Not even wrong
"Not even wrong" is a phrase often used to describe pseudoscience or bad science. It describes an argument or explanation that purports to be scientific but uses faulty reasoning or speculative premises, which can be neither affirmed nor denied and thus cannot be discussed rigorously and scientifically.
For a meaningful discussion on whether a certain statement is true or false, the statement must satisfy the criterion of falsifiability, the inherent possibility for the statement to be tested and found false. In this sense, the phrase "not even wrong" is synonymous with "unfalsifiable".
History of the expression
The phrase is generally attributed to the theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his colorful objections to incorrect or careless thinking. Rudolf Peierls documents an instance in which "a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli's views. Pauli remarked sadly, 'It is not even wrong'." This is also often quoted as "That is not only not right; it is not even wrong", or in Pauli's native German, "Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig; es ist nicht einmal falsch!" Peierls remarks that quite a few apocryphal stories of this kind have been circulated and mentions that he listed only the ones personally vouched for by him. He also quotes another example when Pauli replied to Lev Landau, "What you said was so confused that one could not tell whether it was nonsense or not."
- Cargo cult science – Form of pseudoscience
- Karl Popper – Austrian-British philosopher of science (1902–1994)
- Logical positivism – Movement in Western philosophy
- The Relativity of Wrong
- Wronger than wrong – Informal concept in philosophy of science
- Socrates – Classical Greek Athenian philosopher (c. 470 – 399 BC)
- Category mistake – Ascribing an impossible property to a thing
- Oliver Burkeman (September 19, 2005). "Not even wrong". The Guardian.
- Shermer M (2006). "Wronger Than Wrong". Scientific American. 295 (5): 40. Bibcode:2006SciAm.295e..40S. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1106-40. Archived from the original on 2011-08-10.
- Jung, C. G.; Pauli, Wolfgang; Meier, C. A.; Zabriskie, Beverley; Roscoe, David (2014-07-01). Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932–1958. Princeton University Press. p. xxxiii. ISBN 978-0-691-16147-1.
- Peierls, R. (1960). "Wolfgang Ernst Pauli, 1900–1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5: 186. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1960.0014. S2CID 62478251.
- Peierls, Rudolf (1992). "Where Pauli Made His 'Wrong' Remark". Physics Today. 45 (12): 112. Bibcode:1992PhT....45l.112P. doi:10.1063/1.2809934.
- Quotations related to Wolfgang Pauli at Wikiquote