Hot Thought

Psychology meets philosophy: knowledge, reality, morality, meaning

What is Pseudoscience?

Science is different from pseudoscience in using mechanistic explanations, statistical thinking, critical evaluation of competing theories, and in progressing with new theories and applications. Read More

Pop Astrology

It seems that you are classifying pop astrology (mostly "horoscopes" based solely on just a sun sign), not natal astrology.

I agree.

I agree.

Er no, I think you'll find

Er no, I think you'll find that he's referring to all forms of astrology.

That's precisely why psychiatry is a pseudoscience

If you go one by one through the criteria that characterize pseudoscientific endeavors, you get that psychiatry fits all of them. I explore the topic in my blog here with a very specific example,

About your five points,

1. Science explains using mechanisms, whereas pseudoscience lacks mechanistic explanations.

Psychiatry has been putting forward its "chemical imbalance" chimera for 60 years without much evidence to support it.

2. Science uses correlation thinking, which applies statistical methods to find patterns in nature, whereas pseudoscience uses dogmatic assertions, or resemblance thinking, which infers that things are causally related merely because they are similar.

Psychiatry has been rebuffing all studies that falsify chemical imbalances appealing to "subjective" results of clinical practice

3. Practitioners of science care about evaluating theories in relation to alternative ones, whereas practitioners of pseudoscience are oblivious to alternative theories.

Psychiatry couldn't care less about finding an alternative to its chimera despite more than 60 years of failed predictions and treatments

4. Science uses simple theories that have broad explanatory power, whereas pseudoscience uses theories that require many extra hypotheses for particular explanations.

It couldn't be said better about psychiatry

5. Science progresses over time by developing new theories that explain newly discovered facts, whereas pseudoscience is stagnant in doctrine and applications.

Psychiatry has been stuck with its chemical imbalance chimera for more than 60 years rebuffing all evidence that refutes it. Since the chimera was introduced, it has been defended with the mantra that "advances in the next 10 years will vindicate it" We are still waiting.

Straw man?

Interesting piece of polemic about psychiatry. Please elucidate on its relevance to a piece by a philosopher in a psychology blog.

Just giving another example of a pseudoscience

That many people, although truth to be told not all people note even all psychiatrists, call science.

There is a big difference between astrology and psychiatry though. While nobody takes astrology seriously, certainly the legal system doesn't, psychiatry enjoys undue power and influence to ruin people's lives. Because of that, psychiatry is way, way, way more dangerous than any other pseudoscience I can think of.


Psychiatry is a pseudo science only if chemistry and medicine are pseudo sciences as well, since actually when you dismember psychiatry what you get is chemistry in the brain.

That isn't true

I go over what differentiates psychiatry from true medical science, such as the science that produced antiretroviral therapy here,

As to the fallacy that, even if the mind was caused by chemistry, psychiatry unashamedly engages in, I explain it here as well

Psychiatry is probably one of the most intellectually dishonest endeavors around. I am not naive so I don't think we will see it disbanded any time soon, but I think that a lot can be done to limit psychiatry's ability to do damage.

Psychiatry IS a science.

Psychiatry like every science, unfortunately, includes some intellectually dishonest cases. But again, you don't dismiss a whole science for those few pseudo scientific approaches. You fix them, instead. Those psychiatric approaches that use the scientific method are scientific by definition, you like it or not. And I think that most involved with the anti-psychiatric movement, are just deluded people that can't get over the fact that there's nothing like a soul and the brain is a chemical machine. Speaking of bad science.

You didn't provide any argument

Other that, psychiatry is a science because you say so. It sounds strikingly familiar to what astrologers say.

When the record of psychiatry is compared to that of true sciences, psychiatry shows its true colors. It has provided electroshock therapy, lobotomy, psychotropic drugs all based on a chimera and none of which has fixed or cured anything. During the XX-th century, true science and medicine has produced miracles (think cancer science or hiv/aids science). Psychiatry has produced only misery.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the discussion of whether the mind is caused by brain chemistry is irrelevant about the argument of whether psychiatry is a quackery .

Psychiatry has a record: it has made of kinds of wonderful claims about its quackery treatments. Each and every single falsifiable claim that psychiatry has produced has been falsified. Psychiatry has been convincingly shown to be a pseudoscience.

