What is Pseudoscience?


A Nurturing Potential report - Part II




Extensive and varied are the fields and theories considered by many to be pseudoscientific, by some to be protoscientific, and by others to be defended vigorously as genuine and efficacious.  This is particularly evident in recent times in the areas of medicine and psychotherapy.  In the field of medical treatment, belief in pseudoscientific treatments probably persist as a consequence of perceived benefits that are often shown to result from the placebo effect.  The New Age movement that brought with it a proliferation of therapeutic practices, is often unfairly treated by lumping all practices together and labelling them pseudoscientific, whereas several have been tested and adopted as complementary treatments by orthodox medical practitioners.  Other areas of scientific speculation are frequently dismissed by scientists from established fields as being pseudoscientific, yet some of them have found their way onto the syllabuses of major universities as "young fields of science".  These include astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and communication with extraterrestrial intelligence.

We acknowledge with grateful thanks the following two Internet sources for much of the following list of "pseudoscientific theories": Brainy Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.  If you have not yet discovered these two wonderful free online encyclopaedias, you have a treat in store.  We have also, in some places, given a direct link to a third source of information: The Skeptic's Dictionary.  This is another very useful resource.

[Brainy Encyclopedia has also published an exhaustive list of Protosciences.  It will be found at http://www.brainyencyclopedia.com/encyclopedia/l/li/list_of_protosciences.html.]

Here is the less-than-exhaustive list of pseudoscientific theories:


Creationism is the religious belief that the origin of the universe and everything in it is due to an event of creation brought about by the deliberate act of a creator god, such are generally opposed to the scientific theory that life arose by evolution.

Intelligent Design theory holds that life and living things show signs of having been designed. ID's primary argument is that life is too complex to have simply "happened"; Intelligent Design is generally considered to be a form of creationism.

Superficial anatomy researches forms and proportions of the human body and the surface landmarks which correspond to deeper structures hidden from view.


Astrology refers to any of several systems of understanding, interpreting and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence, based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies.

Cartomancy is a form of fortune telling - divination - using a deck of cards.

Channeling is the supposed special ability of a person to receive information from unknown sources.

Chiromancy evaluates a person's character or future life by "reading" the palm of that person's hand.

Dowsing is a divination method which dowsers say empowers them to find water, metals and hidden objects by carrying some form of stick and watching its motion.

Fortune telling is the practice of predicting the future, usually of an individual, through mystical or supernatural means.

Geomancy has always been a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or how handfuls of dirt land when you toss them.

Numerology is an arcane study of the purported mystical relationship between numbers and the character or action of physical objects and living things.

Pyramid power theory states that pyramids have healing power and spiritual energy.

Remote viewing is a form of clairvoyance by which a viewer is said to use his or her clairvoyant abilities to "view" which is hidden from physical view of the viewer.

Scrying is the name given to the ancient technique of gazing into an object for the purpose of remote viewing.


The Catastrophism theory is that Earth has been affected by sudden, short-lived, violent events that were sometimes worldwide in scope.

The Hollow Earth theory claims that the Earth is hollow, and is possibly populated by a race of superbeings, humans or aliens, and possibly dinosaurs.

Ley Lines are alignments of a number of places of geographical interest, such as ancient megaliths.


Acupuncture in the traditional sense, is the practice of inserting very thin needles in particular points on the body to redirect qi thereby improving health and well-being. This is one component of traditional Chinese medicine.

Applied Kinesiology is a method of diagnosing malfunctioning organs and what the effect of substances on the body is or would be by testing whether certain muscles is weakened or not.

The Bates Method [1] of vision improvement, based on a theory of how the eye accommodates which is not accepted by mainstream ophthalmology or biology.

Biorhythm theory researches patterns of alterations in physiology, emotions, and intellect.

Some Chiropractic theories that ascribe ailments unrelated to the spine to spinal maladjustments.

Crystal power theory states that crystals have alleged healing and mystical paranormal powers.

The Duesberg hypothesis claims that recreational and pharmaceutical drug use, rather than HIV, is the primary cause of AIDS.

Food faddism refers to the tendency for idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns.

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine involving the use of highly diluted substances with similar (i. e. homeo-) characteristics to the condition being treated.

Iridology theory that diagnoses the health of a person by examining the pattern of the iris of the eye.

Magnet therapy is an alternative medicine based on the concept that certain medical disorders can be effectively treated by exposure to magnetic fields.

Psychic surgery is a type of apparent surgery performed by the healer with bare hands or unorthodox instruments.

Trepanation is the act of drilling a hole in one's head to release built-up pressure and move the person to a higher plane of consciousness.


Facilitated Communication is alternative means of expression for people who cannot speak, or whose speech is highly limited (e.g. echoed, limited to one or a few word utterances), and who cannot point reliably.

Gene Ray's Time Cube states that there are 4 simultaneous days in a single rotation of Earth, and that Time is Cubic, not linear. Some people doubt whether this concept qualifies as a theory as they consider it to lack testable constructs.

Materialisation is the creation of matter from nowhere and out of nothing by somebody's will power or concentration.

New Chronology, a theory which claims that currently accepted chronology  presents a history which lasts much longer than it should (for example, that Jesus Christ is born around 1000 years ago).

Welteislehre is a theory developed by Hanns Hörbiger in the early 20th century. It states that the universe is based on a constant struggle between ice and fire.


Cold fusion (or cold nuclear fusion (CNF)) theory claims that hydrogen can undergo nuclear fusion at room temperature in palladium.

Nikola Tesla's Dynamic Theory of Gravity that was never published but has been modified.

Hidden Variable Theory is urged by a minority of physicists who argue that the statistical nature of quantum mechanics implies that it is really applicable only to ensembles of particles.

Hydrino Theory proposes the hydrino, or miniature hydrogen atom with the electron pushed closer than usual to the nucleus.

Kirlian Photography is high-voltage contact print photography.

Luminiferous Aether is the classical medium for the propagation of light.

Wilhelm Reich's Orgone Energy is an unproven form of energy.

Perpetual Motion machines are a class of hypothetical machines which produce useful energy "from nowhere".

Plasma Cosmology is a sub-set of plasma physics which attempts to explain large scale structure in the universe.

Quaternion Physics is a method to represents events as time (t) and place (x, y, z).

Reciprocal System Theory postulates a universe of nothing but motion.

Steady State Theory holds that the universe has always existed, and will always exist, in the same macroscopic state.

Synchronicity refers to the alignment of forces in the universe to create an event or circumstance.


Brainwashing theory says that a person can have his belief system and basic values changed involuntarily by the use of social pressure e.g. in cults

Characterology method of character reading developed in the 1920s.

Engrams a phenomenon claimed by Dianetics, are neurons patterns connected through activation at the same time.

Enneagram [2] is a classification of personality characteristics claimed to give insight into intra- and interpersonal relationships.

Freudian Theory is a core element contributed by Sigmund Freud to psychoanalysis

Graphology is the study of handwriting and its connection to behaviour, personal information and other human traits.

Hypnosis is "a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behaviour."

Interpretation of Dreams is the art of determining the meaning (or alleged meaning) of the symbols contained in a dream.

Parapsychology is the branch of science concerned with the study of mental phenomena, whether actual or purported, that are not currently explainable within the framework of mainstream, conventional science.

Pathognomy is the study of passions and emotions.

Phrenology claims to be able to determine personality traits and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head.

Physiognomy is based upon the belief that the study and judgement of a person's outer appearance, primarily the face, reflects the contents of their personality.

Polygraph or Lie detector is a device which measures and records several physiological variables such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and skin conductivity while a series of questions is being asked, in an attempt to detect lies.

Recovered or Repressed Memory is the act of discovering repressed memories and therapy to achieve such ends.


Democide Theory that Totalitarian Governments cause more deaths than wars.

Marxism-Leninism a political and economic theory based on economic determinism.

Social Darwinism is a set of theories which proponents argue govern the natural sociological relations of humanity; these theories are derived from Darwin's theory of evolution.

XENOLOGY (The branch of science that deals with extraterrestrial phenomena)

Cryptozoology is the study of rumoured or mythological animals that are presumed by many to exist, but for which proof does not yet exist.

Pseudoarchaeology refers to the ideologically-driven, usually sensational interpretation of the past outside of a critical, scientific framework. Pseudoarchaeology also includes forms of protosciences.

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is a world-wide project that looks for signs of intelligent life outside of our planet.

Ufology is the term describing the study of the UFO (unidentified flying object) phenomena, including claims that some UFOs are extraterrestrial vehicles manned by aliens.


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[1] See also article published in Nurturing Potential Issue No. 6.  Click here.

[2] See also Sep Meyer's article in Issue No. 14 of Nurturing Potential.  Click here.