HOW MUCH OF A SUCKER ARE YOU?
Think you can’t be fooled by pseudoscience? Our Sceptic Guru Daryl IIlbury tests your ability to spot fraudulent ‘science’ by seeing if you can separate the quackery from the reality. Good luck, fellow sceptic. Answers on page 24.
Craniosacral therapy is at the very frontier of a branch of neurology that hopes to find cures for many of the debilitating neuromuscular diseases that still challenge medicine, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Except it’s not. It’s actually a non-scientific, so-called ‘alternative’ form of ‘healing’ that believes that gently massaging the skull and the sacrum – the large triangular bone at the base of the spine – will align harmony within the body. It’ll make you feel good – as any good massage would – but it can’t cure you of any neuromuscular disease. The proof is in its own claims: “[it] works with the whole person and changes may (my italics) occur in body, mind and spirit during and after sessions”. And there’s that key phrase: ‘mind, body and spirit’ – the ringing bells that warn that scepticism need to be employed. But don’t feel embarrassed if you did believe – even if only for a minute – that craniosacral therapy was a development within neuromuscular medicine. It’s an easy trap to fall into. After all, pseudoscience wouldn’t be called ‘ pseudo’ science if it didn’t take on the appearance of science in some way – and the easiest way to appear scientific is to use a scientific-sounding name. That way only a trained – or sceptical – eye would dig deeper and find the cracks in the claims. For example, declaring that a person’s character can be determined by examining the contours of their
head is preposterous. But if you were to hear that ‘phrenology’ could do the same, you might be more open to the idea. You’d assume that it was scientific, perhaps even a development within psychology. Perhaps you wouldn’t, because your sceptic radar would have picked it up. Or would it? If there was a quiz in which you were presented with, say, 20 scientific-sounding terms – a mix of real science and pseudoscience – would you be able to spot which were pseudoscience? Good, because that’s just what we’ve put together. And because we know that everyone loves a quick quiz (except those who don’t!), we’re confident you’re going to have a lot of fun testing yourself. We’re also pretty confident that we can fool you. All you need to do is examine the 20 terms we’ve listed on the next page. Write down the numbers 1 through to 20 on a piece of paper (or on a smartphone, you tech-heads), and put ‘S’ if you think the term is science, or ‘P’ if it’s pseudoscience. Once you’ve done that, look at the answers and score yourself out of 20. Then check out where your score puts you on our sceptic-o-meter, and find out what your sceptic title is.