I have a PhD degree in a hard scientific field from one of America's top research universities. The type of bullshit produced by psychiatry is called scientific misconduct in my field.

Psychiatry IS a science.

"It refers to a field of medicine focused specifically on the mind, aiming to study, prevent, and treat mental disorders in humans."

"Those who specialize in psychiatry are different than most other mental health professionals and physicians in that they must be familiar with both the social and biological sciences."

"While the medical specialty of psychiatry utilizes research in the field of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology,[73] it has generally been considered a middle ground between neurology and psychology."

"Psychiatrists also differ from psychologists in that they are physicians and the entirety of their post-graduate training is revolved around the field of medicine.[75] Psychiatrists can therefore counsel patients, prescribe medication, order laboratory tests, order neuroimaging, and conduct physical examinations."

Psychiatry IS NOT a science

If you think that repeating some bullshit written in wikipedia by some psychiatrist will strengthen your arguments you are mistaken.

For a discipline to be a science, it has to provides things such as falsifiability and prediction power. No matter how you spin or stretch psychiatry's record, the truth of the matter is that psychiatry DOES NOT pass the minimum tests required by a discipline to be considered science. A different question is why it has any credibility whatsoever. Some health care plans in the US also cover homeopathy and acupuncture. In that sense, psychiatry is not the only pseudoscience that is given credibility. What differentiates psychiatry from these other pseudoscientific endeavors is its ability to do damage: forced lobotomy (God thanks a think of the past in most of the world), forced ECT (still legal in many places), forced drugging (still legal) and deprivation of liberty (this happens everywhere).

I practice hard science and I can tell you that in my field the quackery called psychiatry would not be given any kind of thought.

For the majority of its history, psychiatry was able to live in the following equilibrium: abusing enough people so that psychiatry was relevant but not enough so that it could infuriate enough people to expose its quackery. All that began to change in the second half of the XX-th century and reached critical mass when psychiatrists got greedy trying to label everybody "mentally ill" so that their buddies in Big Pharma could make humongous profits. The scandal of DSM 5 is the culmination of psychiatry's intrinsic corruption. Now that it has been exposed, there is no way back.

Psychiatry belongs to the same realm as astrology, homeopathy and acupuncture: pseudoscience.

Psychiatry IS a science.

Psychiatry = Medicine (that specializes in the chemistry brain). As such provides hypotheses that are falsifiable, because it does use the scientific method and its theories can and are put to the test and are reproduced by detached groups of scientist in all circles of sciences.

And there are no souls.
So don't even try to sneak your religious agenda around here.

Repeating a lie many times will not make it true

You can repeat your mantra "psychiatry is science" as many times as you want but it will not be more true. It's a plain lie. Period. You are sounding very dogmatic and zealot here, way more than those religious zealots you seem to despise.

The general idea behind biological psychiatry is not falsifiable and all the minor falsifiable claims produced by psychiatry, such as the serotonin hypothesis of depression, have been indeed falsified. Psychiatry has no prediction power whatsoever,

In words of Harvard's former provost Steven Hyman:

"“We have no equivalent of a blood-pressure cuff or blood test or brain scan that is diagnostic,”"
“The DSM has given us reliability, meaning that—armed with the DSM criteria—two different observers should arrive at the same diagnosis in the same person,” says Hyman. “But it has not given us validity.” T

The latest edition of psychiatry's best known work of fiction, the DSM, doesn't even provide that reliability, .

Bringing religion here is a red herring. I am a true scientist. The fiction promoted by psychiatry does not qualify as science in my field, period.

you said it yourself.

You said "serotonin hypothesis of depression, have been indeed falsified". Only if a discipline is a science its hypotheses are falsifiable and can be falsified. Once again, we don't dismiss a whole science because of its errors. It's a discipline's errors what basically make it a science in the first place, because sciences are self-correcting disciplines that build their knowledge upon new discoveries. Psychiatry has a bright future as a well deserved branch of medicine. We don't need to dismiss it completely. Just fix its faults. And get rid of the religious zealots that are trying to sneak their own religious agenda of a soul!

The problem is...

That psychiatry has not provided a single valid theory for any mental disorder, NONE. So, after hundreds of years selling smoke, I think it's time to call this scam for what it is. As I said in my post "not even wrong", psychiatry's main claims through its history have been no more valid than saying that telekinetic activity of unicorns living on Pluto cause mental disorders in humans living on Earth. Psychiatry is a scam, and I only need to point to its record. It belongs to the same realm as astrology or homeopathy.

