Pseudoscience in medicine: cautionary recommendations

  • Chris Callaghan
Keywords: Pseudoscience, denialism, medical practice, medical theory, empiricism.


Introduction: Certain real life applications of scientific and social science ideas that knowingly reject accumulated empirical biomedical evidence have been termed ‘pseudoscience,’ or empirical rejectionism. An uncritical acceptance of empiricism, or even of evidence-based medicine, however, can also be problematic.
Objectives: With reference to a specific type of medical denialism associated with moral failure, justified by dissident AIDS and anti-vaccine scientific publications, this paper seeks to make the argument that this type of denialism meets certain longstanding definitions for classification as pseudoscience.
Methods: This paper uses a conceptual framework to make certain arguments and to juxtapose arguments for evidence-based approaches to medicine against literature that highlights certain limitations of an unquestioning approach to empiricism.
Results: Discussions of certain real life examples are used to derive the important insight that, under certain conditions, moral failure can result in the violation both Type I and Type II scientific error types, with catastrophic consequences.
Conclusion: It is argued that the validity of all theory should not be assumed before sufficient empirical evidence has accumulated to support its validity across contexts. However, caution is required, to avoid the consequences of an unquestioning approach to empiricism.

Keywords: Pseudoscience; denialism; medical practice; medical theory; empiricism.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1680-6905