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Science vs. Pseudoscience: Debunking Fake Science News and Developing Scientific Literacy

What is Pseudo-Science?

Pseudoscience is "a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific" (Merriam-Webster).

So, pseudoscience can refer to either the content of ideas and assumptions that are erroneously regarded as scientific, or the process of developing those ideas and assumptions when the process itself is not scientific.

Berkeley psychology professor Tania Lombrozo discusses some of the challenges involved with how we draw the line between science and pseudoscience in her article What is Pseudoscience?

What is Scientific Literacy?


Scientific literacy includes “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. … Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. … A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it” (National Science Education Standards).

How Do Search Engines and Social Media Spread Pseudoscience and Fake and Biased News?


Clickbait fuels the dissemination of fake news, including pseudoscience, while filter bubbles (or "echo chambers") create a lack of variety in the information and ideas to which individuals are exposed.

What is Clickbait?

Oxford Living Dictionaries defines clickbait as "(on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page."

What are Filter Bubbles?

A filter bubble or echo chamber is the result of website algorithms designed to determine which content you want to see and which you don't, based on your past behavior and other information about you. Over time, the web content you see represents an increasingly narrow range of information and ideas, and you are exposed to fewer and fewer experiences, ideologies, and perspectives that differ from yours. For more information about echo chambers and filter bubbles, watch this TED Talk by Eli Pariser:


Psuedoscience in the News

Check out the following articles and podcasts for more information about pseudoscience and fake news: