I am getting better and better") is that affirmative prayer addresses the practitioner to God, the Divine, the Creative Mind, emphasizing the seemingly practical aspects of religious belief.[543]
  • Energy is used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine to refer to a variety of claimed experiences and phenomena that defy measurement and thus can be distinguished from the scientific form of energy.[544][545] There is no scientific evidence for the existence of such energy.[544][545][546] Therapies that purport to use, modify, or manipulate unknown energies are thus among the most contentious of all complementary and alternative medicines. Claims related to energy therapies are most often anecdotal (from single stories), rather than being based on repeatable empirical evidence.[546][547][548]
  • Koranic scientific foreknowledge (Islam) – Koranic Science (or Qur'anic science or Hadeeth science) asserts that foundational Islamic religious texts made accurate statements about the world that science verified hundreds of years later. This belief is a common theme in Bucailleism.[549]
  • Christian Science is generally considered a Christian new religious movement. However, some have called it "pseudoscience" because its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, used "science" in its name, and because of its former stance against medical science. Also, "Eddy used the term Metaphysical science to distinguish her system both from materialistic science and from occult science."[550] The church now accepts the use of medical science. Vaccinations were banned, but in 1901, Eddy, at the age of 80, advised her followers to submit to them.[551]

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, archeology, history and linguistics.[552][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.[564][565][566][567][568]
  • 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.[465][563]

Scientology

  • Dianetics, a therapeutic technique promoted by Scientology, purports to treat a hypothetical reactive mind. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of an actual reactive mind,[569] apart from the stimulus response mechanisms documented in behaviorist psychology.
  • Scientology's Purification Rundown and Narconon programs purport to clean the human body of toxins and drugs respectively. Their method consists of very long saunas over many days, extremely large (possibly toxic) doses of vitamins including niacin, and Scientology 'training routines', sometimes including attempts at telekenesis. The programmes have been described as "medically unsafe",[570] "quackery"[571][572][573] and "medical fraud",[574] while academic and medical experts have dismissed Narconon's educational programme as containing "factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling".[575] In turn, Narconon has claimed that mainstream medicine is "biased" against it, and that "people who endorse so-called controlled drug use cannot be trusted to review a program advocating totally drug-free living."[576] Narconon has said that criticism of its programmes is "bigoted",[577] and that its critics are "in favor of drug abuse [...] they are either using drugs or selling drugs".[578]

Other

Consumer products

  • Cosmetics and cleaning products frequently make pseudoscientific claims about their products.[591] Claims are made about both the benefits or toxicity of certain products or ingredients. Practices include angel dusting, the addition of minuscule amounts of active ingredients to products which are insufficient to cause any measurable benefit. Examples of products include:
  • Essential oils are often used for aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine in which healing effects are ascribed to aromatic compounds. Aromatherapy may be useful to induce relaxation, but there is not sufficient evidence that essential oils can effectively treat any condition.[593] Improper use of essential oils may cause harm including allergic reactions and skin irritation, and children may be particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of improper use.[594][595]
  • Laundry balls – spherical or toroidal objects marketed as soap substitutes for washing machines.[265]

Idiosyncratic ideas

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

  • Lawsonomy – proposed philosophy and system of claims about physics made by baseball player and aviator Alfred William Lawson.[596]
  • Morphic resonance – The idea put forth by Rupert Sheldrake that "natural systems, such as termite colonies, or pigeons, or orchid plants, or insulin molecules, inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind". It is also claimed to be responsible for "mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms".[597]
  • N rays – A hypothesized form of radiation described by Prosper-René Blondlot in 1903, which briefly inspired significant scientific interest but were subsequently found to have been a result of confirmation bias.[598]
  • Penta Water – claimed acoustically induced structural reorganization of liquid water into long-lived small clusters of five molecules each. Neither these clusters nor their asserted benefits to humans have been shown to exist.[599][600]
  • Polywater – hypothetical polymerized form of water proposed in the 1960s with a higher boiling point, lower freezing point, and much higher viscosity than ordinary water. It was later found not to exist, with the anomalous measurements being explained by biological contamination.[601] Chains of molecules of varying length (depending on temperature) tend to form in normal liquid water without changing the freezing or boiling point.[602]
  • Time Cube[603] – a website created by Gene Ray, in 1997, where he sets out his personal model of reality, which he calls Time Cube. He suggests that all of modern physics is wrong,[604] and his Time Cube model proposes that each day is really four separate days occurring simultaneously.[605]
  • Timewave zeronumerological formula that was invented by psychonaut Terence McKenna with the help of the hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine. After experiencing 2012 doomsday predictions, he redesigned his formula to have a "zero-point" at the same date as the Mayan longcount calendar.[606][607]
  • Torsion field – hypothetical physical field responsible for ESP, homeopathy, levitation, and other paranormal phenomena. Despite the several obvious contradictions with established physics along with associated statements by believers criticized as being "nonsensical" by reputable scientists,[608] torsion fields have been embraced as an explanation for claims of homeopathic cures, telepathy, telekinesis, levitation, clairvoyance, ESP, and other paranormal phenomena.[609] The harnessing of torsion fields has been claimed to make everything possible from miracle cure devices (including devices that cure alcohol addiction[610]) to working perpetual motion machines, stargates,[611] UFO propulsion analogs, and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).[612] Some such devices, in particular the miracle cure boxes, have been patented,[613] manufactured and sold.
  • Welteislehre – notion by the Austrian Hanns Hörbiger that ice was the basic substance of all cosmic processes.

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." [473]
  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?"[474]

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  574. ^ Abgrall, Jean-Marie (2001). Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-892941-51-0. Retrieved 24 September 2012. Narconon, a subsidiary of Scientology, and the association "Yes to Life, No to Drugs" have also made a specialty of the fight against drugs and treating drug addicts. [...] Drug addicts are just one of the Scientologists' targets for recruitment. The offer of care and healing through techniques derived from dianetics is only a come-on. The detoxification of the patient by means of "dianetics purification" is more a matter of manipulation, through the general weakening that it causes; it is a way of brainwashing the subject. Frequently convicted for illegal practice of medicine, violence, fraud and slander, the Scientologists have more and more trouble getting people to accept their techniques as effective health measures, as they like to claim. They recommend their purification processes to eliminate X-rays and nuclear radiation, and to treat goiter and warts, hypertension and psoriasis, hemorrhoids and myopia... why would anyone find that hard to swallow? Scientology has built a library of several hundreds of volumes of writings exalting the effects of purification, and its disciples spew propaganda based on irresponsible medical writings by doctors who are more interested in the support provided by Scientology than in their patients' well-being. On the other hand, responsible scientific reviews have long since "eliminated" dianetics and purification from the lists of therapies – relegating them to the great bazaar of medical fraud. [...] Medical charlatans do not base their claims on scientific proof but, quite to the contrary, on peremptory assertions – the kind of assertions that they challenge when they come out of the mouths of those who defend "real" medicine.
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Further reading