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voodoo science

"Dennis Lee has broken a lot of laws, but he hasn't broken the laws of thermodynamics." --Bob Park (Voodoo Science, p. 132)

Voodoo science is a pejorative term used by physicist Robert Park to describe bad science, junk science, pseudoscience, or pathological science.

Park lists seven warning signs of voodoo science:

  1. A discovery is pitched directly to the media, bypassing peer review, e.g., Pons & Fleischmann's claims about cold fusion and Dennis Lee's claims about free energy.

  2. A powerful "establishment" is said to be suppressing the discovery.

  3. An effect is always at the very limit of detection.

  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.

  5. A belief is said to be credible because it has endured for centuries, i.e., commits the fallacy of appeal to tradition. E.g., acupuncture and Ayurvedic medicine.

  6. An important discovery is made in isolation (the "lone genius").

  7. New laws of nature are proposed to explain an incredible observation. A common lament of parapsychologists.

The term originated with an op-ed editor at The New York Times who used it as the title of a column written by Park. Voodoo Science is also the title of a book by Park, which presents numerous examples of voodoo science, especially of people claiming to have found a virtually free source of infinite energy.

further reading

Mooney, Chris. (2005). The Republican War on Science. Basic Books.

Park, Robert L. Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Oxford U. Press, 2000).

Taverne, Dick. (2006). The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism. Oxford University Press.

Toumey, Christopher P. (1996). Conjuring Science: Scientific Symbols and Cultural Meanings in American Life. Rutgers University Press.

Last updated 04-Sep-2012

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