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This chart from Wikipedia quite nicely explains what pseudoscience is:

chart from Wikipedia

I think it's quite clear from the Bible that we Christians shouldn't give room to superstitions. As pseudoscience is close to superstition, should we treat it the same? What guidelines should be used when deciding whether to believe what some call pseudoscience?

For reference, some examples of claimed pseudoscience (from Wikipedia):

Examples of pseudoscience concepts, proposed as scientific when they are not scientific, are creation science, intelligent design, orgone energy, N-rays, ch'i, L. Ron Hubbard's engram theory, enneagram, iridology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, New Age psychotherapies (e.g., rebirthing therapy), reflexology, applied kinesiology, astrology, biorhythms, facilitated communication, plant perception, extrasensory perception (ESP), Velikovsky's ideas, von Däniken's ideas, Sitchen's ideas, anthropometry, post-normal science, craniometry, graphology, metoposcopy, personology, physiognomy, acupuncture, alchemy, cellular memory, Lysenkoism, naturopathy, reiki, Rolfing, therapeutic touch, ayurvedic medicine, and homeopathy.

(You may assume that creation science and intelligent design are in fact protoscience, if you want to avoid focusing on them.)

Related question: Church and lunar effect theory

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This will get a mixed reaction; in particular, the inclusion of ID in pseudo-science (which I don't disagree with as a classification) means that there can be no single answer here, as some Christians are pro-ID (even actively sponsoring it's creation), and some are anti-ID, and others yet have no opinion on ID. –  Marc Gravell Oct 1 '11 at 18:14
Pseudoscience isn't nonsense. It's worse than nonsense. It's lies. Pseudoscientists dress up their nonsense in the appearance of science, so they can claim false authority. I think that's a point worth bearing in mind as you answer this question. –  TRiG Oct 1 '11 at 19:43
I'm surprised at some of the entries on that list (but that's something to discuss at Wikipedia rather than here, I guess) –  Waggers Oct 2 '11 at 21:26
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2 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The Bible advises wisdom, not naiveté:

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (ESV):

20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Proverbs 2:9-11 (ESV):

9Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Although the scientific method, properly applied, is simply a rigorous way to test everything and hold fast what is true (note: not necessarily good, but similar in spirit), one can decorate all sorts of whims and falsehoods with the appearance of science. Pseudoscience delivers no more wisdom and knowledge than superstition simply because it pretends to be science; you have to actually rigorously apply the scientific method for it to work.

Thus, Christians should adopt the same stance towards pseudoscience--that it is not knowledge, not wisdom, and not to be held fast--as they do towards superstition.

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Your answer is far better than mine was. I was looking at it wrong. +1 to you and I'm deleting my own. –  David Stratton Oct 1 '11 at 20:39
@David Stratton - Uncommonly generous! Thanks for being willing to consider other perspectives. –  Rex Kerr Oct 1 '11 at 20:42
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As this question is based on things which are not generally accepted as sound science, we should first look for a solid answer as to how Christians should relate to things which are generally accepted as sound science. And that's a bit of a tricky question, because "sound science" is not even well-settled by the scientists themselves.

To give a dramatic example, just last week some new experiments called into question the principle of the speed of light as the Absolute Speed Limit, which is one of the cornerstones of modern physics. They're still working on verifying the data, but if it's right, they might need to rethink a huge amount of what was previously considered to be settled, non-controversial "sound science."

Also, remember that a lot of things that are today considered sound science were once derided and mocked as pseudoscientific nonsense. (Plate Tectonics is the most famous example, but certainly not the only one.)

Keeping that in mind, Christians should deal with "pseudoscientific" claims in basically the same way as we deal with "scientific" claims: review the evidence for and against them as impartially as we can and come to our own conclusions based on their validity. And remember that, when necessary, we can take these questions to a higher source, whose views won't end up changing or being invalidated by the discovery of new, previously-unknown evidence.

James 1:5

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

2 Peter 1:19

19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

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-1 for lumping relatively sound science in with things that have essentially no evidence or are in dramatic contradiction with experiment. If you can find scriptural support for treating matters of near-certainty and superstition equivalently, then I'd change my mind, but I know of no such passage. –  Rex Kerr Oct 1 '11 at 19:25
I don't object to the conclusion--review the evidence. Absolutely--that's great! But the lead-in misleads badly by focusing on the possibility that theories that are well-supported might be wrong (and the implication is that everything would go out the window, which has scarcely ever been the case with well-experimentally-verified theories; at best there's a refinement of understanding). Pseudoscience is not like this at all: according to the chart it is just superstition that paints a facade of being like science. –  Rex Kerr Oct 1 '11 at 19:58
My comments to David apply here also--it's the evidence from experiments, not the beliefs of scientists, which make something scientific, and while a bit of pseudoscience might be true (almost by accident), the key distinction is that it's not science. Thus, I still feel that your answer starts off being misleading, essentially falling into the pseudoscience trap by focusing on the "science" part rather than the "pseudo" (in this case, "fake") part. –  Rex Kerr Oct 1 '11 at 20:23
@Rex: Yes, but plenty of "what some call pseudoscience" (OP's terminology) has what its proponents claim is experimental evidence behind it as well. The question of whether the experiments are valid is not a simple one to answer, even for experienced scientists. If proponents of false science make this claim, well, they're right. (That does not necessarily mean that what they do with the claim is correct, though. Beware of the Hitler Ate Sugar fallacy!) –  Mason Wheeler Oct 1 '11 at 20:33
Most physicists I've seen commenting on the neutrino experiment expect this to be a measurement error, it's not sufficient evidence yet to call special relativity into question. And while a confirmation of these results would have enormous effects on our current understanding of physics, it wouldn't invalidate everything we know. Any new theory would need to explain all previous observations as well as the old theory, our current models are still very useful because they can predict a lot of physics, even if they were not completely correct in the end. –  Mad Scientist Oct 3 '11 at 8:28
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