Re: virus: Questions to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a protoscience
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 21:51:51 -0600 (CST)

On Sat, 25 Jan 1997, David McFadzean wrote:

Interesting. If I don't comment on a point, I consider it inconclusive=20
for the purpose proposed.

> Found on the web at
> I think it would be interesting to see how these questions apply to the=
> alleged nascent science of memetics.
> Questions to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a protoscience=20
> (a new science trying to establish its legitimacy)=20
> adapted from Lee Moller's on-line article "BCS Debates a Qi Gong Master,"
> Rational Enquirer, Vol 6, No. 4, Apr 94 (published by the British Columbi=
> Skeptics Society)=20
> 1.Has the subject shown progress?=20
> 2.Does the discipline use technical words such as "vibration" or "energy"=
> without clearly defining what they mean?=20
> 3.Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well=
> established physical laws?=20

I.e., it is contra-science [pseudoscience], or a science extension=20
[heuristically proto-science]?

> 4.Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?=20
> 5.Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?=20
> 6.Does the proponent of the subject claim that "air-tight" experiments=20
> have been performed that prove the truth of the subject matter, and=20
> that cheating would have been impossible?=20

The proponent is suffering from an extravagant failure of morality, and=20
general honesty, in a form detectable by mere syntax. High confidence of=

> 7.Are the results of the aforementioned experiments successfully repeated=
> by other researchers?=20

Only useful for claims that claim to be observer-invariant. Many=20
pseudosciences claim to be observer-invariant, however.

> 8.Does the proponent of the subject claim to be overly or unfairly
> criticized?=20
> 9.Is the subject taught only in non-credit institutions?=20

Ok, so it isn't mainstream science. Next, check to see if the non-credit=
institution has factional bankrolling....

> 10.Are the best texts on the subject decades old?=20

Science is designed to outdate. Some fields of higher mathematics will giv=
"yes" to this question. [Of course, it is debatable whether math *is* a=20

> 11.Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer has called=20
> "factuals" - statements that are a largely or wholly true but=20
> unrelated to the claim?=20

This criterion is best for nonchaotic, low-complexity subjects. Much of=20
my research into "fringe biology" from abstracts is "fringe" *because* I=20
need to find "statements that are largely or wholly true, but unrelated=20
to the claim." [They *are* related, but the connections are ludicrous=20
without an extremely solid background in conventional science.]

XYZ's rather shocked response to my research into REM bypasses is=20
appropriate, considering my use of "pseudo-factuals" on an individual=20
scale to reliably extend verifiable performance, again on an individual=20

> 12.When criticized, do the defenders of the claim attack the critic=20
> rather than the criticism?=20
> 13.Does the proponent make appeals to history (i.e. it has been around=20
> a long time, so it must be true)?=20

See #6.

> 14.Does the subject display the "shyness effect" (sometimes it works,=20
> sometimes it doesn't)?=20

Some of the more intricate physical/mental handicaps do *exactly* this! =20
Usually, first order causes are locatable for these "shyness effects";=20
these almost always require the use of apparent "factuals" that aren't=20
[see #11], or the use of scientific knowledge that experts in the domain=20
often *don't* know, but is easily verified.

An example of pseudo-factuals: [Not me, an acquaintance of mine....]

The 'Physical Therapists' That Should Have Gotten an F in Engineering=20
Physics I: Or was It Airhead Physics?

Mr. X, due to ____, requires a cane at some age under 30 years old. I=20
will depict the weak leg by W, and the strong leg by S. The question is=20
where the cane should be used, in order to enable walking:


Cane orientation: 1? 2?

Pause for a moment, and decide.

Empirically, #2 results in a quick attempt to "French-kiss the floor". =20
#1 is useful for short-distance walking. This is easily predicted by=20
verbal/qualitative reasoning taught in Airhead Physics, let alone=20
the vector calculations taught in Engineering Physics I.

The above conclusions will not fit into the minds of some 'physical=20
therapists' my acquaintance has been forced to use the services of. My=20
understanding is that these have all certifications one would expect of=20
physical therapists.

These cannot believe physical reality, apparently, and insist that #2 is=20
the one that enables walking.

The "pseudo-factual" is the force calculations taught in various physics=20

> 15.Does the proponent use the appeal to ignorance argument ("there are=20
> more things under heaven =85 than are dreamed of in your philosophy =85")=

See #6.

> 16.Does the proponent use alleged expertise in other areas to lend=20
> weight to the claim?=20

See #11.