Science vs pseudoscience

Atul Gawande explains on The New Yorker how to differentiate pseudoscience from real science. The main idea is that a lot of people mistrust science because they cannot tell the two apart. A compounding problem is that research shows that trying to debunk specific examples of pseudoscience doesn’t work to convince people to believe in the true facts (science). So how do we go about increasing knowledge and decreasing misinformation in ourselves and others?

Atul gives us three main tools:

  • State the facts.
  • Tell a story around these facts (give your sources and an idea of the amount of evidence behind these facts)
  • Know and recognize the tactics of pseudoscience.

What are these tactics?

  • Faking scientific consensus in an attempt to suppress opposing views.
  • Producing fake experts with views contrary to established knowledge with no credible track records.
  • Cherry-picking data to support their views and challenge dominant view as an attempt to make people mistrust the whole field.
  • Wrong reasoning (eg: use of logical fallacies).
  • Asking for impossible research expectations (eg: asking for experimental errors that are just impossible to achieve).

Which are all example techniques of the more general idea of thinking critically.

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