|On the fundamental differences between Science and Pseudoscience|
|2012 is a hoax!|
There are those who do not trust mainstream science, instead trusting "alternative science" or even "fringe science." Convincing someone the conclusions of mainstream science are generally trustworthy when they hold conspiracy-laden arguments against those conclusions is not easy. To help, we have provided some assistance below.
To begin with, it is worth noting the terms "alternative science" and "fringe science" are highly misleading, as they presume to be science when they are not. "Alternative science" further presumes mainstream science does not use alternative ideas to advance knowledge, when it clearly does. Therefore, the term pseudoscience (false science) will be used in lieu of either "alternative science" or "fringe science."
Four possible ways to approach the issue (use whichever seem appropriate):
Video Education/Easy Button
Have them watch videos on YouTube on the subject pseudoscience. There are a number of good videos on this subject featuring Carl Sagan, Brian Brushwood, James Randi and Michael Shermer.
Attack the assumptions
Many believe conspiracies stating science is controlled by some secret elite cabal, and therefore pseudoscience is excluded unfairly. However, science is not controlled by the elite, it is controlled by what works. Meanwhile, nobody prevents pseudoscientists from spreading their ideas, but flatly wrong papers don't often get past peer review, and therefore don't get published. The ideas of pseudoscientists are rightly rejected, to the point where most don't even subject their ideas to peer review, instead opting to write books for profit.
Observe that science works
Pseudoscience often fails to revise conclusions when presented with new evidence, making it seem comfortably self-assured to the casual observer. Meanwhile, science modifies or discards conclusions when presented with new evidence, making it seem uncertain by comparison. Observe this is really a flaw in pseudoscience: It is failing to abandon poorly working or outright incorrect ideas, while science strives to constantly improve itself. Then back that observation up with examples of all the wonderful technology that works based on scientific principles. Computers? Science. Medical technology? Science. Space flight? Science (and very cool). Contrast this against pseudoscience, which makes nothing. Why? Because, its conclusions are sloppy and/or outright inaccurate, so nothing can be made from them.
Demonstrate the difference
Demonstrate the difference between science and pseudoscience: Science starts with observation, forms a hypothesis, tests it, comes to a conclusion, shares with others (often through publication), has the testing repeated by others, and finally forms a rigorously tested valid conclusion. If the testing fails, the hypothesis is modified and new testing ensues, or perhaps the hypothesis is abandoned. This is the Scientific Method. By contrast, pseudoscience starts with observation (sometimes skipping even this), makes a conclusion, and then includes supporting evidence while ignoring conflicting data. Ask which of these is more likely to work.
There is no valid alternative to the Scientific Method for establishing realities in the natural world.
Three excellent web-based articles talking about pseudoscience in general:
A detailed description of the Scientific Method: