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Dec 10, 2011               

Recommended Reading: Marks of pseudoscience, fraud and bullshit

This continues yesterday's Nederlog on woo, mostly by quoting some from links you might have found if you were delving into the links I provided yesterday.

It also should help some with making up one's mind on the question what moved dr. Judy In Whom We TrustTM. To repeat myself from October 4 - "It quite a MEss!" - last, where you find some discussion of these three questions, and also on October 8, October 14 and later:

So...was the 2009 Science article:

(1) an honest mistake,
(2) was it a fraud, or
(3) is there really something to XMRV, in medicine, if not in ME/CFS?

I shall not attempt an answer today, but instead I only supply some relevant links and quotes, that may help interested persons to make up their own minds.

In fact, I shall keep it brief and short, and only offer links and two lists of criterions. If you are interested - and you should be if you have ME and any pretentions to capacities of rational thought of your own, and indeed also if you lay claim to the latter and are happy enough not to suffer from the former - you can follow the links and do some Recommended Reading, which indeed also is the title of a series in Nederlog I mentioned almost a month ago, after quoting Bertrand Russell's Liberal Decalogue. (*)

The links all come from the end of the article Pseudoscience in The Skeptic's Dictionary and I provide a last section with some general reflections:


1. Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science
2. Russell Turpin's "Characterization of Quack Theories"
3. Distinguishing science from pseudoscience
4. Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim
5. The key to it all...

1. Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

The original is in the link that's in the title of this section, and is a brief and clear essay by a professor of physics, dr. Robert L. Park, that dates to 2003.

It is clear and short, and if you don't read anything else I recommend today, you should at least read this - and I quote just the "Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science", and not dr. Park's explanations why they are such signs:

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.

It is quoted from Quackwatch, which I like, except that I do not share the normal medical opinions on the medical colleagues who are psychiatrists or indeed clinical psychologists: Also best regarded as quackery and a form of secular religion and pseudoscience rather than real science,

2. Russell Turpin's "Characterization of Quack Theories"

The original is again in the link that's in the title of this section, and is a brief and clear post by Russell Turpin in 1993, with two other useful posts I don't quote or summarize, that all come from the site of a professor emeritus in astronomy, William Jefferys. Again I quote just the titles of brief sections. If you want to know more read the original, that's again brief and clear and linked in the title:

Evidential Flaws


Theoretical Flaws


Where the Ducks Are


Of course, the last section concerns cant words that serve to recognize cant. Here much could be added, and what should be added certainly, when "paradigms" are listed is the name of Thomas Kuhn, a failed physicist turned philosopher of science: If he is appealed to, a pompous fraud is used as a An Authority.

I mention him here: Three philosophical interviews: Kuhn, Searle, Gardner, mostly because I'd read his book in 1971 and already then identified it as pretentious bullshit, and was pleased to find and link a five part series by a one-time student of his, who stopped studying philosophy after Kuhn threw an ashtray at him:

- The ashtray - a fivepart series by Errol Morris

3. Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience

This is considerably longer and more thorough than the previous two pieces. It is 50 pages in pdf-format by Barry L. Beyerstein, who is a psychologist, and can be read by clicking on the title.

I haven't read all of it, because I have read very much philosophy of science and methodology, but if you want a reasoned exposition, with explanations and references, this seems quite useful, and the references are good. Indeed, if you are interested at all, I can recommend the books by Gardner, Kurtz, Randi, Paulos, Hansel, R.D. Rosen, and Evans in the references given by Beyerstein.

My guess is that this text, and the books I recommended, are of interest mostly to those who are especially interested in psychology. A similar qualification applies to my last link and reference:

4. Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim

I abbreviated the title, and did not read the book, that is by Edward Dolnick. My link is to a long review of it by the editor of The Skeptic's Dictionary Robert T. Carroll, who is Ph.D. in philosophy.

The review seems good and praises the book, and I list it mainly because I am convinced Freud was a fraud ever since reading a - good, acclaimed - introduction to psychiatry when I was 17. Just this review alone gives a lot of reason to seriously doubt all claims of all psychiatrists, and especially if their only authorities are psychiatrists, anecdotes, literature, philosophy or religion. (**)

Again, this will be most useful or interesting to those who are interested in psychology or psychiatry. For more on the topic, with interesting links and references, see my

- On natural philosophy, philosophy of science, and

5. The key to it all...

In fact, none of the above references is really necessary to recognize bullshit, pseudoscience or quackery: All that is needed is a free and unhampered natural intelligence.

This should be sufficient, but then most people, including most academics, are not especially intelligent. Besides, there are lots of situations in which even the best intellects are thrown off course,  and possibly - I am diplomatic here, but also just - such situations comprise being ill with a serious disease that is misdiagnosed by most medical experts, for various reasons, varying from ignorance, laziness and lack of intelligence to financial or personal interest in misdiagnoses.

Then again, the above items, and especially the first two, since they are brief, clear and not especially about medical matters, should provide the most intelligent with some of the clearest and most usual marks of pseudo-science, quackery, fraud and bullshit, from the presence of which one at least may guess fairly there is a good chance that supposed scientific prose with these marks is not really scientific, but fraudulent or incompetent if honest.

(*) This is also why I put "Recommended Reading:" in my title, that may be abbreviated from now on to "RR:".

(**) One of the sickening things about medicine and medical people, and also of patients, is that it is rarely mentioned, by either doctors or patients, that being a medical doctor is not usually or normally being a saint or saviour, but simply is a way of making a living, namely by having finished a study that gave one a fair expectation of high income, high status and considerable power and influence over defenseless and clueless people. Most doctors are into medicine not as saviours or saints, but for the money, and there is nothing wrong with that either, since nearly everyone who works, in any kind of job, works to make money, and would not do that type of work, or any other type of work, if they inherited a lot of money, and were free to do as they please. (For most people: partying or travelling, I'd guess.) When a medical doctor is trying to tell you he or she is in medicine to save or help people, or because "I love my patients" this is most probably a delusion or deception.

Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
-- Dec 17, 2011: Corrected a few typos and unclarities.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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