Nautilus

How Pseudoscientists Get Away With It

The honesty and humility of someone willing to tell you that they don’t have all the answers, but they have some thoughtful questions to pursue, is easy to distinguish from the charlatans who have ready answers or claim that nothing should be done until we are an impossible 100-percent sure.Photograph from Everett Collection / Shutterstock

The relentless and often unpredictable coronavirus has, among its many quirky terrors, dredged up once again the issue that will not die, science versus pseudoscience. The scientists, experts who would be the first to admit they are not infallible, are now in danger of being drowned out by the growing chorus of pseudoscientists, conspiracy theorists, and just plain troublemakers who seem to be as symptomatic of the virus as fever and weakness.

How is the average citizen to filter this cacophony of information and misinformation posing as science alongside real science? While all that noise makes it difficult to separate the real stuff from the fakes, there is at least one positive aspect to it all.

A famous aphorism by Charles Caleb Colton, a popular 19th century English cleric and writer, says: “Imitation is

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