What's the Difference Between Science & Pseudoscience?

By Michael Edmonds 30/06/2013

What’s the difference between science and pseudoscience?

Pseudoscience can’t move on when evidence comes along to disprove its ideas; science does.

Consider homeopathy, virtually unchanged over the past 200 years. Homeopathy was developed during a time when medicine was anything but evidence based, when common treatments were to bleed the patient or treat them with toxic metal compounds, treatments which are now also be considered sheer quackery.

Given the choice between pseudoscience which makes you sicker and pseudoscience which does nothing, the later seems the better choice, so homeopathy was able to establish itself as a reasonable treatment.

However, much progress has been made in medicine over the past 200 years. We now know that some diseases are caused by micro-organisms, others by genetic diseases, and yet others by environmental poisoning. And based on our better understanding of disease we now have reliable cures and treatments for many diseases.

Modern medicine has responded to changes in scientific knowledge and created new, potent treatments of disease. Homeopathy has not. It has not provided cures for any diseases of significance but instead lurks in the fringes of self limiting conditions.



0 Responses to “What's the Difference Between Science & Pseudoscience?”

  • The consequences of good science as well as bad science are enormous. Therefore be careful in differentiating them. It’s difficult but not impossible.

    But how you can do that? “Voice of Good Science” helps in distinguishing science from pseudoscience

    1. Sharpen your logic (both inductive and deductive) by healthy discussion, critical reasoning and rational thinking, not arguing. Argument is a lost battle.
    2. Claims by Good Science must be tested, verified and results published in peer-review journals.

  • Gus,
    At the moment the scientific consensus supports fluoridation both in terms fo effectiveness and safety.
    Should significant evidence arise to the contrary then that consensus will respond to the new evidence.

  • Nancy,
    Thanks for the homeopathy propaganda thinly disguised as “science”. Your Voice of Good Science website is a complete misnomer, twisting information to support your pet pseudoscience with statements such as

    “e.g. Andrew Wakefield’s research paper linking autism and vaccines was a landmark paper. While his work was appreciated, what about millions of children who were vaccinated before having this knowledge and may have contracted deadly illnesses as a result”


    “extraordinary cures require extraordinary medicine”

    (I think extraordinary cures require extraordinary evidence, would be far more appropriate, something that homeopathy has failed to deliver on by the way)

    “Science is under attack by s(k)eptics, who are cynics, fascists and atheists. It is often said that have nothing right in the left brain and nothing left in the right brain. They are dangerous to public health. Steer clear of quacks and their quackery”

    Well, I guess I at least agree with the last sentence, though it looks like you are trying to twist the meaning of quack to suit your aims. Not surprising, pseudoscience pushers have a habit of stealing and misusing scientific terminology for example quantum, string theory, all while having no clue how stupid this looks to those with a scientific background.

    Nice blurring and slurring of skeptics/atheists/fascists. I’m surprised you didn’t Godwin it by throwing nazi in there as well.

  • @michael
    What credible evidence you have to call homeopathy a pseudoscience? You are acting as your own judge. If antidepressant medicines have shown to be pseudomedicine in research studies then which system of medicine is pseudoscience? Homeopathy or conmed?

    • Nancy.
      The onus is on you and other homeopaths to demonstrate that homeopathy is a science, something which you have not been able to do. Just look at the underlying ideas – the conflict with basic, well evidenced and founded theories in chemistry and physics.
      You selected anti-depressants as your example from medicine – an areas where some drug companies have indulged in dodgy practices. So not the best example.

      It would make far more sense to examine the use of medicine versus homeopathy.

      So how about this, I’ve put up 6 examples of medicines used to treat disease, you do the same with homeopathy and we will see how they compare

      1) penicillin
      2) insulin
      3) retro-viral drugs for HIV
      4) morphine for pain
      5) Gleevec – adult leukemia
      6) quinine – malaria

  • Nancy Malik,

    Homeopathy as a ‘field’ claims homeopathy relies on things ‘not yet’ shown by science, hence it’s not science, yet claims to be scientific, hence it is pseudo-scientific.

