Pseudoscience and Superstition: Things I Don't Believe In


At the borders of science lurks a range of ideas that are appealing, but that have not been conscientiously worked over with a baloney detection kit: the notion, say, that the Earth's surface is on the inside, not the outside, of a sphere; or claims that you can levitate yourself by meditating and that ballet dancers and basketball players routinely get up so high by levitating; or the proposition that I have something called a soul, made not of matter or energy, but of something else for which there is no other evidence, and which after my death might return to animate a cow or a worm.

Typical offerings of pseudoscience and superstition are: 

Some claims are hard to test -- for example, if an expedition fails to find the ghost or the brontosaurus, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Others are easier -- for example, flatworm cannibalistic learning. A few -- for example, perpetual motion machines -- can be excluded on grounds of fundamental physics.

The question, as always, is how good is the evidence? The burden of proof surely rests on the shoulders of those who advance such claims. Some people hold that skepticism is a liability, that true science is investigated without skepticism. They are perhaps halfway there. But halfway doesn't do it.


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