In an increasingly connected and informed world, it is hard to believe that pseudosciences such as chamaerie or homeopathy are the order of the day. Some false beliefs are so common that they often permeate even media that boast some scientific rigor.
At present, the proliferation of pseudosciences is increasing. This is dangerous not so much because of individual issues, since each one is free to believe in what they want, but because of the real danger that it entails for our health, both physical and psychological.
In Spain, due to the seriousness of the situation, the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Science and Innovation have published a catalog of “practices” without a scientific basis in which they classified 73 techniques as pseudotherapies and 66 they are in the study phase. The objective is to inform the population so that they can make responsible decisions regarding pseudotherapies and pseudosciences. Let’s deepen.
What is considered a pseudoscience?
There is a feature that necessarily any pseudoscience has in common with the others: it does not respond to the valid scientific method. Their arguments are not based on theories and scientific experiments, but on the contrary, they are disciplines that support their effectiveness in the affirmation that their application has worked for other people.
In a survey by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), the data obtained were alarming: around 50% of respondents believed, for example, in the effectiveness of homeopathy. This obviously can not but have serious repercussions for the health of people.
In general, the statements presented by pseudosciences are usually:
These do not have systematic procedures of study and experimentation; often, they only take the scientific data that is favorable to them. There is a clear example in the mathematical development of the New Terraplanist Theory, which in the XXI century defends, again, that the Earth is flat.
Other popular pseudosciences can be, for example, astrology, numerology or crystal therapy. None of them resort to the scientific method to corroborate their hypotheses and turn them into theories. The results have not been verified.
The pseudosciences in the 21st century: the anti-vaccines movement
One of the most dangerous cases of pseudoscience of our century is the anti-vaccines movement. Vaccines have been one of the most important medical advances in the history of mankind and denying their effectiveness is naive and dangerous.
Each year, thanks to vaccinations, between two and three million deaths are avoided. For example, between 2000 and 2010, mortality due to measles was reduced by 74%.
However, a false study published in 1998 linked a vaccine to autism. Although the study was scientifically discredited shortly afterwards, this has fueled the arguments of those opposed to vaccinating their children.
The danger of these claims is that although it seems that the only affected is the unvaccinated child, the truth is that vaccines work in groups and not individually. Therefore, when a sufficient number of children cease to be vaccinated, the immunity of the entire society in which they find themselves is affected.
Other pseudosciences that accompany us every day
Astrology is another pseudoscience that we consume daily almost without realizing it. From early morning television programs to the last pages of newspapers have a section for the horoscope or information on the tarot.
In this sense, almost everyone knows our zodiac sign. In general, it is attractive to think that our different personalities are determined by the constellation under which we were born. In some way, this inclination obeys the idiosyncrasy of the human mind.
But the truth is that nothing has to do with the star in which you were born with your way of thinking or being, as astrology does. Genetics or the way they have raised us, on the contrary, they say much more about who we are.
How to fight against pseudosciences
The most effective way to fight against pseudoscience is through information: sadly, today we can find thousands of pages on the Internet with an attractive interface, apparently technical and scientific that, finally, they are not more than another fraud that tries to empty our pocket.
A study by the George Washington University published in the American Journal of Public Health states that there are a large number of malicious messages and false information in social social networks about pseudoscience and its powerful effects.
Therefore, it is necessary to learn to differentiate from what source we can extract truthful and adequate information and which ones we should reject.
Thus, it is important that this exercise starts at school, where we are still excessively vulnerable to the opinions of others. If we do not develop enough critical spirit from childhood, we can always acquire it later; however, the longer we take to do so, the more susceptible we will be to not being able to resist fraud.
On the other hand, education must always be accompanied by a consistent legislation that penalizes those who try to profit from the suffering of others. In this sense, the worst pseudosciences are those that prevent people from solving their problems with proven and effective methods that would otherwise give them real help.
The scientific community also has a lot to say in this regard: they are the first to reject supposedly scientific articles and displace pseudoscientific charlatans from universities, laboratories and congresses.
The real sciences or “hard sciences” must respond appropriately and put an end to these movements, since allowing them to flourish supposes harming one’s scientific status.