    In practice, the notions of how homeopathy is supposed to work fly in the face of basic science so severely that it’s probably the most obviously bunk of the so-called quack remedies out there.

  • “Pseudoscience” as a label has a stigma of negativity about it, that homeopaths are desparate to avoid. But, if the shoes fits…

    If it’s not pseudoscience, and it sure isn’t science, what is homeopathy? An accountancy methodology? A religion?

  • @Michael
    So how about this, I’ve put up 6 examples of medicines used to treat disease, you do the same with homeopathy and we will see how they compare

    1) penicillin
    2) insulin
    3) retro-viral drugs for HIV
    4) morphine for pain
    5) Gleevec – adult leukemia
    6) quinine – malaria

    Wonderful idea, I’ll get the popcorn and wait for the homeopathic alternatives to be posted 🙂

  • The placebo effect. The power of mind over body. Is this pseudo science.? After reading many blogs on sciblogs over the past few weeks my observation is that the science world has given up on thinking and is more akin to repeating known beliefs, attacking those who question it. What an about face and what a huge pity that one can observe this so readily.

    • jeff
      No, the placebo effect is something that has been observed, studied and verified, so it is science.

      If you are trying to make the point that using homeopathy can be justified in that it is an application of the placebo effect then I would be wary.
      We could also invoke the placebo efect by selling bottles of pixie dust and unicorn hair. however, in both cases we are replacing science with make believe, a very dangerous thing to do.
      Also recent research has shown that placebo’s work even when the patient is told that it is a placebo. Isn’t this a more honest and intelligent approach which actually acknowledges the power of our minds, without haivng to venture into deception and fanciful thinking implicit in homeopathy as a disguise for the placebo effect?

  • Homeopathy supports science
    1. Nonlinear Biomedical Physics
    Influence of diluted mediators on fungal laccase activity (2009)
    2. Journal of Solution Chemistry
    New Physico-Chemical Properties of Extremely Dilute Solutions (2008)
    3. Experimental Biology and Medicine
    in vitro studies shows anti-cancer activity of Gelsimium 2-4c (2008)

    • Nancy,

      Still waiting for that list of 6 homeopathic medicines which have been proven to treat significant diseases…

      With regard to the papers you list, the first two describe interesting and unusual phenomena, however, this in no way proves that homeopathy works.
      The third paper appears to have been sponsored and/or carried out by one of the largest producers of homeopathic solutions, Boiron. In my opinion this paper is a muddle of spectroscopic and cellular techniques, with no particularly interests results. There is nothing in it that supports homeopathy as a viable medical treatment. The experiment title refers to the anticancer activity of solutions of 2- 4C, concentrations at which active components will still remain, concentrations much stronger than the 20 and 30C often used by homeopaths.

  • @Michael
    1.Histology and Histopathology
    Scanning electron microscopy to investigate the structure of platelets of HIV patients treated with Canova (2009)
    2. British Homoeopathic Journal
    Homeopathy for diseases of the lymph nodes in HIV Stage 2 & 3 infected people (1999)
    Staphylococcus 12c decreases immune complexes, increases CD4 lymphocytes in HIV patients (2000)

    1. Experimental Biology and Medicine
    in vitro studies shows anti-cancer activity of Gelsimium 2-4c (2008)
    2. Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine
    Dynamized Preparations in Cell Culture (2009)
    // Carcinosinum 200C, Conium, Lycopodium activates beneficial gene p53 which provides defense against cancer
    3. Genetics and Molecular Research
    Canova for cancer treatment (2003)
    4. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine
    Tumor (blood cancer) Therapy with Amanita phalloides (2010)

    • Nancy,
      You seem to have misunderstood, I said treatments not papers describing barely significant observations. I see you quote the Gelsimium paper again even thoughts dilutions are not typical homeopathic dilutions.

      So would you like to try again and list even three homeopathic treatments that have been proved to be effective in treating significant diseases?

  • “scientific consensus supports fluoridation both in terms of effectiveness and safety” I see the proper regulatory tests and approval have never been done to make the claim “safe and effective”
    Until this has been done fluoridation will always have an element of pseudoscience. As for consensus there definitely isn’t.