From what I stand, and from what I have read about you, it's the zealots with your religious fervor in favor of unproven chimeras like astrology or psychiatry who are the real problem. Some guy wearing a white coat tells you he practices science and you believe him, regardless of the garbage he/she practices.

Psychiatry is utter bullshit

In the lucrative business called Psychiatry

Any and all so called
"Silverbullet" approaches
Should be used "ONLY" on werewolves/Lycans

At the very least
The werewolves' suffering would cease immediately
thanks to that silver bullet wink

sadly enough :(
For the sake of humanity
It would be better for Psychiatry & Lycans
to co-exist in the SAME realm of mythology


Approaches with Psychotropics
In the lucrative business called Psychiatry
Any and all so called
"Silverbullet" approaches
Should be used "ONLY" on werewolves/Lycans
At the very least
The werewolves' suffering would cease immediately

sadly enough :(
For the sake of humanity
It would be better for Psychiatry & Lycans
to co-exist in the SAME realm of mythology

falsifiability and verifiability don’t work?

Interesting blog. Is there a more elaborate explanation somewhere for your point of view that "standard ways of demarcating science such as falsifiability and verifiability don’t work?"

falsifiability and verifiability

See P. Thagard, Computational Philosophy of Science, pp. 160-162.

How do you deal with pseudo-mechanisms?

A worry with this set of criteria is that many pseudosciences do seem to offer mechanisms, use statistical methods to find patterns, etc. - but they do so in a pseudoscientific way. Much of alternative medicine, for example, is based on vitalistic theories about energy flows (e.g., qi flowing through meridians in acupuncture). This provides a mechanistic explanation of sorts, but the mechanism in question is wholly fictional. Similarly, homeopaths cite abundant correlational evidence ("it works!"), and occasional clinical trials, in support of their claims. The problem here is that their statistics are bad; they confuse placebo effects for effects of their medicine, etc. The alt-med literature is also rife with critiques of conventional medicine (alternative theories), and simple theories are often offered to explain all illnesses - which allows for "cure-all" remedies.

My concern is that, by your set of criteria, it seems that the most we could say about these viewpoints is that they are *bad* science, not that they are pseudoscience. (Unless the last criterion, progressiveness, is allowed to do all the work in these cases?)

what's the need of all of this?

Nobody believes that Astrology is a real science. Science certainly doesn't, and that's what matters. So why bother? It's more like some sort of creative art mixed with mythology, or something of the like. But it's simple to know why. Astrology doesn't use the Scientific Method to reach its conclusions. Period. It doesn't have falsifiable hypotheses, it doesn't put them to the test in practice, it doesn't give them to detached groups of scientists to test their predictability. It's not that Astrology is a pseudo science. Astrology is nothing like a science. In fact it wishes it were a pseudo science, at least.

Darwinian evolution fits the description pretty well

While DE proposes mechanisms, it appears to fit very well the other descriptors


The vast majority of human learning and advancement has happened in many thousands of years previous to the current age where we have now coined the word "science". The only reason current academic scientific institutions created this new "scientific" worldview in which pseudosciences could be called out by them is simply in whether or not they use the word "science" in their discussions.

Astrology doesn't claim to be a science but it is insulting to justify its existence as "pseudo". Contemporary astrologers follow astronomy far more than the other way around, because advances in knowing the cosmos lead to advances in interpreting how that affects us here. Interpreting earth events according to celestial events is ancient, but it is not measurable (only the astronomy part of it is, on which astrology places itself) but rather descriptive and interpretive. It is not then "pseudo" but rather an art that springs out of science.

Getting one's chart read is a fascinating look simply at where the solar system's planets are. It is a snapshot, and like any other moment in the changing sky is simply a poetic way of using science as something that can connect us to ancient stories and poetic lore. Nobody's arguing that part of it is scientific, it is pure interpretation, the only thing any real astrologer cares about is getting the dates and planets right and then becoming an artist in interpretation after that. That's the only part skeptics ever look at, and its the least verifiable part of the process. It's like calling art criticism "pseudoscience".

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Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo and author of The Brain and the Meaning of Life.


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