Friday, July 25, 2008

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science - Robert L. Park

In May, I wrote a post titled "The 5 A's of Empty Argument", and in time, the superior knowledge of the readers upped that five to a much nicer seven:

1.Argument from Authority
2.Argument from Anecdote
3.Argument by Appeal to Emotion
4.Argument from the Alternative
5.Argument by Ad hominem
6.Argument from Antiquity
7.Argument by Analogy

Excellent. Seven really feels much better than five.

Recently, via the intellectually rewarding timewasting site of StumbleUpon, I was presented with the following article in a similar vein from 2003:

The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

It is a very useful guide for weeding out the Steorns of this world, and other paradigmatic-shifting salesmen.

R.L. Park is swift to point out that :

they are only warning signs -- even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate.

but it's fair to say that the following seven signs are hallmarks of the conmen.

The full article is here, with a synopsis below:

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work
3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection
4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal
5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries
6. The discoverer has worked in isolation
7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation

Spotting voodoo science is a skill that every citizen should develop - Robert L. Park


  1. You might also like John Baez's crackpot index:

    It's amazing how often these, or minor variants on them, can be spotted; for example recent complaints from homoeopaths about "fundamentalism" look pretty much like no. 35, or possibly 33, either of which gets 40 points.

  2. Good additions even if none of ours made it in to your new list. [/sniff]

    I also like Denialism's guides: How to spot a crank and Denialism tactics.

  3. I deleted a comment here (about 1000 words) from Solomon Sami Azar.

    If you want to know what it said, put his name into Google and read the same diatribe all the other places across teh internet that he has spammed it.