GLOBAL: Pseudo-scientific research still rife

Pseudo-science - theories, assumptions and methods erroneously regarded as scientific - continues to be studied and 'researched' in many universities around the world, with billions of dollars 'wasted' on research into fake medical sciences, the World Conference of Science Journalists held in Qatar heard.

Creationism or anti-evolutionism is regarded as a pseudo-science of biology. Magnetic healing, perpetual motion, quantum mysticism, New Age physics, free energy and anti-gravity schemes are pseudo-sciences in the guise of physics.

Meanwhile a lot of bogus science is also taking place in the field of psychology, including parapsychology, prophecy, repressed memory and fake self-help schemes.

Almost an entire field of pseudo-science, which continues to divert a large amount of research funding, is devoted to alternative medicines. This includes unproven medical remedies such as homeopathy, cure-alls (a medicine that that cures all diseases), diet fads and 'energy' healing.

"What distinguishes pseudo-science from science is not the subject, but the way it is handled. All these subjects can be treated in a scientific, responsible way," Kendrick Frazier (pictured), Editor of the US-based Skeptical Inquirer magazine, told University World News at the science journalists conference held in Doha, Qatar, from 27-29 June.

However, "more often enthusiasts promote their ideas without regard for any scientific methods or any kind of critical-sceptical self-evaluation."

Pseudo-science makes claims about the natural world that are unsupported or even contradicted by the best available scientific evidence.

But it is different from anti-science, which is open hostility to science, such denying evidence of global warming, a climate anti-science.

Pseudo-science "takes on the guise of science, using some of the same words and language and ideas. It moves along in science's shadow, pretending to be real science, and then emerges into the light at every opportunity for public exposure of its sensational and grandiose claims, via the media," Frazier said.

Science has endorsed some alternative medicine practices such as acupuncture and herbal medicine as 'complimentary medicine'.

Researchers and science journalists have played a role in informing the public about homeopathy. But while a large number of people still believe it to be a branch of medical science, there is now enough literature which debunks the claims of homeopathy, and shows that this method of treatment does not have any scientifically proven methodology. Its claims are not peer-reviewed.

"Enthusiasts know the conclusions they want, seek supporting information, ignore or disparage all contravening evidence and all that has to appeal to the public. All the claims and testimonials avoid peer review, however," said Istvan Vago, former president of The Skeptics Society and now a journalist with Hungarian television.

Scientists need to monitor bogus science and publicise their findings before it can attract a big following, the Doha conference heard.

Scientists have a responsibility to the public to devote a fraction of their time to public education about science. And that includes addressing misinformation and misperceptions and pseudo-scientific claims, Frazier said.