After a long absence for the holidays, Prometheus is back, with part one of his Field Guide To Quackery and Pseudoscience
. An excerpt:
The purpose of scientific jargon (and almost all “real” technical jargon) is to allow people familiar with the field to communicate ideas in an efficient manner. The purpose of pseudoscientific (or quackery) jargon is to obscure meaning and cover a lack of definition.
To illustrate – what, precisely, is meant by the quack term “detoxification”? What is being detoxified, from where and how? The same applies to various “field” and "energy" references in pseudoscience. What are they, how are they generated and how can they be measured?
Pseudoscience (and quackery) jargon serves to allow the promoter to sound scientific without actually having to define their terms or be scientific. They use scientific-sounding words to confuse and distract their audience , whereas the “real” scientific and technical jargon serves to inform and improve communication efficiency. By using terms that are unclear or foreign to their audience, the pseudoscientist or quack is sending the message, “This is too technical for you to understand, but it’s real science – trust me!”
Most of the jargon used in quackery and pseudoscience has roots in real science, so the audience – which is usually no more scientifically literate than the general population (which is to say, not very) - will understand only that they are technical terms. It is unlikely that many members of the audience will understand what the terms actually mean and even less likely that someone will realize that they are being used in a nonsensical fashion.
Good reading, and I look forward to additional entries.